Arsenal: do we have a title winning defence?

“None shall pass”

Afternoon, folks.

Here’s that guest post I mentioned.

Dyllan Munro is the writer of Goonertastic, an Arsenal blog in it’s early stages, but destined for greater things. He’s already proven himself to be an excellent writer, and he could use a little of your support. Go give it to him.

Here’s his views on our defence:

It’s likely that many Gooners will scoff after reading the title, already delirious with laughter at the thought of Arsenal seriously competing for the title next year. With more than a tinge of sadness they will begin to reminisce about a time when they were able to sing “1-0 to the Arsenal” without a hint of irony. Less than a paragraph into my first guest post for James and I’ve already forced his readers to reach for the bottle of vodka and contemplate happier times. I apologise profusely. (If they’re regular readers of mine, they’ve most probably already done that a few times – James)

However last season we had the 2nd best defence in the league, with only Manchester City superior as well as conceding 6 fewer goals than eventual champions Manchester United. This included conceding only 5 goals in our last ten games, including 5 clean sheets. Performing that well under intense pressure shows that our defence possesses the ability to cope well under strain. This run of form wasn’t just a result of the almost impenetrable Mertesacker and Koscielny pairing, but also due to a greater emphasis on helping out defensively as well as the team closing down the opposition effectively, as done very well by Rosicky as he exerted all the energy he had stored up since last Spring when he was playing.

The understated addition of Nacho Monreal also helped the team incredibly. Kept out of the Spanish national team by the wonderful yet chipmunk-faced Jordi Alba, Monreal was solid when called upon and exhibited great commitment to his new club, as shown when he injured himself colliding with the post to clear a shot from the goal. His presence also forced Gibbs to focus and seemed to remind him that part of being an attacking full back is defending, not just firing in crosses that don’t beat the first man. On the other side we have the curious case of Bacary Sagna.

For some time regarded as the leagues most consistent right back Sagna’s poor performances, especially against Manchester United, combined with an apparent unwillingness to sign a new contract meant that several fans grew disillusioned with our French defender and his visual shambles/masterpiece of a haircut. However he went some way to regaining his form as part of a more solid defensive unit, the highlight being his MOTM showing at Sunderland when he filled in at centre back following Carl Jenkinson’s dismissal. Jenkinson himself performed ably after recovering from his horror show against Swansea, where Michu had dazzled Carl with his lovable Spanish charm to such an extent that our right back swooned when Swansea’s finest was in sight.

If our defence is compared to our competitors we don’t fare too badly. United’s defence was bolstered by the depth of their squad not the quality of the players and missed the leadership of possible war criminal, Serbian General Nemanja Vidic. With Ferdinand aging and requiring more treatment for his injury woes Manchester United could struggle to find an experienced player to captain the defence, especially with Evra’s form dipping.  Chelsea’s defence appeared more solid when David Luiz played in defensive midfield and notorious thundercunt John Terry was on the bench. The arrival of Jose Mourinho means that Chelsea will once again become compact, with a heavy emphasis on midfield players who can function well assisting the defence. Despite a notable dip in form from both Hart and Kompany, City had the best defence in the league. Since all their many reinforcements so far have been attacking minded they obviously feel that their defence cannot be improved upon. However with Kolarov, Lescott and Richards all pining for moves to get more game time we can only hope that they will struggle with depth as well as both Kompany and Hart continuing to struggle.

And speaking of struggling for depth we find ourselves once more focused on our own players. I had a slight twinge in my stomach thinking about Arsenal being short following Vermalean’s injury but that soon seemed insignificant. While reading the injury news about Monreal, Szczesny and Koscielny on my phone while on the toilet,  I feared for a split second that it was possible that i had accidentally shat my way out of our reality and entered one which was  populated solely by nightmares about our defence. Thankfully that wasn’t the case and now we can look at the implications.

Without signings to provide cover it means the only player capable of playing left back is Kieran Gibbs. With Monreal and Vermaelen out, and Santos doing the samba shuffle back to Brazil, we are forced to rely upon the Englishman. I’d suggest we all wish for him to stay fit but i’m scared in case the impact of those wishes hitting him breaks him so best not too. It also leaves us with a centre back pairing Mertesacker and the youngster Miquel. I feel that these two players are too similar to work effectively, as Vermaelen and Per were.  It seems more likely that the pairing will be Mertesacker and Sagna with Jenkinson on the right. Right back seems to have the most cover with Ramsay capable of playing there as well as the very talented youth, Hector Bellerin. It seems that Wenger may be forced into buying at least one player now, although Arsene will do  what he likes because, you know…Arsene.

There also has to be a focus next season on trying to reduce individual errors. We will have all saw the table saying that without our individual errors, we would have won the league. Many of these errors happened early in the season or around Christmas, reinforcing the belief that constantly changing the players in the back 5 wasn’t at all helpful to anyone except the opposition.

