Arsenal’s centre-back crisis – Forget the Qarabag game, who will face Southampton?

Arsenal will face the Azerbaijani side Qarabag on Thursday in which should be little more than a training game for the Gunners, and we are likely to see lots of up and coming youth players getting a run out, but more importantly Emery must find some way to put out a strong defensive line-up for the trip to Southampton on Sunday to keep our unbeaten run going.

As we all know Sokratis and Mustafi both earned a fifth booking yesterday and are suspended for the game on the South Coast, and when asked, Emery said that he would need some time to think about it! “I need for my mind to take two days off!” he quipped.

So with Mavropanos still some way to go before playing, and Rob Holding out for the season, the defenders available next week are; Nacho Monreal (who managed 25 minutes yesterday after a couple of months out); Laurent Koscielny (who has played parts of two reserve games all season); and Stephan Lichtsteiner (who played 45 minutes in that position yesterday). Emery himself struggled to name any more when asked yesterday at the Arsenal after-match conference. “Now, I don’t know how we are going to play next week, but we have players. Stephan played at centre back today and had a good performance in Manchester with good commitment. Koscielny is also coming back, Nacho Monreal too. We’ll have players.”

Now I’m guessing that both Koscielny and Monreal will get a short run out against Qarabag so their reactions can be assessed, but if their fitness is in question, who else could we possibly use as a centre-back other than Lichtsteiner?



  1. gotanidea says:

    It is obvious:

    ..Lichtsteiner . Koscielny . Monreal
    Bellerin . Torreira . Xhaka . Kolasinac
    ..Aubameyang …………..Lacazette

    1. jon fox says:

      Not a bad team overall but yesterday proved how much we missed a specialist creative central attacking midfielder. I love Guendouzi and think him a major star in the MAKING but not there yet. Though I do think he should regularly start and play BUT in the deep lying role alongside Torreira. IF ONLY OZIL HAD SOME STRENGTH OF CHARACTER , instead of being so workshy and wimpish. The clear truth is that we need more RELIABLE creative midfielders than BOTH Ozil and Mkhi, THEN we can move them on.

      1. Phil says:

        Jon-I continue to disagree with anyone who labels Ozil as workshy and lazy.He just plays the game at he plays it.Its been documented on this site on numerous occasions that Ozil’s workrate is a lot higher than many believe.He is a Playmaker.That may be a luxury but he will not be able to dictate play if he has just chased someone 70 yards back into his own half.I can get it if some say he in ineffective in this system.But does a lazy player with no heart get to win a World Cup?Of course not.There is no doubt he has struggled with the system Emery has introduced and that is worrying for such an intelligent footballer.But he is not the only one to have performed inconsistently this season yet continues to be the one who is criticised the most.
        So I can agree inconsistent.I recognise some average performances.But Lazy?Not in my mind.

        1. Xxnofx says:

          I don’t think it’s lazy to me also but he comes across like he dosent gove a sh1t in most games always throwing his hands in the air if something dosent go right (mind you playing with iwobi would do that to you I guess ).but when he’s on fire he’s amazing to watch but that just Doesn’t happen enough for me .
          Also I would agree with the fact not every player as to be able to defend and put a tackle in .i would rather have like you said to have talent put to better use not wasting his time energy chasing lost causes .
          I think for me we need a winger and a new attacking midfielder to maybe finish this team off .be it ozil if he can find his form or some other world class player to replace him

        2. jon fox says:

          Sorry Phil, but dress it up how you will , for me he just is too uninterestsed too much of the time. It is not expected that he runs back 70 yards and tackles, BUT it is vital he stops getting knocked off the ball so easily, closes dowm thoroughly in his part of the pitch and justify his huge wage , which he clearly is not. It is not allowable to be so inconsistent at that level and he should just show the normal guts that all effective and productive players, however skilled, always need in order to aid the team. Simply put he is a wimp. He clearly does not work anywhere nearly hard or often enough. I do not need stats to tell me that, merely eyes. I feel you are still trying to defend the indefensible with him. He is just lazy and has no real toughness hardly at all. His ability is never in doubt, just his character. He is wasting his supreme talent and if you are honest with yourself I believe you know that full well. I will always defend the team above ANY player, IF that player is not giving 100%. He clearly is not.

