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Man Utd – Arsenal, the story for the defence


Well..that was just very very painful to watch. I watched it on mute as usual and was continuously left shaking my head in disbelief at the scoreline. We’ll look at the defense of course and there’s a surprise or two in store but a quick overall review of the other bits.

I thought Coquelin had a very good game in which he moved intelligently and was always available for a pass. Less dynamic than Frimpong but another very talented youngster. I’m guessing he wasn’t match fit and AW wanted to protect him a little as well; I think the plan would have been 60 minutes despite the scoreline. Ramsey n Tomas worked hard but the creativity just just wasn’t there. Yes they play keep ball reasonably well..but after watching all that possession in years gone by, it does seem a notch lower than years gone by. Arshavin and Theo were very direct in the running, AA23 in particular who seemed up for it but had to do a little too much defending for my liking. We had plenty of shots on goal as well, which means the scoreline is a little funny. I do think we need 1 creative player; someone who can release the runners we have in our team else we might have some trouble lasting the whole season.

Back on topic, let us look at Untold Defenders for Game 3. Here are the tables – I’ve split it into 2 columns [Did well – Which means he made the right decision and Total possible is the total number of oppurtunities available for the player]:

Player Name [Keeper] Sczesczny
Did well Total possible
Catching 1 1
Punching 1 1
Long range shots 1 5
Reaction Saves 2 2
Near Post coverage 1 1
Ball distribution NA NA
Goal kicks 4 5
Box coverage 3 4

I thought Scsz had an okay game. Which sounds weird as we’ve shipped 8 goals. The 1st goal is partially his mistake as he’s off his line. I do notice that a lot of teams try and catch him off his line at least once a game. Both of Young’s strikes and Rooney’s freekicks, bring down his score in the long range shots category but I won’t read too much into any of them.. they were all top top strikes. Nani’s chip is coz of the LB playing him on side resulting in an easy finish and the penalty is a lottery. So yes the other figures show that the keeper had an ok game.. we don’t need big changes here.

Player Name [LB] Traore
Did Well Total possible
Recovery Pace to get back into position 1 4
Interceptions all over the respective wing; the further up the better NA NA
Width while attacking 2 2
Kick starting a counter attack NA NA
Tackling 2 3
Beaten down the wing 0 9
Crossing 1 2

Armand Traore had a nightmare to be frank. He was everywhere except Left Back. And time after time after time United lofted balls into the vacant space and played one twos all around him. Each time I saw the ball drift inside I was relieved. That might seem harsh but really… he was beaten at least 9 times [probably more] on the wing and it was almost like playing with 10 men at times. Arshavin had to do more defensive work than normal and at times he was in the LB position getting double teamed while Traore strolled back. I thought he’d improve in the second half by staying back but he kept wandering forward all the time. I have my doubts about Kieran Gibbs as well.. defensively and fitness wise and I have a feeling we will miss Gael Clichy more than a lot thought. I’m guessing if Cahill comes in, we will move TV5 to LB and play Koscielny and Cahill in the middle.

Player Name [RB] Jenkinson
Did Well Total Possible
Recovery Pace to get back into position 1 4
Interceptions all over the respective wing; the further up the better 1 1
Width while attacking 4 4
Kick starting a counter attack NA NA
Tackling 0 2
Beaten down the wing 0 1
Crossing 1 5

Jenkinson got forward a lot and has a lot of pace about him.. however there’s a little bit of positional sense that is lacking..that will come with time. He gets forward a lot as he did today but got caught out while pushing forward. Much better than Traore but balls kept getting lofted into the inside right channel, which is where Ashley Young shoots from all the time. If you let him get within 25 yards of goal he is a fantastic striker.. so he needed to recognize that and close the channels off. He also got sent off trying to get back and tackle..was it a straight red? But despite the fact that he was positionally suspect and a little inaccurate in his crossing he never ever gave up and kept running up and down till he was sent off. Its been too steep a learning curve for him; one hopes he will get to learn a little more slowly.

