Squillaci - Silvestre - Cygan: the weakest Arsenal link
It's been a messy year for Arsenal. A couple of days after Christmas last year, Arsenal took apart Chelsea at home with a full-on performance which promised an exciting 2011 for the Gunners.
Unfortunately the atmosphere of that night has long-since dissipated and in its place has materialised a fog of unease and uncertainty that is threatening to engulf the Arsenal.
The first seven months of 2011 has seen Arsenal buffeted and wobble. The experienced steward, Arsene Wenger, looks like an increasingly beleagured captain who is seriously struggling to control his fine ship.
These are extremely rocky waters that Wenger has encountered, and with an imminent storm of fixtures to be navigated it is unclear in what condition Arsenal will look come the end of the month.
If I could make one immediate suggestion in this testing period to the great Wenger it would be to stop playing Sebastien Squillaci. It appears that when he is on the pitch we are at our weakest defensively with dire consequence. For me he follows the line of Mikel Silverstre and Pascal Cygan in being Arsenal first-team centre-backs who look a couple of quality levels below their teammates when on the pitch.
Scott Booth, the co-commentator on ESPN last night as Arsenal played Benfica, neatly highlighted the ease with which the scorer of Benfica's second goal turned past Squillaci on the edge of the box before driving a fine shot past Fabianski. Squillaci was indeed turned too easily: in my opinion it was characteristically sub-par defending in the Arsenal shirt for the French defender.
It probably did not help the mentality of Squillaci that just four minutes after coming on the pitch Benfica had equalised after a first half which Arsenal controlled and led. A goal four minutes after coming on the pitch must have raised feelings for him of that awful day at St James Park in February when four goals were conceded by the Arsenal shortly after he came on a sub for the injured Djourou.
To me Squillaci looks like a defender low on confidence; a defender who fundamentally lacks belief in his defending ability.
This is a period when Arsenal need to dig deep. There are tests to overcome this month which will define the subsequent 12 months. To come through them we need to be at our strongest all over the pitch. And, for me, this means avoiding playing Squillaci, who unfortunately is proving himself unsuitable for the Arsenal defensive cause.
By consequence, the incentive to immediately buy a new centre-back must surely now be overwhelming for Wenger??