Time to sort the Flaky Defence

Perhaps the main factor in Arsenal dropping out of the Champions League top 4 places in the last two seasons of Arsene Wenger’s reign was the number of goals we were shipping. We conceded 44 goals in 2016/17 and a monstrous 51 big ones in 2017/18.

At the other end, there hasn’t been too much of a change in terms of goals scored in recent years, so if your defence becomes more porous, it seems likely you’ll win less games and accumulate less points.

New manager, new methods. Unai Emery arrives in North London and what does he see?

Firstly, two fairly recently signed, exciting, shiny new goal-scoring strikers in Auba and Laca (no offence, Danny).

He also looks at his attacking midfield options. Mkhitaryan still cementing his place but looking class, Mesut signed on for another stretch at the best club in the world and Aaron Ramsey itching to find out where his future lies. Alex Iwobi also lies in waiting as he moves towards his peak years. No shortage of talent up front, then.

Defensive midfield has lacked (well according to blog wisdom, anyway) a proper DM for years. Granit Xhaka passes the ball beautifully (for the most part) but lacks pace and mobility defensively. Mo Elneny has a great engine but hasn’t really plugged that gap in front of the back four. Attempts to use Ramsey as part of the central midfield have often left us short as he goes walkabout in search of a goal. Jack never quite cut it either for one reason or another and was finally deemed surplus to requirements. On the bright side, two new recruits Torreira and Guendouzi look very promising and, in addition, Ainsley Maitland-Niles has really started to look like a fixture in the first team set-up.

At the back, Emery would have immediately wished that Laurent Koscielny hadn’t torn his ankle tendon apart, as he oozes class when fit. (Maybe Kos can come back from injury with his Achilles problems finally behind him for the first time in years – fingers crossed). New signing  Sokratis from Dortmund, along with the much-maligned Mustafi, are the obvious experienced partners in central defence. Mavropanos and Holding are yet to force their way into serious contention and Calum Chambers was presumably granted his loan move because of wanting regular first team football.

Monreal and Kolasinac on the left plus Bellerin and new recruit, Lichtsteiner have the full back positions covered, if not spectacularly.

So, back to Unai’s main focus in taking over the Arsenal playing side, sort the defence and the rest will follow, surely. Now we all know that football is a team game and therefore a team which defends well does so as a whole. The new manager likes a high pressing game and a high defensive line. He also prefers the goalkeeper to play the ball out from the back.

The latter tactic has already produced some heart-stopping moments for us Gooners. LB has suggested, with tongue firmly in cheek, that Petr Cech’s comical efforts so far have been deliberate to draw the parked bus out of position. Wouldn’t it be great if that were true!

So, our first four games (admittedly with two against top 6 teams) we have let in 8 goals, an average of two per game. At that rate we are on course to concede 76 goals! The back four virtually pick themselves what with injuries and a seeming reluctance to field Stephan Lichsteiner early in the season. In addition, Lucas Torreira has not been used, except from the bench, to plug the many holes at the back. Maybe he’ll get his first full start after the god awful interlull.

The manager has to be given time for his new ideas to sink in, which will hopefully lead to us defending better as a collective unit,  but I’m really looking forward to our first clean sheet. 🙂



41 Responses to Time to sort the Flaky Defence

  1. LB says:

    Top read to start the morning. I have to go out but will add more later.

    Just a small point and that is I said yesterday:

    “Let’s ask: if all this manoeuvre went well and Cech had the foot skills to carry this off what is Emery trying to achieve?”

    I was trying to say that if all went well it would draw the opposition forward but the whole thing was magnified by Cech’s antics.

    It was Micky’s funny idea that Cech was doing it on purpose.

    I actually believe that playing it out from the back in the way we are trying is a genuine tactic to try and stop the opposition parking the bus.