Player Name [RCB] Djourou
Did Well Total Possible
Set piece clearances NA NA
Second ball anticipation NA NA
Dealing with the long ball over the top 1 2
Intercepting crosses/through balls Open Play 3 3
Tackling 1 4
Goal Scoring from set pieces 0 3

Djourou was directly responsible for at least 2 of the goals due to fouling around the area. I think Park’s shot also went through his legs (he could have done better) and he got out muscled by Wellbeck for Goal 1. So that’s 4 goals he’s been part of. It can’t be easy being under seige all the time but mistimed tackling on the edge of the box can be very risky as was shown today. While he has to be calmer in front of his goal no doubt, it really is down to the whole team to ensure there isn’t as much pressure as there was today. But no.. he did not have a good game at all..marginally better than Traore but that’s not saying much.

Player Name [LCB] Koscielny
Did Well Total Possible
Set piece clearances
Second ball anticipation
Dealing with the long ball over the top 1 2
Intercepting crosses/through balls Open Play 12 12
Tackling 1 1
Goal Scoring from set pieces 0 3

Laurent was the best of the four defenders and intercepted at least 12 dangerous balls into the area on the ground or aerially. If it had not been for him we would have gone into double digits, most probably. I did not see any mistakes  from him at all apart from the first goal where he could have communciated better. Like TV5 last time, he dominated his area and left lesser work for Djoruou who was not upto the mark this time. It seems strange that a defender had a good game but we conceded 8 goals. It just shows that every position has to be in sync, specially against the big teams.

How do we not concede?

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Wellbeck goal – The chipped Anderson ball is a routine one really.. why are both defenders side by side .. watching the ball go over them and letting Wellbeck run. Ideally one attacks the ball and the other stays with Wellbeck.

Ashley Young Goals – Clear shot on goal. The RB is caught forward and no one has tracked Young either. The fullbacks must learn that they must defend first..if they have 0 crosses that is fine but the number of balls into the LB and RB areas which were so easy to attack.. are too huge.

Rooney Free Kicks – Dont concede fouls. Simple. Dont dive in. Which means .. keep the ball better, because if there’s too much pressure your dee.. the foul will happen some time or the other. Specially since AFC plays an offensive brand.. keep the ball. If we can’t keep the ball there is always a chance this will happen.

Nani goal – Offside trap? Come on. I think Traore didn’t step up and played Nani onside. Basics guys..come on.

Penalty – Well, can happen..nothing to add here apart from the obvious of not tackling unless sure. At least Walcott tracked Evra back till there which is a good thing. Theo tried well today and was even explaining to Carl on staying back.. after the second goal.

Cant remember too much about Park’s goal though.. someone please fill me in.

Overall.. its been a dreadful day and its 3am here in India as I finish this. I hope we sign whoever we are targeting and recoup from this terrible loss. Keep the faith guys.

30 comments to Man Utd – Arsenal, the story for the defence

  • Davi

    I thought szczesny and koscielny did well, neither did much wrong, but the other three all had terrible games. I think it’s excusable for traore and jenkinson as they are both relatively inexperienced and they needed more help than they got, but Djourou has really no excuse now. I don’t want to go overboard, he has so much talent, but he’s really wasting it at the moment. Ever since that shoulder injury last season he’s not looked right, but he was doing great before that.
    I thought coquelin was given too much responsibility, and needed someone more dedicated to helping him protect the defence, although rosicky did help out at times – he actually had a pretty good game, and did make RVP’s 2nd chance with a very nice pass which really should have been finished.
    Speaking of which, RVP’s finishing was also a major factor because he could have had a hattrick, and had he at least scored the penalty, we may have recovered. I felt we were coping and growing into the game up until wellbeck’s goal, the goal clearly knocked us, but the penalty was an opportunity to restore some confidence.
    For all the talk, I thought Utd’s defence was actually quite vulnerable compared to recent years. They gave us a lot of space around the box which we really could have made more of. Ultimately, our defence was obviously worse still, and their forwards were on such unbelievable form, we really had no chance. With some tactical adjustments, on another day we could have got a draw, or at least given a better account of ourselves.

  • Cape Gooner

    Thanks Arvind. Did the goalie not have most responsibility for the first goal? The ball as 6 feet up in the air in the goal area – isn’t that a goalie’s ball?

    Walter also said that he thought DJ had a dreadful game, so I put myself through the torture of watching the goals again. Only one of the free kicks was down to JD. Rooney started a 1-2 and DJ fouled him rather than let him be free to receive the return ball. He was only at fault for the Park goal in the sense that he didn’t have a DM and therefore could have been in a “better” position. He was positioned where I would expect him to be. He challenged Park outside the area. Park passed the ball to the left. JD moved to the centre, in line with Kos. Park ran into the area and then pulled back to the edge of the area. I would have thought it was the responsibility of a midfielder to pick him up, not a CB to leave “his post”.

    The other free kick was conceded by Jenkinson. Jenkinson was running to his left while watching the ball over his right shoulder. Young stopped going towards the ball and stood in Jenkinson’s path. The ball was still up in the air, away from the players. Jenkinson falls over Young and lands short of where the ball ends up. Foul given to MU. Refs, is this correct or there be a case for obstruction against Young?

    The penalty was also interesting. Evra definitely ran into Walcott. Walcott lifted his left arm towards Evra, but didn’t pull at him. Walcott continued to run next to Evra. Evra put his right foot down behind Walcott’s left foot and tripped over it. (I suppose you could say that Walcott put his left foot ahead of Evra’s right foot, but it was Evra who changed direction, not Walcott). Is that a penalty?

  • John

    It’s simply about being able to defend and we cant do it. Even teams with players of poorer ability could make it difficult for Utd to score goals just like the likes of Stoke do when they are playing us. Be organised crowd the box.. what did we do the opposed?????

    It’s not a question of age if you are a left or right back you most be able to defend first and foremost and a large part of that is positioning something as a whole our defence struggles with.

    Forget the anti wenger bandwagon but is it to much to expect your team to be difficult defend a set piece or to tigten up???

    I couldnt care who was out thats why you have a squad and the players come in and are given a chance to prove themsleves ….this doesnt happen at Arsenal. Most when given a game perform so so and this is acceptable??? shipped them out of the club and bring in players sho will challenge for a place in the team there’s no competition at the club.

    The blame lies with Wenger and in fact he personally should be reimbursing the fans that travelled up there together with the players. Maybe if they start hitting these pampered little pre madonnas in the pocket they might actually grow a pair.

    Another thing this myth that Arsenal play great football is a joke great football is about playing the ball with an end product of chances and getting goals. Utd play attractive effective football we just play attractive football sometimes.

    As a whole Utd even with their debts are light years ahead of us and the board must accept the blame they didnt bring the club forward like Utd mangement team did.

  • bob

    For my cost-effective two cents, I’d drop Squillaci, eat his contract (we can surely afford that?). Bring back the in-shape Sol Campbell (who has hinted he’d like a return) as a coach-player whose major calling is to help instill nous and commitment and pride and steel and to devise and lead the specific drills that are necessary to keep a form, not play too high a line, and, mostly, to deal with the various forms and tricks of counter-attacks and ffs, set pieces. This, plus the occasional fill in for the inevitable injury would help the defense.

  • Johnny Deigh

    I thought that generally speaking Chesney was alright, however he was terrible on the free kicks. He’s responsible for setting up the wall and defending against the kick. The first one was a joke as he set up the wall and then moved behind the wall not covering the exposed side of goal.

