Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger took the very usual step of changing his formation to three centre-backs at the end of last season for the first time in over two decades.
The indications from pre-season are that the veteran French boss may stick with three at the back for the start of the new campaign. However, when everybody is fit who should start in the heart of the Gunners defence?
Arsenal now have decent options
Arsenal now have decent centre-back options in Laurent Koscielny, Shkodran Mustafi, Gabriel, Per Mertesacker and Rob Holding. Then there are the versatile options of Sead Kolasinac, Nacho Monreal and Calum Chambers if the latter stays of course.
Koscielny will miss the first few games of the campaign through suspension, though. With a plethora of options to choose from it will be difficult for Wenger to choose who to play at the heart of the defence in the first games of the season.
Mustafi, Holding and one other
I have to say Rob Holding impressed me at times last season. He looks to be a very good young defender who will only get better with game time for the Gunners. Wenger likes a good bargain, but the 21-year-old could yet be one of the Frenchman’s best bargain-basement buys.
I believe that Holding will line-up alongside Mustafi and one other if Wenger decides to field a three-man backline. Mustafi’s first campaign in north London was okay, but he still has a lot to prove in an Arsenal shirt.
Nacho Monreal has filled in at centre-back in games in recent seasons. I would not be surprised to see the Spaniard once again in a three-man defence, with Kolasinac playing as the left-wing back.
When Koscielny returns, then Monreal will be left to fight it out with Kolasinac for a wing-back place or with Holding most likely for a centre-back spot.
Defensive record needs to improve
Arsenal need to be much better at the back in the new campaign, as the Gunners had the leakiest defence of any of the teams that finished in the top-six last season. A stable selection will obviously help that that defensive solidity.
However, Koscielny’s suspension will mean the Gunners will be missing one of their key defensive assets for the first few games of the season. I hope that Wenger can fashion at defence that is harder to breach in the new campaign.
Who should start at the heart of the Arsenal defence?