  2. Big Raddy says:

    Morning All,

    Before getting stuck into the post, what a terrific London vid. this morning. Enjoyed the lezzers at the end (ta Micky 😀 )

  3. Red Arnie says:

    wonderful post, Chas. ta. 🙂

    and brilliant stuff yesterday, LB. 🙂 sorry I could not come in yesterday. busy times.

    so, just to put in my tuppence. 3 goals, some wonderful interplay, 3 points, cannot complain. rubbish defence. who cares? struggling manager? who cares. onwards and upwards.

    even the comical attempts to create gaps from the back provided comic relief at worst. 🙂

  4. chas says:

    Didn’t we always try to play the ball out from the back under Arsene as well?

  5. Red Arnie says:

    I will come in on today’s post later today, and maybe contribute with a few words as a potential post as well. But off now nice and early to look for a car to buy. 🙂

  6. chas says:


    Listening to ‘Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner’, did you get the urge to shout “Spunk” after the line ‘…get a funny feeling inside of me’.

    Bit of an auto-response for me, a bit like shouting “And Leicester” 🙂

  7. Big Raddy says:

    LB. It made sense to me.

    chas. thank you for the post. Perhaps UE has been reading Micky’s comments on AA regarding attacking football.

    I believe our defensive players are good enough and what is lacking is organisation. It will improve

  8. mickydidit89 says:

    Thank you very much Chas

    At last, the defence. My favourite 🙂

    (LB: when it comes to defending, and that includes goal keeping, I don’t know what I’m talking about 🙂 )

    Ok, seriously, and I’ve touched on this before. Who is the AA expert on defenders, because I’d like a genuine assessment of both Mavropanos and Holding

    ie speed, positional awareness and other defensive things. Also, do either possess the kind of options for us to play a back three, let alone replace Mustafi

  9. mickydidit89 says:


    UE and I have nothing in common.

    He does, however, have something in common with that bogey picking manager of the sausage munchers ie the imbecilic notion that playing Mesut wide right is a good idea.

    Anyhow, today is about the shit players 🙂

  10. Big Raddy says:

    Arsenal Defender’s Interview Room

  11. LB says:

    Fair point Chas

    Maybe we will get a bit more of an idea what Emery has in mind when we see Leno play in the Europa?

  12. mickydidit89 says:

    Ok, I’ll make it easier/more fun

    Who’s the better CB


    1. Mavropanos
    2. Holding

  13. chas says:

    I’ve not seen enough of Mavro to judge.

    When he first came in the side he looked to have some pace, then in pre-season he looked as though he’d borrowed the BFG’s sprint shoes.

    Isn’t he one of the first signings from the new super-duper player selection and purchasing team that replaced Arsene and Dick Laws?

  14. mickydidit89 says:

    I only remember seeing him in action once, and when I say remember, I don’t 🙂

    Pass on who signed him, although I suspect you’re right

  15. mickydidit89 says:

    Just a thought. As we AA bloggers get older, we can’t be far from:

    “great game Saturday”
    “we played?”

  16. chas says:

    Haha, yep.

    I used to know every Arsenal result plus who scored from the whole season, now it just becomes of blur of mediocrity and disappointment.

    Last season I remember beating the spuds at home and loved lashing Everton away. Nothing else vaguely registers. 🙂

  17. LB says:

    We beat Everton away? It’s gone, I only have spuds at home and Sanchez was the main reason for that.

    Hmmm, a result and a scorer, from a whole season…..still got it. Lol

  18. LB says:

    The advantages to the early stages of dementia is that you get to watch Arsenal win over and over again all as if they are new games.

  19. chas says:

    Average positions and passing map for Cardiff v Arsenal.

    Still with a massive bias to the left, though with Matteo Guendouzi holding his position more effectively.

    Rambo further left than Mesut because the latter was stuck out on the right for the first half. Both further forward on average than Auba!!!!

    Granit with the biggest, fattest red dot because of those 99 passes. 🙂

  20. chas says:

    p.s. the lines are for 5+ passes as per legend.

