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Column: Why Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger will regret not signing a defender


Two wins, one draw and one defeat. After an impressive pre-season campaign, Arsenal struggled to impress in their first four games of the Premier League. team manager Harry Robertson assesses the first month of the Gunners and explains what can be done to improve before the transfer window shuts down.

At the start of the month, on August 7, just two days before Arsenal hosted West Ham United at the Emirates, manager Arsene Wenger stressed the importance of a strong start in order to avoid the same scenario that happened last season when his side were 15 points behind leaders Chelsea after 12 games.

Pre-season was simply remarkable.

With the only arrival of Petr Cech from Chelsea, the Frenchman could focus on improving the alchemy between players who already knew each other in order to rectify problems which had been left wholly unaddressed in previous campaigns.

They eased past Lyon and edged past Everton to lift the Emirates Cup and days later they beat Chelsea to win the FA Community Shield.

That was when Arsene Wenger faced the media to say that "one of our targets is to start strong, we had good preparation so that should give us confidence."

Unfortunately, that was not the case.

A tired-looking Arsenal side suffered a shock home defeat at the hands of West Ham United in their first Premier League game of the season and the performance was as equally disappointing in the following three games.

Nobody would have been surprised had Crystal Palace found a late equaliser at Selhurst Park and even though Aaron Ramsey had a clear goal wrongly disallowed against Liverpool, the Reds could have easily scored two or more in the first 45 minutes of the game at the Emirates.

And on Saturday, Arsenal again struggled to battle past ten-man Newcastle United.

Is all this good enough to win the title? Is Arsene Wenger happy with what he saw so far this season?

The answer is no. At the start of the week, the Frenchman was honest enough to admit that his team have been "very average" so far, adding that some of his players are lacking sharpness.

Which is true, it was surprising to see players jogging against West Ham United instead of fighting for the ball and even more surprising was to see Alexis Sanchez making his debut even if he was short of fitness.

Another concern for the Arsenal boss is that the upcoming international break will not help his team. Many of his players will play two games in four days and what awaits them after their return is a very tricky set of fixtures starting with a home game against Stoke City followed by a trip to Croatia to face Dinamo Zagreb in the first game of their Champions League campaign.

But what is the main concern going forward?

Even when all Arsenal players are fit and sharp, it seems that they still lack something to be title contenders and by that I don't mean Karim Benzema or Edison Cavani.

Yes, a world-class striker would help but it's time for Arsene Wenger to understand that depth is key if one really wants to challenge for the Premier League and Champions League.

Ideally, in all areas of the pitch.

It was outrageous to see 20-year-old Calum Chambers taking over from Laurent Koscielny against Liverpool resulting in the youngster giving the ball away cheaply at least three times in the first half of the game.

And that's because young Chambers is not ready to feature at the heart of the Arsenal defence.

Wenger will probably believe that having the two regular centre-backs ruled out at the same time will not happen again this season and maybe that is true but fatigue could also be an important factor especially in the last few months of the season.

Also, you don't win titles with 20-year-old defenders. Many have praised the positive impact that Hector Bellerin has had for Arsenal last season but is he ready to face the "monsters" of the game when and if Arsenal go far in the Champions League?

He reminds me of Kieran Gibbs. Years ago many thought he was the best thing since sliced bread and at the age of 20 he was called by then-England manager Fabio Capello in his squad.

But where is he now?

He was thrown in the mix way too early so it was no surprise that he struggled when Arsenal faced the likes of Barcelona or Bayern Munich in Europe.

So whilst many are focusing on whether Olivier Giroud is good enough to lead the attack or how important Francis Coquelin is in midfield, I feel that if Arsenal are to be title contenders they desperately need to strengthen the defensive department.

They need experience, they need leaders, they need variety. Per Mertesacker is good, but the way he is sometimes beaten for pace is embarrassing.

We all saw what happened last season against Monaco at home in the Champions League. Arsene Wenger said his team was "suicidal" in defence but what is being done to avoid a repeat of such an abysmal display?

Months earlier he was saying more or less the same after the 3-2 defeat at the Britannia Stadium against Stoke City, "we were a bit inexperienced at the back" and months before that he was baffled as to how the Arsenal defence allowed Borussia Dortmund's Ciro Immobile to score in the 2-0 defeat against the Germans, "it's still difficult to understand how we concede the goal. There were still enough people to stop the goal."

It seems the Frenchman is aware of the problems in defence but what has he done to fix them?

Not much, unless he pulls a rabbit out of the hat before the end of the transfer window.

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