In an interview Wenger gave to Arsenal magazine at the end of the season he gives his views on the qualities and characteristics of centre backs. Since Arsene announced last month that he didn`t need any one for his defence, see Arsene Wenger Doesn’t Want Any Kompany, it is interesting to look back on these views as some indication as to his current thinking.
He acknowledges Kolo, Gallas and Senderos as his principal centre backs with Djourou and Song also considered good defenders. The qualities needed in a good central defender he describes as
Leadership, determination, steel, intelligence, reading of the game, and concentration – the capacity to focus for 90 minutes. But he feels that the younger defenders need to improve their composure.
One of the most important qualities, and one that is often overlooked, is calm and composure. They [good defenders] never panic. That`s where our youngsters have to improve he says.
With Gallas soon to be 31 and Toure now 27 our supporting central defenders are still young. Senderos is the oldest of them but still only 23. Djourou is still 6 months away from his 22nd birthday while Alex Song isn`t yet 21. Wenger is also placing some store in Havard Nordtveit`s ability to step up a level. When asked last week by a Norwegian newspaper about Nordtveit`s prospects for next season he replied
I expect that he takes the step up to the first team and gets a few games there. Yet Havard has only just turned 18 though Wenger claims he has rarely seen a more mature player. Injury prevented him from making his first team debut last season in the Carling cup game against Newcastle having to be withdrawn at the last minute.
Given the reliance on youth it is surprising that Wenger agreed that centre backs peak late in their careers.
It`s not so much about how far you run, but about how many mistakes you make. The intelligent players learn from their mistakes, and cut them out of their game, the older they get. That`s why the best years for a centre back are between 28 and 34.
In some ways it`s encouraging to think that Gallas and Kolo are coming into their prime and still have some mileage left. Though Senderos has a fair amount of experience behind him now he still has plenty of time in front of him. As do Djourou, Song and Nordtveit though we have to allow them to gain the experience. To a large extent that`s an investment that will require some patience. A rare enough commodity amongst football fans.
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