    Guendouzi a little hamstrung by not having anyone to pass to on the right flank except Hector
    (I’m sure there were forward passes to other individual players but not enough to merit a passing line on this kind of (nonsense) chart). 🙂

  21. mickydidit89 says:

    HA HA Lads

    Don’t tell me the score of Anfield ’89 as I’ve recorded it and watching the video tonight

  22. VP of Oz says:

    so what were the stats on Cech passing accuracy?

  23. GunnerN5 says:

    Thank you Chas,

    Defense has been and remains to be our number one issue.

    Here are our actual stats in each EPL season

    Season – GF – GA
    1992 – 93 – 40 – 38
    1993 – 94 – 53 – 33
    1994 – 95 – 52 – 49
    1995 – 96 – 49 – 32
    1996 – 97 – 62 – 32
    1997 – 98 – 68 – 33
    1998 – 99 – 59 – 17
    1999 – 0 – 73 – 43
    2000 – 1 – 63 – 38
    2001 – 2 – 79 – 36
    2002 – 3 – 85 – 42
    2003 – 4 – 73 – 26
    2004 – 5 – 87 – 36
    2005 – 6 – 68 – 31
    2006 – 7 – 63 – 35
    2007 – 8 – 74 – 31
    2008 – 9 – 68 – 37
    2009 – 10 – 79 – 39
    2010 – 11 – 72 – 43
    2011 – 12 – 74 – 49
    2012 – 13 – 72 – 37
    2013 – 14 – 63 – 41
    2014 – 15 – 67 – 36
    2015 – 16 – 65 – 36
    2016 – 17 – 74 – 43
    2017 – 18 – 62 – 51
    2018 – 19 – 8 – 8

  24. RC78 says:

    At this stage – I think Holding is better but Mavropanos has more potential

  25. mickydidit89 says:


    Thank you

  26. chas says:

    Haha, VP, I’ve just had a look and Petr had the lowest of the whole team at 63.2% passing accuracy.

    Mind you, in mitigation, 20 of his 38 passes were classed as ‘long balls’. Of those 20, 8 were accurate. (Presumably the other 12 were where he just hoofed the ball away as he was under such pressure from a Cardiff forward). 🙂

    Mustafi was second highest for long balls (i.e. hoofs out of defence). He made 10 – only 2 of which were accurate (i.e. fell kindly to a red shirt).

    Granit played 7 long balls – 6 of which found their target (shame we know which one didn’t!).

  27. mickydidit89 says:

    Ok another question

    I’ll assume the board had already decided to sack Arsene before the January transfer window, therefore question is:

    Who decided on purchases of Auba and swap Sanchez/Mikhi etc?

    If it wasn’t a Manager in Jan, is it the Manager now?

    ie Did Emery choose to buy Sokratis, Torreira and Ouzi?

  28. LBG says:

    Interested in RC’s assessment of Mav v Holding. I think we saw him (Mav) twice at the end of last season. I liked size/strength. Got his head up. Seemed to have some pace, although Chas felt that had diminished by pre season ( certainly doesn’t have to be very quick to out pace either of our current CBs). Think he would learn some of the “arts” and have no problem with communication from/with Sokratis.
    Dick try him out at least in those Europa League games, and Brentford shouldn’t be above his youthful skills level.

  29. RC78 says:

    AW wanted Auba in the summer but got him later
    AW wanted a replacement for Sanchez and the best deal was Mikhy, who was keen to leave Man Utd and join Auba

    For the three purchases, I believe Emery gave profiles and names to Minslat and then Emery was given those 3

  30. chas says:

    We have a post for tomorrow but I’ve stolen it for Thursday. Hope that’s OK?

  31. LB says:

    No probs.

  32. Linda says:

    Maybe, the new coach thinks that if we score enough goals, we will win most games. Or, he is waiting until January to obtain better defenders via transfer.

  33. chas says:

    ‘If we score enough goals, we will win most games’………sounds suspiciously like a philosophy which was popular at the Club for many years.

    Your second suggestion that Emery might need a transfer window or two to snap up some quality defenders may be closer to the mark.

  34. chas says:

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