Next up in the roll call of Arsenal players are the defenders.
A solid back-four can provide a wall of protection on the pitch for the ‘keeper, and provide that link between keeping the ball out of the box and passing it back to the midfield. Arsenal used to be the kings of defending with the likes of Nigel Winterburn, Lee Dixon, Tony Adams and Martin Keown guarding the goalposts like wary watchdogs. These days, our defense tends to be a little more small but fearsome terrier-type due to injuries and rotation, but can put up a fight when necessary. Take a closer look and decide for yourself…
Squad number: 3
Interesting fact: Sagna’s crazy hairstyle was the result of a bet when he was 17 years old. His football team were the underdogs versus a team twice their age, and his father bet that Bac had to score two goals to change his hairstyle to one of his choice. Bac won, of course, and the hair has stayed ever since.
Bacary, or ‘Bac’ to his friends, is also known as Mr. Reliable to Gooners due to his dependable defending style. Playing in the right-back role, Bac joined Arsenal from Auxerre in 2007 and has clocked up over 150 appearances since. Not only does such an enormous tally ring true to his talents, but he has many friends at AFC due to his friendly nature… or perhaps it’s due to his kooky pasta hairstyle? Some claim that his hair holds the key to his superb crosses into the box too; having only scored 4 goals himself during his Arsenal career, but having zillions (or thereabouts) of assists to his name.
Bac has only played 11 games so far this season due to a broken leg during October’s NLD. He made a surefire comeback by scoring a goal in the return fixture though, using that lovely head of hair…
Squad number: 4
Interesting fact: Per’s wife, Ulrike Stange, is also a players for the German national team – in handball, that is. She isn’t currently playing however as the couple have a young son, Paul (who was born last April) who they are focusing on raising first.
The BFG (Big Friendly German!) came to Arsenal from Werder Bremen for £8 million, at the same time as Santos; and at 6ft 6″ is the tallest member of the squad (even taller than Szczęsny at 6ft 5″!). Aside from his rather obvious height (duck, door frame!) which helps him in the air, he is a rather clean player who picks up relatively few bookings for his position at center-back.
He’s already made over 20 appearances for the Gunners in his debut season and is becoming a fan favourite with his rather alooft interviews in broken english. Take a look at this one below, which sprouted the catchphrase “bling bling”:
Squad number: 5
Thomas Vermaelen joined Arsenal in the summer of 2009 in an altogether lacklustre affair. Despite being the captain of Dutch-side Ajax and captain of the Belgian national team, most Gooners didn’t know who he was and were afraid that this would be a useless signing. How wrong they were – Thomas took the Premier League by storm in his debut season, making 45 appearances which included 8 goals (one on his debut) and 2 assists. No mean feat when your natural position is as a left-sided center back!
His eye for a goal and talent for defending makes him a versatile player, as was recognized by being awarded a place in the 2010 PFA Team of the Year, and being awarded the vice-captaincy in only his third season at Arsenal. He is a firm favorite with the fans as well – nicked-named ‘The Verminator’ in reference to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s indestructible Terminator, the lady Goonerettes swoon over his high cheekbones and bee-stung lips. Oh dear.. *swoons*
Squad number: 6
Interesting fact: He picked up the nickname Bosscielny after establishing himself in the squad last season for his tireless defending. Even the balls give way to Kos.
The 21st Frenchman to be signed under Arsene Wenger; Laurent had only had one season in the top flight of French football before he moved to Arsenal. A rough diamond is you will, he entered the English game in the absence of an injured Thomas Vermaelen to guide him, and had what you might describe as a ‘baptism of fire’ in his debut game; injured at half-time but reappearing to play the second half, in which he got a red card.
With a few nerves and mistakes, he found his feet and his plaudits who held him as one of the most exciting prospects in the EPL. Kos’ brilliant positioning and awareness means he has a great anticipation of danger in his position of centre-back and he knows how to tackle. Despite his miniscule height for a defender, he also has great ariel prowess which comes in handy at both ends of the pitch.
His lowest moment was the mistake in the Carling Cup final which effectively lost Arsenal the trophy; but this is leveled up by some spectacular performances, including the Champions League game versus Barcelona in which Lionel Messi went missing for 90 minutes, only to be found in Laurent’s back pocket. Good job Kos!
Squad number: 11
Interesting fact: His middle name is Clarindo, which his wife actually calls him by instead of Andre.
This is Santos’ first season at Arsenal, arriving from Turkish club Fenerbahce after a rather mad day in the transfer window. The left-winger arrived on the back of a horrific 8-2 defeat to Manchester United and made his debt the following september against Blackburn Rovers. Since then, the stocky Brazilian has appeared 8 times in the Arsenal shirt, scoring his first goal for the club in the 5-3 away win against Chelsea and celebrating with a rather interesting dance which can be seen below.
Santos is currently out of action, after he suffered ligament damage during the 3-1 defeat to Olympiakos. Following surgery on his ankle and recuperation in Brazil for 3 months, he might be included in Monday’s game versus Newcastle. Welcome back Andre!
Squad number: 20
Interesting fact: Djourou was born in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, to Ivorian parents Joachim and Angeline, and was later adopted by his father’s first wife Daniele, a Swiss woman. The family moved to Geneva when he was 17 months old, so he opted to represent the Swiss at international level.
Johan has been with Arsenal since 2002, so could technically be considered an old-timer in this bunch of defenders. The central defender joined the club’s youth programme before becoming a first-teamer with 81 appearances to his name. He would have had more, but Djourou suffered a knee injury which later required surgery in April 2009, and only reappeared in time for the last game of the following season.
An injury to Vermaelen meant that he then took his turn on the pitch, giving some impressive performances. Since then he’s slipped back down the pecking order and is no longer first choice – but he does have his own Arsenal TV online segment, if that counts?
Squad number: 18
Interesting fact: Squillaci born in the commune of Toulon and was raised in nearby La Seyne-sur-Mer, in France. For the positive representation that he had given La Seyne, the commune honored the player by naming a stadium after him – The Stade de Squillaci. Neat, huh?
Le Squid is one of the older players in the squad, but comes with the experience of playing in France and Spain previously. Arsene Wenger relaxed his stringent rules on contracts for players over the age of 30 to sign Squillaci on a three-year deal from Sevilla towards the end of the summer transfer window in 2010. He’s played for Monaco, Lyon and Sevilla, and has enjoyed success at every club he has represented, including Ajaccio with whom he won the Ligue 2 title during a loan spell in 2002.
Seb may be on his last legs in footballing terms, but is always ready to stand in for the Arsenal defense when called upon. This the only goal he’s scored at Arsenal:
Squad number: 25
Interesting fact: Arsenal is Carl’s boyhood club that’s he’s supported since he was a little kid, and his father has been a season-ticket holder for 50 years. Check out his impressive bedroom at his parents house and his haul of memorabilia!
Carl was only 19 years old when he moved to the big-time of the Premier League; something which most players don’t graduate to so easily. He moved from Charlton last summer in what was defined as one of Wenger’s youth buys, but he has already played several first team games for the Gunners, including the Champions League.
Jenks’ mixed heritage comes from his parents (His mother is from Finland) and he hasn’t decided which national team he’d like to play for, should he be called up. For now, he’s just the kid with a meteoric career, who has eyebrows too close together that make him look like he has no eyes, likes having an unpopular haircut and is said to be generally unsocialable. Here’s to a long career at Arsenal, Jenks.
Now it’s your turn!