In Depth Arsenal Mid-Season Evaluation‏ – Keepers and Defence

Arsenal Mid-Season Evaluation‏ – Keepers and Defence by Jonn Hirons

Today I wanted to have a look at how I feel our squad is doing this year, there been some highs, lows and of course injuries.

We shall start with the goalkeepers..
Petr Cech – Cech left some fans questioning AWs wisdom in signing Cech after his debut Vs West Ham. Our new Keeper was, if not responsible, then certainly culpable for both goals in a poor 2-0 loss. In response however Cech has shown us Gunners what we have missed for a decade, just how important a top Goalkeeper is. Cech cuts a composed and solid figure at the back of our defence, which leads to our defenders seemingly being more comfortable and calm, there have been games (Such as vs Liverpool) where Cech has almost single handedly kept us in the game. Cech has had a solid if not spectacular start to the year, I give him an 8/10.

David Ospina – hard to say too much about David Ospina this year. He has only played 2 games, both in the Champions League, both ending in horrific defeat. His Own Goal helped Olympiakos to a 3-2 victory, and according to, David Ospina has conceded more goals, than he made saves, 4 saves, 5 goals. To put it simply, Ospina has been poor. His performances should have seen us knocked out of the Champions league, and if I am honest, I am not looking forward to the new FA Cup campaign just because Ospina will be our FA Cup keeper. Ospina gets a rating of 2/10.

Right Backs
Hector Bellerin – The rise of Hector Bellerin has been spectacular, aged just 20, he must be one of the first names on the team sheet. His searing pace has seen him affectionately nicknamed The Flash. He has got a lot better in terms of his defensive work and he is rapidly improving, almost by the minute. He has a nice determination about him – see the Bayern game where he was run ragged by Costa in the first half, but managed to adapt in the second, giving Costa very little chances. It was also Bellerin’s energetic sprint from the halfway line that led to Ozil’s goal vs Bayern. There are still many creases in his game to be ironed out, although his pace tends to allow him to make up for any mistakes. I think he has been pretty solid this year, he gets 7/10.

Mathieu Debuchy – Whilst one Right back rises, the other falls. Injuries must take some of the blame for Debuchy’s rapid decline, he looks sluggish, confused, and quite simply poor. He has started 6 games this season, winning just the once. He played the full 90 in crushing defeats to Bayern and Sheffield Wednesday. He has been talking about leaving Arsenal for first team football, and you have to feel that if HB stays fit, Debuchy isn’t getting near that team. I give Debuchy a 4/10.

Calum Chambers – I wasn’t sure what position to bring up Chambers. This season he has played right back, centre back and DM, and whilst I feel he will eventually be a DM I have gone for RB as that is where he has played most frequently. Chambers is another 20 year old at the back for Arsenal, although he is not quite breaking down the door to the first team. He played DM vs Bournemouth due to our unbelievable injury list, and I have to say, he surprised me how well he played. This season he has been brought on to close out games, usually only getting 10 minutes per match, his 2 premier league starts have led to 2 clean sheets, one in DM vs Bournemouth and one at CB vs Liverpool (Although I think he has Cech to thank for that game). Chambers’ growth is not accelerating at the speed we all like but I think that is in part thanks to not knowing his actual position, something which needs sorting out soon. Whilst not amazing, he has not been poor either, he would have gotten a 6, but I never feel comfortable in a game where he starts, that is a problem. Calum gets a 5/10.

Centre Backs
Laurent Koscielny – I had to start with The Boss. Laurent is by far our most effective and highest quality defender. Thierry Henry has started an argument that he is, in fact, the best in the league, and not many of us would disagree. He reads the game well, is very aggressive in a challenge, he also has great pace to try and cover for his partner. At the start of this season when the debate was raging as to who our captain should be, he got my vote, he may not be the loudest player, but he leads by example. He steps out of defence well, and sets us on an attack with his surprisingly good range of passing. One thing that does not get mentioned enough in the media is that he does his own job superbly, but also covers for Monreal when he races forward, and also covers for Mert’s lack of pace next to him. Koscielny has once again had his share of injuries this year, we can only hope he remains fighting fit for the rest of this season, as he is simply indispensable to this club. The Boss gets 8/10.