        3. Mwsupporter says:

          Phil, you are absolutely correct, Ozil is not lazy, he doesn’t run around like a headless chicken, he is a creative player that sees opportunities that many don’t, he does come across as disinterested at times but everyone’s body language is different. He is a truly gifted player that we are lucky to have, for these that are fixated with wages, please forget it and appreciate his skill.

          1. Phil says:

            Sue-Shall we send Mwsupporter one of our “WE LOVE MESUT OZIL”T-Shirts?

          2. Sue says:

            Absolutely Phil! Not like they’re in demand is it?! ☹

          3. Mwsupporter says:

            Phil, thanks I’d love the T shirt ?

          4. ken1945 says:

            As an Ozil “fanboy” I am also willing to accept that Jon has some valid observations.
            If one compares him to DB or LBrady there is a perceived lack of commitment.
            I suggest that GG comes to mind when watching Ozil when this happen.
            The difference is that GG had a great team around him.
            Under the last two years of AW, that coincides with Ozil’s criticism, he did not have that same”luxury”.
            I believe that the excellent pairing of Torreria and Xhaka will allow Ozil to play to his god given abilities and produce the opportunities that were lacking during Saturday’s game.
            No player can surely have won the honours bestowed upon Ozil if he was the man with the character described by Jon?
            But likewise, it’s up to Ozil to show supporters like him that he deserves to represent the club.
            I don’t see this as a personal attack from either point of view and the only one who can change it is Ozil on the pitch.
            Perhaps Jon, we have the new”stroller” at the club?

          5. ozziegunner says:

            Ken, see my comment below.

          6. ken1945 says:

            Sorry OG, I should have abbreviated the names after typing full name first.
            Agree with you on the “mean streak” especially Dennis!! I’m not sure if George Graham was ever fast enough to catch the opponent who had dispossed/fouled him.
            The nickname “Stroller” for G.G. seems so apt for M.Ozil though and the more I think about it , the more it seems to fit, both at the skill level and in the criticism of the two players attitude on the pitch.

          7. jon fox says:


          8. jon fox says:

            Two simple questions I have for you Ken. Do you agree that all players should give 100%? Do you think Ozil gives 100%? If you think the first is a negative, please explain why!

          9. ken1945 says:

            Jon, sorry old friend but I have just caught up with this post!
            Do I think every player should give 100%? YES
            Do I think Ozil gives 100%? YES
            Do I think it looks like Ozil gives 100%? NO
            Do I think most player looks like they are giving 100%? YES…and that is why I understand your thoughts on Ozil, even if I disagree.
            It’s a really fine line with someone who has the ability of Ozil and who sometimes fails too deliver. That doesn’t mean he’s not trying in my book. The man is an enigma, hence the division we see on his abilities and commitment.
            Jon, you must have played football at some time in your life and had periods in a game when, for whatever reason, found yourself not involved at that precise moment.
            Did you run around the pitch, trying to get involved or did you follow instructions and play to the managers wishes?
            Ramsey has been accused of acting like a headless chicken but who knows what he was instructed to do?
            We are all prone on here to be premier league managers in waiting, but none of us really know what players have been instructed to do by Unai.
            If Emery deciides to allow Ozil to go, then he has my backing, simply because he knows what is happening behind the scenes and whether Ozil is performing to his plans or not.
            I accept your point completely that Ozil LOOKS lazy and MAYBE he is lazy…Unai Emery will sort it out one way or another in my view.
            OT Jon, I left a reply to one of your posts regarding “Ozil and Ramsey are we missing them?
            Would like to know what your answers are to my questions, thanks.

          10. ozziegunner says:

            The questions to be asked are: “was George Graham an effective player for Arsenal?” “Is Mezut Ozil an effective player for Arsenal on his record thus far?”

