When the news of Arsenal agreeing personal terms with Williams frittered in via Goal, we thought Arsenal’s search for a new center-back had come to an end but it seems not if the report by the Sun has any substance to it. The Sun are reporting that Arsenal are ready to launch a move for Liverpool’s disgruntled center-back Martin Skrtel. According to the tabloid, the Gunners are ready to sanction a 12 million Pounds bid for the experienced Slovakian. But how plausible is it that Wenger will go into a new season with 5 experienced center-backs at his disposal, It is very ‘unWenger like’. Having 5 center-backs would cause constipation of options and might create unhealthy rivalry in the dressing room. It will also ruin the chances of young players that might be on the fringes of the first team. Ideally, I forsee Wenger going into the season with 3 experienced center-backs. Vermaelen after dropping down the pecking order in the twilight of last season might be open to a new adventure outside the shores of the Emirates and reports have it that Barca, Bayern and Juventus are interested. I don’t see Wenger buying both Williams and Skrtel, he will likely settle for either of them which means Arsenal will be having Mertesacker, Koscielny and either of Williams or Skrtel. If that happens, it will be good but who should Arsenal go for between the Welshman and the Slovakian? That’s the crux of this piece.
Both Skrtel and Williams are short term solutions since they are already closing in on 30. Both players will be 29 this year, this means they don’t have more than 4 years at the top and could even be shorter considering Wenger’s bias against old players. If we are going for short term solutions owing to the presence of experience, we should opt for the better of the two short term solutions. With that at the back of our minds, come with me as I analyze both players.
Martin Skrtel has experience at the highest level (UEFA Champions League and Premier League). Skrtel has had forayed in the UEFA Champions League having got to the semi-finals with Liverpool. He was also part of the Liverpool team that came runners–up to Manchester United in the race for the Premier League title. If we are building to challenge for top honours (UEFA Champions League and Premier League), we need someone that has seen it all at the highest level. Skrtel is that person. Considering Williams, he has never played an European club competition and at Swansea, the goal is survival or at best mid-table finish but at Arsenal that are expected to fight for top honours, he might be overwhelmed by the stage.
Another issue where Skrtel has an edge is been a goalscoring threat. The Slovakian in 5 seasons has scored 9 goals for Liverpool, averaging 2 Premier League goals for the Reds per season unlike Williams that is yet to record a single Premier League goal for Swansea in 2 seasons in the top flight of English football. I know it is the job of defenders to prevent goals and not score them but every title winning side will at some point have to fall back on the goals from defenders. Last season, it was Koscielny’s goal that sealed Arsenal’s top 4 fate. All our center-backs are goalscorers; Koscielny, Mertesacker and Vermaelen. In this light, Skrtel would make a good fit.
When it comes to aerial dominance, Skrtel is the better of the duo. Williams’ weakness is in his aerial ability. I don’t blame him, he isn’t so tall as he stands at just 6 feet unlike Skrtel that stands at 6 ft 4. During Drogba’s Premier League days, if there was one defender that dominated him in the air, it was the Slovakian. In recent seasons, we have been vulnerable in set-pieces. Hence, we need to add height if we have the opportunity. Besides, the return of Mourinho to the Premier League means we might be facing long ball tactics again. Which better way to fortify ourselves against it other than by adding a towering center-back to our ranks. Another reason why I would prefer Skrtel to Williams is that the former comes from a region that produces quality center-backs and that’s the Eastern Europe. The same region that produced Vidic, Subotic, Ivanovic and Agger.
After reeling out the reasons why the candidacy of Skrtel is preferred high and above Williams, it is worth noting that Arsenal won’t pick him up on a platter of gold. Though he is disgruntled at the lack of UEFA Champions league football and Arsenal are very well poised to offer him that but Liverpool won’t want to sell him to a Premier League fierce rival and with Barca having been credited with an interest in previous seasons, Liverpool might prefer selling him to the Catalans. To avoid loosing on two fronts, I would suggest Arsenal do not drop interest in Williams but should also intensify their pursuit of Skrtel. Who knows, we might just
pull wool over Liverpool’s eyes and have them sell us their prized asset the same way we sold Manchester United ours.