How we compare – Vol 2: Full Backs

 

Dixon

This isn’t meant to sound like a snipe at our current full backs (we’ll get into that debate later), but I miss Lee Dixon and Nigel Winterburn. I’m not going to justify that last statement…….. I just do!

Winterburn

It’s a shame that, when discussing our full back options, I cannot talk about the best player in his position in the world. This especially gripes as one of them actually came through our youth system. The ‘Ashley Cole argument’ has been done to death, but love him or hate him (and I would say high percentages are the latter) he is a phenomenal full back. Still, we’ve had five years to get that out of our system.

You only came to see Eboue, apparently...

I seem to remember this time last year, after a good season from Eboue and the emergence of Gibbs, people saying that we had the best choice (if you include replacements) of full backs in the league. I’m not saying that I ever fully agreed with that sentiment, but it wasn’t a position that worried me. It’s a different picture now. Clichy has gone! Gibbs seems to have developed Rosickyesc injury proneness (although I feel he’ll get over this eventually and become a very good full back). Eboue looks to soon be on his way, after a terrible season last year. All this in a position that, with our current formation, is the most exposed of any (especially if a certain Russian is playing in front of you).

Gibbo

As it stands at the moment, we have Traore back from two season long loan spells to Portsmouth and Juventus. He may have improved significantly to become Gibbs’ understudy, but I would be surprised if that is going to be the case. We know Thomas Vermaelen can fill in that spot, but I think as it stands we cannot do without him in the middle. We’ve seen Carl Jenkinson in a few pre-season friendlies, and I’ve been really impressed. However, he’s still untried at Premier League level. My guess would be that if Eboue goes, Jenkinson will be Sagna’s back-up.

Yes way Jose?

I personally would like to see us bring in another left back to challenge Gibbs for a starting spot, or at least play when he’s inevitably injured. A prime candidate for this would be Jose Enrique at Newcastle. A very competent left back with several years Premier League experience, who has openly expressed his desire to leave the Geordie side. I’m presuming Liverpool will be interested too, bearing in mind their pursuit of Clichy, but we should definitely be looking into signing him.

In comparing where we stand with our Full Backs compared to our rivals, I’m going to assume that none of the teams in question will be signing anyone in that position:

Spurs potentially have one of the best young English full backs around in Kyle Walker. He was impressive at Villa last year, and also with the England under 21’s side in Denmark this summer. He is only 21 though, and seems a little too one-dimensional at the moment. I would still have him above Corluka and Hutton, but (essentially) I would have Sagna above all three. Benoit Assou-Ekotto, if you exclude Monkey Boy Bale, seems to be the only recognised left back around the first team at the club. After a couple of years of obscurity, his last two seasons at SHL have been quite productive. He is an athlete and is consistent. I would say that his level (at the moment) is very similar to Gibbs. Assou-Ekotto is more reliable on the injury front, but Gibbs has the potential to a much better player. I think Arsenal are stronger at full back, but only very marginally.

Liverpool are in a very similar position to Arsenal. They have one international quality full back, and some very promising young players coming through (I know they have Aurelio but I’m not much of a fan). I think Johnson is, quite possibly, on a par with Sagna. You could argue that Johnson is weaker defensively, but you could also rightly say his is better going forward. Amongst the players coming through at Liverpool are John Flanagan and Jack Robinson, a right back and left back respectively, they played a few games for the 1st team last year (including the 1-1 debacle at the Emirates). I know Martin Kelly played several times for the reds at right back last year, but essentially it is my understanding that he is a centre back. To be honest, I don’t think there’s much difference in the strength of the two teams in this position.

Great defender, bad haircut

It’s a shame we’ve strengthened one of our rivals, but I think it was right for Clichy to go. No one could ever accuse him of ever not giving 100%, but his sporadic mind farts were beginning to irritate many a Gooner. With him, Koralov and Bridge (although it’s expected that the Englishman will leave this summer) it is not a bad competition for places at left back. Joleon Lescott has also played numerous games at left back, including internationally. On the opposite flank the re-invigorated Micah Richards has a strong season last year, and at 23 years old, he’ll probably continue to improve. With the more than adequate back-up of Paulo Zabaletta, Manchester City look comfortable. City are stronger.

Probably the largest resource of full back talent (closely run by City) comes from Chelsea. With three options at both right back and left back, the West Londoners have plenty of cover. At right back Jose Bosingwa has flattered to deceive (although dogged by injury) since his arrival three years ago. Ivanovic provides defensive stability, and strength to the position. He is also deceptively adept (although not dynamic) at going forward, as well as threatening at set pieces. Paulo Ferreira makes up the first team trio of options and was one of Jose Mourinho’s first signings. He is solid cover, but is not going to scare any of his opponents. At left back, Chelsea have Ashley Cole. As stated previously, I have no love for the money grabbing/womanising scumbag, but I have to say he is currently the best left back in the world. He is backed up by Yury Zhirkov, who is probably more at home further up the pitch, but can cover in Cashley’s absence. Ryan Beltrand is the youth option for the Blues. Soon to turn 22, Ryan (as well as injury) has been keeping Kieran Gibbs out of the England U21 side. From what I’ve seen of him, he looks a good prospect, and I expect him to stay at Chelsea this year and get some game time. Chelsea are stronger in this area than Arsenal.

So, onto the reigning Premier League champions. Gary Neville has retired and Wes Brown and John O’Shea have moved to Sunderland, taking away three full back options for Manchester United. Last season saw the full emergence of Brazilian twins Fabio and Rafael. On Manchester United’s official website Rafael is a right back and Fabio is a left back but in truth, they both fill in on either side. Patrice Evra is probably second only to Ashley Cole with respect to left backs in the Premier League, and a very solid performer. Looking at their first team squad, these are the only three recognised full backs listed. I don’t know whether Sir Alex is hoping to add to this position in the summer, or whether he has a couple of likely lads in the reserves. Maybe the option of playing Jonny Evans or (new recruit) Phil Jones at full back is an option, or maybe they have other players I’ve totally forgotten about. Either way, it does seem to be a weakness in their squad. They could be in trouble if Evra picks up a long term injury. I’m sure the Wiley Scotsman has a plan. Either way, at the moment, I can’t say they’re in a stronger position than us. I’d say we’re about the same.

So, with the exception of Man United, unfortunately we’re looking up in envy at the teams that finished above us last year. We definitely could do with some reinforcements…

Thanks for reading!

Big Dave

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: