By Walter Broeckx
If you go back one season we can all remember how the shouts was: we concede too many goals. We let in 47 goals. 7 teams did better than Arsenal. Shame on Arsenal. Shame on Wenger. We can never win anything like that. Something had to be done about it.
But on the other hand we scored 74 goals and that was the third best in the league. And it was the position in the league we had. We scored a lot of goals and had a few spectacular games.
We had a goal difference in total of +25. A big gap with the two Manchester teams but in line with the team in 4th place.
According to the supporters something had to be done about it. So we had to work on our defensive game. And to do something about this we brought in Bould.
And now we do seem to have a good defence. Well in fact we have the best defence of the whole PL. We have let in 8 goals in 10 games. If we would continue like this we would concede around 30 goals this season. Only one team did better in the last season. That was the champion Manchester City with 29 goals.
So shouldn’t we all be jumping up and down full of joy: you see we have improved our defensive record! Now who will we credit with this? Wenger? Nooooo, will the anti-Wenger boys shout. Bould? Yeeaahhhh will the anti-Wenger boys shout. You see they will say I have said it all along. Wenger cannot build a defence.
But as any other coin an improved defence also have a other side….the attack. Because unlike last season when we scored a lot of goals we now score a bit less. Last season average was 1.95 goals. This season we average 1.5 goals. Last season we had an average of 2 goals after 10 games.
And this is where the question comes back about whom we should give credit. Wenger? Bould?
If we give credit to Bould for an improved defence the consequence would be that we have to blame… Bould for not scoring more goals.
Now I am not blaming the person Bould or so but am just pointing out the fact that every coin has two sides. And an improved defence means that the whole defence is better. And that even with a few injuries along the road. Even with Santos playing left back a few games. A result we have seen is that Vermaelen who scored a few goals each season suddenly stays back for 88 minutes as before he joined in the attack more often.
His run forwards sometimes have been leaving gaps and making us vulnerable on the counter attack. But he also scored a few goals with his forward runs. Per doesn’t have such a problem as he is a 100% pure defender who only comes up with dead balls. But could it be that his forward runs are somehow missed up front?
Could it also be that in the new system we play our forwards are more focussed on defending and thus being not sharp enough when attacking the other goal. Because overall you could say that the defensive shape of Arsenal has improved a lot (last season we conceded 21 goals after 10 games) but as a result we score less.
Of course we miss two players from last season. Van Persie and Song. One whom we should have sold 3 seasons ago according to the ever critical followers of Arsenal and one who shouldn’t have been in an Arsenal shirt ever. Song is that person.
And what was the critics about Song? Yes that as a defensive midfielder he ran forward too much. So he was considered responsible for us letting in too many goals… but on the other hand… he created a few goals himself. So another example of a player who attacked more and thus made us score more goals but also let more in.
Ah but RVP is gone some will say and yes of course we lost a great finisher. But most of his goals were down to Arsenal attacking on the flanks and delivering the ball in the middle and he could finish the move. But now we even struggle to get the chances.
So the pattern is becoming a bit clear. We defend better but…at the end of the day it is getting us nowhere. And as a result we concede less but we also score fewer goals. I remember the seasons before (you know the conceding more goals seasons) when we scored a lot more and had more reason to enjoy the matches with free flowing and attacking football with the risk of running against a counter and conceding a goal. Now our strikers are half defenders and we score less goals.
The seasons before we just attacked from the start of the game (or tried to as it didn’t work out all the time of course) but now we play a more cautious game.
Maybe this is all a transition period where we have to find a new balance between defending and attacking. Maybe when we get our more fast wingers back and can play them on both flanks our attack will flourish again like it did last season.
But for now it looks as if the cry for more defensive stability is only hurting us going forward with all the players maybe too much aware of their defensive duties?
So has the cure to what seemed to be a problem caused itself a new problem?
- Woolwich Arsenal: The club that changed football – Arsenal’s early years
- Making the Arsenal – how the modern Arsenal was born in 1910
- “The Crowd at Woolwich Arsenal”: crowd behaviour at the early matches