    2. Naija Gunner says:

      While your lineup looks reasonable, I think the midfield combination of Torreira, Guendouzi and Xhaka is too defensive IMO. Guendouzi and Xhaka seem to cut from the same cloth, except Guendouzi is more mobile and adventurous while Xhaka seems to read the game better. I would give Guendouzi some matches though as even though his adventure supports our creativity and even though he is prone to few missteps, he does not play the odd lazy square pass that Xhaka does which gives our opponents opportunity for a shot on goal. Maybe Mkhi should be in the mix to add creativity. Even if he’s not good enough, we are stuck with him.

    3. BenardoM says:

      We need a good ball passer like Ozeil behind strikers.

  2. Grandad says:

    Perhaps we should recall Chambers from his loan to Fulham if this is possible in terms of the loan agreement?Other options might be Elneny and/or Xhaka who is at least good in the air.

    1. gotanidea says:

      According to yesterday’s news, Arsenal cannot recall Chambers

      And yes, Arsenal still have Elneny, Xhaka, Pleguezuelo and the young CBs, so no worries

    2. Sue says:

      I’m sure I saw an article saying we can’t recall Chambers

  3. Alcides says:

    We have a beta team dan southampton. Anything goes.

    1. Sue says:

      City have a better team than Chelsea.. look how that ended up

  4. Midkemma says:

    Guendouzi/Torreira/AMN (3 CM who can all tackle to offer a bit more protection to young CBs)

    That would be my team, yes I know it is a couple of kids at CB but tell me they didn’t excite you when Emery gave them a run out, tell me that there is no way in hell that they can do the job.
    This chance could be just what makes them, they know Guendouzi has won a spot from grabbing his chance and working hard as Holding did when he was given a chance, I believe that will drive them to do their best and I do believe their best will be good enough. This is assuming the CM can win the battle most the times which it should be good enough.

    1. Phil says:

      I can tell you now that Emery will play the strongest and most experienced players he has available at the back before he plays any of the youth players.Why?Because this is the PREMIERE LEAGUE and not some fantasy game.Southampton Away is always a tough game and going in with a back line of inexperienced kids will only make things harder for us.If we have to revert to 2 CB’’s then that is what we must do.Emery will demand three points next week and will not want to chance this with young kids who have yet to play a single minute of Premiere League football

      1. jon fox says:

        Clearly true! The very idea of playing untried kids in the vital position of CB is plain bonkers and something Emery will not consider in the PREM.

        1. ozziegunner says:

          Jon, remember the great Tony Adams made his first first team appearance 4 weeks after his 17th birthday.

          1. Phil says:

            OG-I certainly remember TA debut.Home to Sunderland.Adams made an absolute howler by gifting the ball to Colin West who hammered home from outside the box.Lost the game 1-2 at Highbury.
            The problem are on Sunday
            1)Not one of these youngsters have played a single minute in the Premiership.Tony Adams had been hailed as a future Arsenal Captain before he even played for the first team-that was how good he was at that age.I don’t hear that type of noise about any of our young players at the moment.
            2)TA was given his debut at Highbury against Sunderland which is a lot easier than away at a Southampton side that will battle to the last second to get a result.
            3)When TA debuted he was alongside David O’Leary who was an excellent CB with experience.If Kos And Nacho are not played together then whoever does come in to play risk having little or no experience alongside them.
            Note-I would have described David O’Leary as an Arsenal Legend which is what he deserved to be after his career.Unfortunately he spent his Managerial Career rubbishing the Club at every single opportunity he had so he gets to be just another x-player in my book.Shame because he was a great player and great Club servant.
            4)This game will be lost by playing 2or3 inexperienced kids together at the back no matter how we pack the midfield to protect them.Just get experience in there somehow.
            Lichstiener will do a job there no problem.So would Jenkinson at a push.I disagree with Ken1945 and would wrap Kos and Nacho in cotton wool all week until Sunday.
            Just shows how a few weeks ago we had all the CB’s in the world even with Kos and Mavo longtime injured and Calum Chambers sent out on loan to a Club where he is now very rarely playing.
            Kos is now knocking on the door of retirement,and will be gone from Arsenal at the end of this season I’m sure.Nacho is a LB.Makes us look a bit desperate don’t you think?

