Arsene Wenger was always known for his attacking brand of football, one which resulted in some eye-catching, jaw dropping goals. But they sometimes also resulted in embarrassing results, especially against the so called big 6. Wenger always countered the deficiencies showed by the defense by highlighting the attacking prowess of the club. With very few notable signings and academy products going on to make a mark in the defense of the first team over the last decade, the arrival of two to three quality defenders was a long due priority.
This is what Unai Emery has addressed in his first few days as an Arsenal manager. With an ageing Cech showing signs of concentration lapses and David Ospina never inspiring confidence in between the sticks, Unai Emery and Sven Mislintat combined to sign a young yet experienced Bernd Leno. The former Bayer Leverkusen goalkeeper was a seasoned player in the Bundesliga, with over 350 appearances in the German 1st and 2nd division. The fact that he is just 26 makes these stats all the more impressive as well and he has surely been signed to compete for the first team spot against either Ospina or Cech, with one of them surely destined to leave the club.
Just ahead of the goalkeeper, Emery signed a towering and commanding presence, someone who would constantly communicate with other defenders and organize the backline. The Borussia Dortmund defender Sokratis Papastathopoulus is a seasoned defender, who has proven his worth in the Bundesliga, first with Werder Bremen and then with BVB. Sokratis not only is a good defender, but he is also a huge threat in the opposition box as well, with 10 goals during his time at Dortmund underlining his heading abilities.
Emery, with his signings, has mixed up Arsenal’s backline, with young signings complimented with experienced heads. A perfect example of this is Stephan Lichsteiner, signed on a free transfer from Juventus. The experienced right back has won 8 league titles, 5 cup competitions and 4 Supercoppa Italiana in his career, making for an impressive trophy haul. Add to that two Champions League finals appearances and Lichsteiner becomes the perfect signing to bring some pedigree to the Arsenal backline and compete with the young and erratic Hector Bellerin for the right-back spot.
One of the more exciting signings, which will soon be announced is the 22 year old Central Defensive midfielder Lucas Torreira. The Uruguayan plies his trade in Serie A with Sampdoria and was impressive in the World Cup as well, playing in every match for his country. Torreira is a younger version of Marco Verratti, with his tough tackling and brilliant passing making him the ideal Arsenal signing. He does extremely well sitting in the hole just ahead of the defenders, screening the backline and freeing up other midfielders.
All the signings have been made with the erratic and unreliable Arsenal defense in mind, and the business done so far looks really exciting on paper, with the experience of Laurent Koscielny replaced by Sokratis as he continues his recovery from a long term injury. Lichsteiner, meanwhile, will add competition to the right-back spot, with Hector Bellerin putting in some underwhelming performances last season, mainly due to no threat to his place in the first team. Lucas Torreira will replace the outgoing Jack Wilshere and is an upgrade on Francis Coquelin while Bernd Leno will provide assurance and composure and improve the competitiveness for the first team spot.
The signs are positive and Arsenal supporters will be quietly optimistic with the early movements under Unai Emery. With no new additions expected, Arsenal have, for the first time in a long time, completed their transfer business well ahead of the deadline day and will be looking for a solid pre-season to kickstart the new era where defense will be focused on just as much as attack.