  • bob

    Johnny Deigh,
    How about an ongoing tutorial by Crazy Jens who I think had a really good effect of Szez? Think that would be cost effective? Would you contribute a pence or something pensive toward that suggestion, or do you think it will self-correct? Yikes, what a few well spent shillings might accomplish…

  • ASNLthruNthru

    I’ve been a faithful supporter of the Arsenal for 46 years,my dad before me and my son after me.Seen them through the highs and lows during the 60’s 70’s 80’s 90’s 2000’s but NEVER like this.NO need for excuses.This was not the spirit of Arsenal football club.SHAME is the only word to express what I feel about EVERYTHING that is happening at the club now and everybody involved in this DEBACLE must pull their socks up or move on to Shrewsbury Town, (who will undoubtedly knock in a few past our non existant defence) or Hull City or the like.
    As for reimbursment for travelling fans ,NO. Pay reparations to every Arsenal fan all over the world (including expats like myself)who has to suffer this heartbreak and disgrace to his pride.We are the ones who buy the shirts, the toys, the memory stones at Armoury square.
    The whole team were a disgrace,there are no other words to say.

  • zdzis

    @Johnny Deigh: The ball would not have reached the goal had that guy in the wall thought of jumping. When defending set-pieces from the front, there’s always the trouble: the ball can go either way, and the likelihood of a proficient shooter taking the route over the wall is pretty high. Which is why Szczesny anticipated a move there. As for why that guy (who was it?) didn’t jump – I just don’t know.
    @bob: great idea about Campbell, though I wouldn’t make him play too much – he may be way off the mark in that respect. Arsenal obviously need tight regime in defence.

  • John

    Campbell has offered to go back as a defensive coach seeing we dont have the capable people at the club to organise and make us tougher to score goals aganist as a TEAM its a no brainer for me like can things get worse I dont think so

  • critic

    I have come up with an analogy on what happened to arsenal at OT :

    Imagine you are locked up with a hungry (maneater) lion with no weapons whatsoever. There are 2 things that you can do :

    1) You accept defeat and present yourself to lion.
    2) You run and run and avoid death as long as it’s possible.

    Arsenal and arene went for unthinkable :

    They attacked the lion with bare hand and hence people watching on CCTV camera laughed and laughed and laughed.

    But they forget a basic point that no matter what you had done the result would have been the same….DEATH.

    Why you(Arsene and Arsenal) chose to go without weapons is a totally different matter.

    Anyway point is if anything, UTD didn’t get 40 points for that win. We didn’t get relegated. If arsenal somehow manage to overcome their mental fragility(been there even in invincible era) then there’s no reason we won’t comeback.

  • critic

    However, I feel that club has rotten from top to bottom. To think sacking wenger will change anything is stupid. There’s no defensive coaching, physiotherapist, psychologist, medical team, another tactician to help wenger, a good negotiator who can close the deal as early as possible, a decisive owner, etc.etc.

    If there are, i am sorry, they are not upto the task. Arsenal need wholesale changes which must be introduced slowly. Season is long but all the current top4 teams are looking way stronger than arsenal.

  • jayj

    Wenger has never address the defense issue, and before someone pulls out the facts just watch the highlight from yesterday. The youth policy and lack spending is costing us, and by the end of this season all us will wonder why did this happen.

    This Arsenal team is by far the weakest a mere shadow, Wenger refused to spend in the past 6 yrs and why is it any different now.

  • jayj

    I think Wenger could be to blame, AOC 12mil Wenger forced through this deal but barked at 12mil for Samba, so money is available but Wenger chooses the cheap alternatives. Think Squid was 8mil and now he isn’t in the squad. 8mil down the toilet so all this criticism may well be justified.

    Wenger signed costa rican who cant get a work permit, Myachi was signed last season and loaned out but Wenger did not want sign a defender, insisted we wait on TV.

    Cesc to barca done deal, nasri not signing well he should identified replacements. B

  • Marcus

    As I said on another thread, I feel Wenger has started a covert war with the English football establishment.

    Various statements he has made imply as much.

    Recent refereeing decisions have been “scandalous”,
    and he said the Arsenal season starts on Sept 10.

    These are very serious statements….