          2. jon fox says:

            Great point you make about O’Leary. A man who only tarnished his long Arsenal career AFTER HE LEFT. What a fool to do that!

          3. ozziegunner says:

            I too was a great fan of David O’Leary. Please note I’m not suggesting to play 3 young players at the back in the same match; but one may be introduced. It will be interesting to see on Thursday night how players such as Koscielny, Jenkinson and the U23 players go and if Monreal is held back for Southampton.

  5. Innit says:

    I will still enjoy watching our youngsters play Qarabag
    I wont forget about it to be honest
    As an Arsenal fan its impossible

    Also I want to go into the next PL math with a win
    I dont want our undefeated streak to End now

    1. ken1945 says:

      With regards to the team for this game, as well as Kos and Mon getting a run out, we could see Ozil also being used for the same reasons.
      It was reported he was back in light training, so this could be just the right game for him.
      The strongest oerson in the Southampton team is Charlie Austin and that’s another reason Unai will select expereinced players who won’t be bullied.
      For that reason, I think Kos and Mon will play most, if not all, of the game Thursday in order to obtain as much fitness as possible.

  6. Th14 says:

    Put out this team and Southampton are toast.


  7. Bur says:

    Xhaka? No.

  8. Adega Olatunji says:

    This is the Arsenal team that should have Sanchez of Arsenal not Sanchez of man united because of our high pressing game. So sad he couldn’t be patient enough to enjoy his game power under Emery. I guess Iwobi and Miki are in holiday, Torriera is becoming too good now to be surrounded by average players this guy is a real winner. Now Arsenal have 4 players who will win us the league next season

    1. jon fox says:

      Yes we have four. And those four only. Title teams need a squadful at that title level. We are miles away from true title level and will be until several new and better players are brought in. Four man teams don’t win titles!

  9. ThirdManJW says:


    Have some Arsenal fans taking leave of their senses? Just read some of the comments in the previous article about how desperately need Ozil back in the team, and I am baffled!

    Did none of you watch Ozil against Chelsea, City, and Liverpool? Have none of you not yet seen how much better we look against top teams without him? Which was highlighted against Utd, and Spurs. There was certainly no lack of creativity with us scoring 6, creating so many other clear cut opportunities, and controlling both games. Even against weak opponents Ozil has been very inconsistent. Ask yourself, has Ozil improved under Emery? Not in my opinion, but forget what I say, look at the stats. Without Ozil: We’re unbeaten, we’re averaging over 2 goals a game, and creating so many chances, our only win over a big team was without him, which was also our best performance, and we look more solid as a unit. What people forget is that, yes, Ozil may give us a little more creativity, but overall, is the team not weakened given Ozil’s lack of fight, aggression, defensive responsibility, passion, and the team before your ego? The reason we’re doing so well is because of these traits, none of which Ozil has! The ONLY thing he gives us is creativity, but as I already said, we’re scoring loads, and creating loads without him, so what is the point of him?

    Ramsey on the other hand, has been pretty decent, and is more suited to Emery’s philosophy than Ozil, due to his attitude and work ethic. Although this doesn’t change my overall opinion on Ramsey. He’s injury prone, and we could do a lot better.

    1. jon fox says:

      I could not agree more and say so often. I also cannot this mania with the undeserving Ozil. Makes no sense at all when you consider how lazy and uninteretsed he is almost all of the time. We VITALLY NEED PASSION AND HARD WORK. Indeed this has happened with most of the squad but notable NOT WITH OZIL AND THE EQUALLY LAZY MKHI. Talent not properly applied through laziness is pointless.

    2. Naija Gunner says:

      I quite agree with you. We seem to have found out how to play the big boys this season. Our pressing game works better when teams try to play football against us. It is breaking down the smaller defensive minded teams that we seem to struggle to do. While that has to come down to creativity, our system will require a hardworking creative midfielder to do that and not someone like Ozil who can be easily knocked of the ball. Come to think of it, we had even struggled to breakdown stubbornly defensive teams in the past when Ozil was in the team.

  10. snowden says:

    Qarabag will come and will refuse to read our script – that they cannot win. They will play their guts out. They will not want to be beaten by ‘a bunch of kids’. Win, draw or lose our place in this little group is won, why worry about the result.

    Normally no worries but, but we want to come out of it with 22 games undefeated.
    For this reason every Arsenal proud to be a Gooner doesn’t want to lose.
    In my opinon the only happy to lose are the ‘AWB’s and they spray up as salt on the top of the seawaves when we lose and disappear under the waves when we win. i refer of course to the
    ‘Arsenal Whingers Brigade’.

    1. Phil says:

      Yeah -and your point is WHAT exactly?

      1. Declan says:

        Not sure really what he was on about Phil, just a load of rambling stuff but we will beat Carrierbag with our second string and Ozil will return against Southampton and tear them a new one.

        1. Phil says:

          Declan-I would find completing the Times Crossword easier than trying to work out what @snowden was talking about so congratulations sir

  11. ruelando says:

    i think we will be fine for thursday

    Lich and Jenkinson have played at CB before, Kos and Monreal just back from injury, there is Elneny and Sheaf just back from injury, also Medley, i think Pleq is injured and we can call on the Youngster Ballord from the under 23s, will be the same set for Southampton

  12. Tom says:

    As much as the order of the day seems to be young talent for the premier league, we need our experience to ride us through this festive fixture full 4 weeks.
    Monreal Kosciency and ozil need to come in and be strong. It will be a new experience for Kos because of a new keeper, new system and new players in front but he has the experience. What we need to focus on is the now, forget about the future work soon expected by unai.

    I’m looking forward to this new current back line.

    Ozil has some protection now and can play in 3-4-3. On one side you have ballerin torriera and ozil. And the other side koslaniac xhaka and auba. Laca up top.

    Mhkit ramsay iwobi off the bench. We need to keep the top line rotating in my opinion to keep the back line looking fresh

    Anyway, looking forward to seeing the potential – especially Rowe smith and lil wrighty

  13. ozziegunner says:

    Ken, I assume by GG you mean George Graham. His nickname wasn’t “stroller” for nothing, but like the great Dennis Bergkamp he did have a mean streak in him, which he naturally took into his coaching.

    1. HAJJ OZIL says:

      My possible lineup against southampton will be: Leno Koscienly Monreal Lichteiner Bellerin Xhaka Torreira Kolasinac Aubameyang Ozil LACAZETTE

  14. NONNY says:

    Ppl will never seize to amaze me…… we never missed oil for anything it’s just his fans saying crap…when I think about creative midfielders I think about modric,isco,Ericsson even our very own cazorla not below average ozil..don’t tell me he won a world Cup what kind of crap is that even giroud won world Cup without scoring a single goal i think…I have seen worst player lift even ucl…. the ozil I watch watch is not even good enough to earn 65k a week…….what on earth do we miss about ozil..assist or what…. to me playing without him is a bonus….I watched toriera he had made more impact than ozil in his whole arsenal career can’t remember a big match ozil dominated the way toriera did against spurs and won us the game against huddlesfield….if we are missing someone of his quality that is what u call missing someone…..

  15. NONNY says:

    Arsenal played bounamout,spurs,Manchester United,huddlesfield and won 3 draw 1 all without ozil..
    The only one player I thought we did miss was sanchez not ozil he is not anything close to de-bryne of man. City why do we even talk about this guy as long as I know he is China league quality

    1. Phil says:

      NONNY-I can’t quite work it out in what you are saying.Do you rate Mesut Ozil or not.

  16. Lucia says:

    My team to play qarabagh
    Jenkinson lichsteiner koscielny monreal
    Emile Smith guendozi mhikitryan iwobi
    Sub: kolasinac, AMN, saka, Joe willock, aubameyang,Martinez,osei- tutu

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