If cover is brought in and those injured recover quickly, and the defence is bolstered by a team wide emphasis that closing down and tracking runners is important like during the run in then I do believe that we could have the basis for a title winning team.

Thanks to James for letting me besmirch his site’s fine name and also to you for reading and remember to share, also please check out my own blog at http://goonertastic.wordpress.com or follow me on twitter @GoonerDyllan.

11 Comments

  1. crackhead goon

    Do we f#ck!

    Reply
  2. The Cabbie

    We do not have a title winning anything ,unless you count we are top of the league in ticket prices

    Reply
    1. LEN68

      Best in-depth SQUAD we’ve ever had in my 59 years of going………….why don’t you stay in your cab!

      Reply
  3. arsenal-steve

    Whilst stats tell us a lot about quantity the say little about quality. What for me was noticable, even during our unbeaten run of 10 games, at the end of last season, was the shakiness of the defence. Whilst I applaud Per Mertesacker for being the first Arsenal defender since Sol Campbell, with any idea how to cut down the space for attackers, the defence as a whole was panicky and did not inspire me with confidence. Added to that many of our players are good players, but not brilliant players, and with that mixture do not be deluded that we could in ANYWAY challenge for the title, or even for 4th or 5th place this season. But if we do buy a three TOP quality players, then that would make a profound difference to our Premier League challenge. Without refreshing and improving the team there’s more chance of winning the lottery than winning the league.

    Reply
    1. goonerdyllan

      If you examine the Manchester United team, especially their defence, is consists of good players only supplemented with a couple of brilliant players such as Kagawa and the Dutch traitor. The key to their win last year was consistency, which we displayed we can do during the run-in last year. During some games we barely won and had to hang on for the points but how many games did United play awfully yet manage to scrape the win? If a few players are brought in to improve our squad depth, possibly a left sided centre back able to cover as a full back, then there is no reason we can’t push on and challenge once again.

      Reply
      1. arsenal-steve

        Hi goonerdylan. I genuinely hope you are right. But in my heart I cannot see it. I would love to say to you, after winning or nearly winning the league, ‘you were right mate’. They are just not strong enough. We have got rid of a lot of players and badly need some top signings. If miraculously, the football Gods, allow us to sign Suarez, Fellaini/or Capoue/or Gustavo, Bernard and Caesar then you may be right. But there has been a lot of under bidding and posturing so I doubt if Wenger will buy anyone of note. If you are right well done.

        Reply
  4. Gooner Adz

    Jesus lads (first 2 comments) , a bit of positivity in the comments section wouldn’t go amiss. It’s as if you both just read the headline and plummeted to the bottom to throw up your incredibly detailed analysis of the negatives *ahem.
    Dyllan, a good read mate with some decent points reinforced with basic statistics. I believe the performance in the early stages in terms of individuals individual errors is partly contributed to by the sheer amount of unfamiliarity in our new arrivals with the current squad. This always takes time to gel and build understanding. Especially as a large proportion of those new recruits were attack minded players, meaning defending as a unit and protecting the back 5 took time (and unfortunate, errors) to correct. After 4-5 months of playing together you could see the difference in our stability shape and organisation from the top down. This, in my humble opinion is the reason for our impenetrable run in. With no players leaving and disrupting this team cohesion, I am optimistic of the new season. Yes additions are needed but let’s not forget that the same players achieved title winning form from February onwards, so give credit, have faith, and support your club. I know I will be. Peace out.

    Reply
    1. LEN68

      Couldn’t agree more Adz………..what a SQUAD we have!

      Reply
  5. frank

    Yes, I think we do have a good enough defense, but only the first line.

    I also think you missed out the primary reason why we looked solid in the last 10/11 games; the CM pairing. Arteta adn Ramsey were solid, and equally responsible for the excellent performances as Kos and Per. If we maintain the CM partnership, and the CB partnership, then the defense at least is in good shape.

    Glad you mentioned the msitakes. This was an epic proble, and one we sorted out. In the first 28 games we made 34 errors ini 28 games, leading to 14 goals. In the final games we made 2 errors. Thats spectacular, and directly attributable to the CM adn CB pairings.

    If it aint broke dont fix it. We need to start with the same CB and CM spine.

    We do however need to look at what cover we have at CB and CM, and assess if its sufficient.

    Reply
  6. LEN68

    “Added to that many of our players are good players, but not brilliant players”……………well they are all Internationals, they all get on really well, fight for one another, are part of the best in-depth SQUAD we’ve ever had so…………..?

    Reply
  7. Gravey

    Nice post Dyllan! Although the reminder of Sagna’s “performance” v MU made me cringe a bit. Now off for the vodka- or in my case the John Powers

    Reply

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