Arsenal fans may not want to go over the top in showing their delight to have finally got one over Chelsea last weekend, but it’s difficult not to think about several key areas that really came to light during the match.
There were several talking points that were addressed as soon as the final whistle went, including Arsenal’s new profound striking option in Alexis Sanchez, Theo Walcott’s determination, as well as the continuation of Xhaka’s fantastic performances. Another area that raised plenty of eyebrows was Arsenal’s new and improved defence, which has made great strides towards being solid since the Gunners’ most recent addition.
When Arsenal signed Shkodran Mustafi from Valencia for around £35 million, we knew the club were getting a World Cup winner and a top class centre back, but I don’t think anyone expected the German international to settle in alongside first choice Laurent Koscielny quite so quickly. In fact their new partnership was one of the most impressive factors in our match against Chelsea, as they showed their capabilities of dealing with one of the most bullish strikers a defence will come up against, in the form of Diego Costa.
Mustafi and Koscielny read the game fantastically both as a pairing and as individuals, dominating the physicality test against Costa and beating the opposition both in the air and on the ground. The pair’s interceptions and tackles were precisely timed, whilst they also kept the pace well against their opposers.
Many have given their opinions on Arsenal’s new formidable pairing, one of which is former player and current pundit Jamie Redknapp. Redknapp said: “Arsenal’s centre backs have been too easily bullied in recent years by Didier Drogba and Diego Costa. On Saturday afternoon, Shkodran Mustafi wasn’t having any of it.He showed so much quality alongside Laurent Koscielny and for the first time in a long time it looks like Arsenal have found a great centre-back partnership.The pair are both quick and good in the air. They are strong in both boxes and will threaten from set pieces, too.”
Redknapp sums it up well and makes some key points that I think we can all recognise. Their duo performance reminded me of a former Arsenal defence that was confident and not afraid to stick a leg in to challenge and to have a bit of ruff and tumble, but that they also aware of their limits and not to get them into vulnerable situations. It reminded me a lot of the stronger and more confident defence we used to see during Wenger’s earlier years and the invincible era. In some of the more recent years we’ve been left vulnerable in defence because of a few stop gap defenders attempting to pair up with Koscielny, instead of getting a player who can match his abilities.
I think Arsenal have now found the perfect partner for Koscielny and they look to set up a formidable back line for the course of the season. Is this defence looking as strong as that of the invincible era?