    He basically seems to be saying that because English football is corrupt, and we have players banned at the whim of the FA, then the season starts SEPT 10….

    I.E. Man U v Arsenal was not a serious game…..

    Wenger has declared war on the FA….

    bear in mind also that there seem to be huge problems behind the scenes. It seems English managers are conspiring to thwart Arsenal from signing certain players….and then we hhave Gartside allegedly lying to defame Wenger….

    Personally I think the entire team does not believe the league is fair, hence Nasri’s departure, and that is why the team played with no conviction.

    Also when wenger suggested that youth was the problem, VP flat out contradicted him and said there were problems in the changing room…

    bearing in mind players like Barton and Rooney run amock on the field, whilst Song is yellowed for sneezing, and Sagna just gets the shit kicked out of him….

    Is anyone surprised that the Arsenal team does not believe in the league itself anymore?

  • Marcus

    Or put another way, Wenger allowed the debacle because he has had enough of the dreadful hypocrisy of the EFL, at every level, from the FA, Referees, Managers, Media and all

  • The interesting question is if we are getting shot of Traore (and on this showing he’d be lucky to get a game for QPR if they do sign him) who is the backup for Gibbs (ie 1st choice LB).
    Jernade Meade has been doing a good job at reserve level and basically, he can’t be as shit as Traore.

  • What is the fixation with Samba? He’s slow, can’t pass, wouldn’t fit our team in a million years. There are better, albeit shorter CBs available for less money.
    You really are a twat if you think that centrebacks who can play a high line are easy to find, Barcelona have a huge problem recruiting them and with a practically unlimited budget.
    Vertonghen would be the prime target but he’d want to be first choice. Since we have 1st and 2nd choice CBs already that’s a non starter.

  • RedGooner

    Avrin I think we watched different matches.
    Goal 1
    Carl Jenkinson was caught way out of position, allowing Patrice Evra to charge in behind. Theo Walcott did brilliantly to get back and recover the situation, However when got on to Jenkinson about been out of position he was told F-CK off 3 times and gestured at.
    When the ball was cleared as far as anderson and chipped back in neither Djourou or Kos wanted it as much as wellbeck pathetic effort by both from letting it bounce in the area to not fighting hard enough to recover it.
    Goal 2 was more of the same rooney running in behind jenkinson
    Goal 3 jenkinson again positional error letting people behind him bringing them down free kick leads to a goal
    Then he gets himself sent off for more of the same positional error foul and gone.
    Maybe if he spent less time telling walcott to fuck off and actualy listened he might do better.
    A non league performance

  • RedGooner

    Goals 6/7
    Sixth Djourou miss timing tackles on park and standing off the attacker for the seventh.
    How you think either done well baffles me.

  • Arvind

    @Redgooner: Where have I said Djourou or Jenkinson had a great game? I think I criticized them enough above. However that does not amount to the fact that they are both utterly worthless players and must be sold.

    Jenkinson had a great game against Udinese and is still learning..I did point out him being positionally suspect as of now.

    Djourou did not have a great game and I did point that out. I did think Koscielny did well though.

    @CapeGooner: You could say Scsz comes out and grabs it..Yes. But if you look at both CBs .. they’re running backward and seem to have it under control. Comes down to communication really. If you ask me..Kos should attack the ball and Djourou should hold Wellbeck off.

    @Johnny Deigh: I agree with Zdzis..that is the point really. A goalie will stand on the side of the wall which he thinks the ball will go. He’ll also think I can dive and get to the ball if its the other side. And he’ll chose his stronger side too.. Scsz being right sided could have chosen that side. Or he might have studied ManU’s free kicks. Could be anything really. But its not a must..that one stands on the other side of the wall.

