Arsenal’s decision to not sign a dominant central defender during the summer is costing them hugely this season, according to Martin Allen.
The former QPR and West Ham midfielder joined talkSPORT on Saturday and expressed his view that spending £72million on Nicolas Pepe was misguided given Unai Emery must have known his squad was lacking in other areas.
The Gunners did sign two centre-backs throughout the summer, though William Saliba was returned to Saint-Etienne on loan and David Luiz is not the kind of reliable defender a manager wants to build his back-line around.
It is no surprise, therefore, that Arsenal have conceded 17 times in 12 Premier League matches this season to sit sixth, eight points off the top four and with only four wins to their name.
While scoring goals has not been a problem – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has already netted eight times this season in the league – keeping them out has been a real challenge.
This is not a new issue for Arsenal, however, as they struggled defensively last season and many fans expected Emery to completely rebuild his back-line during the summer.
Recruiting only David Luiz and left-back Kieran Tierney was not what supporters had in mind, and investing the £72m laid out on Pepe in the defence would have been much wiser, Allen believes.
“I’m not sure on £72m for Pepe,” Allen told talkSPORT. “He’s got pace and he’s quite direct – he is exciting – but £72m looks a little bit steep for me.
“I can’t understand why they haven’t recruited, when everybody knew they needed one, a dominant centre-back.
“They probably [needed] another decent holding central midfield player too.
“And they just haven’t done it.
“They have been caught short in those two areas – central midfield and centre-back – and is David Luiz the answer? Not for me.”
Arsenal are not only struggling with defensive issues, however.
There are clearly things going wrong off the pitch as well, especially considering Granit Xhaka was stripped of the captaincy after clashing with fans.
The midfielder was only appointed skipper during the summer after Laurent Koscielny forced his exit from Arsenal, and Allen says these issues with the captain confirm there are problems behind the scenes.
“I think they’ve got some ongoing issues there,” Allen added. “Three captains in the last six months have all fallen out with the football club.
“In the summer Koscielny refused to go on the pre-season training camp, which was the first sign of alarm bells.
“Then Mesut Ozil captained Arsenal against Nottingham Forest and he got taken off after about 60 (sic) minutes, and he clearly had the hump.
“And now with Granit Xhaka and all the stuff going on with him…
“It is awful for that football club, as they are a club with great traditions.”
Watch Martin Allen on talkSPORT, above…