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. 🙂