    @Woolwich: Poor Samba will be shocked if he reads your comment 🙂

  • menace

    @ Cape Gooner – The 4th goal was after another Roney off the ball dive. There is no Law saying you must allow the opponent to push past you. Webb was primed and gave JD a card. There is a case for the referee to book Anderson for unsporting conduct during the taking of this ‘free’ kick. The Jenkinson 2nd yellow was wrong as he was fouled by Hernandez. Hernandez ran into Jenkinson but Webb called it wrong to deliver the Busacca moment a red card for an Arsenal defender. He should have Red carded Arshavin but saved it as he wanted to devastate our defence for the league. The penalty was a gift for a cheat by Ezra. He tripped himself and got a penalty. Arsenals players will not argue with the Officials.

    I had bet that there would be a penalty and that there would be a sending off. I also bet that Arsenal would win. The third bet is probably the best one, the bookie took my money but Arsenal will get better for this result. It was not a shame. It was expected.

  • menace

    In fact if you look at the Rooney dive, he was doing a Batman style flypast JD before he went down.

  • St. Louis Gooner

    I watched the game at home. The commentator here on Fox Soccer Chanel kept talking about how high the Arsenal defence was playing. He first pointed this out when we were down 2-0. I guess playing back was gonna get us three goals.
    In short, I agree the defence was bad, bad, bad. But they were a thrown-together unit, and they looked like it.
    Credit where it’s due. ManUre looked a monster that day. I was thinking this year was an opportunity with Scholles, Brown, Neville and some of the old school leaving. But the replacements Sir Alex found are Dine-O-Mite. Pluss the goals Young and Rooney scored, curling into the top corner, were great strikes that I challenge any other GK to deal with.
    But defence needs held, obviously.
    BUT, what worries me more is we have scored two goals in three EPL games. Our attack is bad, and that puts more pressure on the defence.
    I started watching Arsenal because it was a forward-moving, attacking team. There is now no attack.
    To me, that’s the real problem.

  • Prasanna Veeraraghavan


    I liked your suggestion of watching the game in mute and will do it henceforth. What a load of shit I was hearing from ESPN team like Koscielny, Jenkinson, blah blah blah are not Premier League standards, Wenger should open the purse sign some big names etc.

    I was stung and stunned by the defeat but worse was the sting the commentary team had on us.

  • Anne


    “and he said the Arsenal season starts on Sept 10”

    Did he? Could you link me to that, or just tell me a little bit more about it? Thanks.

  • Anne


    Really good article. Ever since the match, I’ve kind of been shaking my head about the Arsenal defense, and having it broken down like this was helpful to me. Thanks.

  • Arvind

    @St.LouisGooner: Indeed.. it is true. Arsenal is a possession football team.. not a defensive team.. that is the reason why they do poorly when they lose possession. Once our attack clicks into gear, I’m sure we’ll be better.

    @Anne: Thank You! I’m glad you liked the article. It was painful to write though.

    @Prasanna: Absolutely.. I always watch it on Mute. Previously I used to turn on the volume when AFC were winning but I’ve stopped even that. Because the commentators go overboard either way..and all the weaknesses suddenly vanish. So I thought I’d just be consistent and draw my own conclusions. And trust me.. you will learn more about the game this way 🙂

  • Cape Gooner

    Welbeck is between DJ & Kos standing on the edge of the area when Anderson lobs the ball. It goes straight towards the goal, between Welbeck & Kos.

    JD could only get at the ball by going through Welbeck.

    Kos could have attempted a lunge at the ball when it landed, but could not do that with any resemblance of control. He could have contested the ball in the air, but in “thinking about” the lunge he had fallen slightly behind Welbeck.

    If Szczesny had gone for the ball he might have caught it, punched it or blocked it.

  • You know you’ve had a very bad game when Arshavin is the one who’s been playing LB…
    You also know you’ve had a very bad game when Mr “No footballing intelligence”TM is giving your RB tips on defending.
    I doubt we’ll ever go to OT with a reserve side ever again in our lifetime.

  • Arvind

    lol@Woolwich on the Arshavin quote .. but its true.

    TW is ok though.. don’t think he’s as dumb as is made out to be.