Per Mertesacker – Now Per is probably the hardest to judge on this list, I have always had an issue with his lack of pace, I do not think a player with such lack of movement belongs in the Premier League. Per reads the game spectacularly well, probably better than anyone we have, but one slight misjudgement and he cannot recover and is out of the game, I also feel he should be more potent in the air, whenever he loses an aerial ball I get so frustrated, he should be winning any crosses into our box, and should also cause havoc from corners, but he does not. He is however the most natural leader in our squad, he is very vocal. It sounds weird considering all the criticism I have given him, I give per a 7/10.

Gabriel – Gabriel is our second best Centre Back, in my opinion he should start alongside Koscielny at the back. He is aggressive, no nonsense and boy is he passionate. He seemed to win more headers from corners vs Bournemouth than Per has all year! I hope to see him given his chance again soon, at just 25, Gabriel will improve for some years to come yet, his main issue is he can be quite rash in a challenge, sometimes this works out well, but other times he will give away set pieces that we are inevitably punished from. I give Gabriel a 7/10.

Left Backs
Nacho Monreal – Monreal is hardly recognisable from the player that first joined from Malaga, he has become solid and ever dependable. I believe defensively he is the best left back in the league, he is very rarely outmatched on that left side. Going forward his cut backs into the box are almost Ozilesque, and more times than not he finds a teammate in a dangerous position. He also has a great relationship with Santi Cazorla, the two of them are often seen playing between themselves in order to move Arsenal forward. Monreal gets an 8/10.

Kieran Gibbs – Gibbs was once thought of as the long-term successor to Cole and Clichy, but injuries have since taken their toll on Gibbs’ development meaning he has not developed much over the past few years. That, coupled with Monreal’s acclimatisation to the league, has led to Gibbs becoming very much second choice. AW has found it worthwhile bringing him on to play on the wing when we are tightening up, something which has worked fairly well. He scored the all-important equalizer against Spurs, and has done a decent job off the bench. However I can’t see a reason to give him any more than a 6/10.

Are there any of my assessments you disagree with?

Jonn Hirons

Tags Bellerin Cech Koscielny


  1. Pretty fair, but I think Cech and Monreal deserve 9’s.
    Cech had an awful start against West Ham, but since then has been incredible and extremely reliable. He calms everyones nerves i’m sure, and makes spectacular saves right and left.

    Monreal is also extremely reliable, and imo the best left back in the EPL.

    Mertesacker and Kosc have a great partnership, and since mertesacker is a great leader, I think he’ll remain the starter. He is a very good defender after all, just… slow…

    I think Gabriel will be an excellent CB and its only a matter of time until he starts regularly (i’m guessing next season though). Props to Wenger for signing him!

    Nice article

  2. Good evaluation.
    To be fair the likes of
    Gibbs Debuchy and Ospina
    are decent players and when
    given an extended run have played well.
    To me our back 5 (and Ozil)
    is the strongest section of our team right now.
    Ok one or two bad days but generally very tough and reliable
    and -touch wood – they hardly get injured.
    They are the foundation the team is building
    the Premiership title charge upon.

  3. One thing I noticed which is to advantage of Chambers is the fact that english Media are not over hyping him at least NOT yet, and this can only be to his advantage to grow with little or no pressure.
    He no longer belongs to R.B for me he’s a DM now because to play like he did in your 1st start is remarkable, +he has the size and composure to play DM, and he’s is a defender for that matter so he know how to defend.
    Le rock broke into the team last year around this time and here is Chambers with a chance Coincidence???

  4. Generally a fair assessment
    Cech has been a crucial signing not just as a GK but as a calming influence at the back.
    With Gabriel now getting some starts AW can properly rotate his 3 CBs. But he must beware of his sliding tackles, great though they are. Most EPL refs will give a yellow or red.
    Monreal has been a star performer throughout 2015.
    Thought Chambers had a good game in midfield on Monday, he looks as though he’s now recovered his confidence after Hodgson foolishly selected him for senior England squad.

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