Just how fragile is Arsenal’s defence?

by Tony Attwood

The Daily Mirror published a piece after the Leicester game in which they went into a rave about the “brilliant new Torreira chant” that they had just noticed.   It begins Torreira oh oh, and if you have been paying attention you’ll know just how out of date the Mirror and its writers are.

But there is a point here.  Because that out of datedness is exactly what the media have, as well as a lack of insight and a lack of vision.  In fact according to all the media, Arsenal are going nowhere fast due to our appalling and awful defence.

Now Torreira is not in the back line of that defence but he is playing as one of two players defending the back four.  And he has so far played just four games all the way through – the games against Everton, Watford, Fulham and Leicester.   So one can hardly say he is fully acclaimatised.   And yet he is making an impact.

Here are his time sheets this season…

Date Home score Away Time
12-08-2018 Arsenal 0 : 2 Manchester City 20′
18-08-2018 Chelsea 3 : 2 Arsenal 45′
25-08-2018 Arsenal 3 : 1 West Ham 34′
02-09-2018 Cardiff 2 : 3 Arsenal 20′
15-09-2018 Newcastle United 1 : 2 Arsenal 45′
20-09-2018 Arsenal 4 : 2 Vorskla 57′
23-09-2018 Arsenal 2 : 0 Everton 90′
26-09-2018 Arsenal 3 : 1 Brentford 15′
29-09-2018 Arsenal 2 : 0 Watford 90′
04-10-2018 Qarabag FK 0 : 3 Arsenal 45′
07-10-2018 Fulham 1 : 5 Arsenal 90′
22-10-2018 Arsenal 3 : 1 Leicester 90′

My point being here he is adjusting and getting going, so one can hardly make judgements as yet as to what the club is up to.

So let us check that.   Here is the league table organised by defensiveness…

Pos Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Manchester City 9 7 2 0 26 3 23 23
2 Liverpool 9 7 2 0 16 3 13 23
3 Chelsea 9 6 3 0 20 7 13 21
4 Tottenham Hotspur 9 7 0 2 16 7 9 21
5 Wolverhampton Wanderers 9 4 3 2 9 8 1 15
6 Arsenal 9 7 0 2 22 11 11 21

Yes we are only sixth best in the league, and we have let in four more goals than Tottenham and Chelsea who are deemed to have pretty strong defences.   That is 0.44 of a goal per game.  Or in old money, two fifths of a goal a game.

It’s a gap, yes.  But is it that big a gap?  Is it the size of gap that cannot be reduced with some further development of the understanding of the players in front of the back four?  No.

And what of the back four and the two in front of them?  Apparently our resources are paper thin.  Let’s see who our defenders are…

Bellerin, Sokratis, Koscielny, Lichsteiner, Holding, Monreal, Mustafi, Mavraponas, Kolsasinac, Elneny, Maitland-Niles, Guendouzi, Xhaka, Torreira.

If that collection of 14 players is “paper thin” I wonder what “adequate” looks like in a squad where you can only register 25 players and some of them have to recognise that they are on the way up, and so are not going to get that many games.  In the 25 we need some keepers, forward looking midfielders and some attackers.

John Brewin took the attack a different way saying “Emery lacks the quality of defenders that Liverpool and Manchester City boast”.  That is quite probably true.  But then both Liverpool and Manchester City have club owners who invest heavily in their squad.

Here’s another attack on Arsenal today.   “If Arsenal are to make the leap from last season’s sixth place to genuine title contenders, they must beat (or at least avoid defeat to) their title rivals. Liverpool’s visit on 3 November should be a good litmus test of how far this team has come under Emery, and how far they still have to go”.  That from  Michael Butler.

Buy notice the subtelty here – Arsenal from sixth place to title contenders.   Really?  Even Untold, one of the most optimistic Arsenal sites there is, is not saying that we will become that this season – not least because if Manchesster City are not forging ahead come January 1 then they will just spend their way forward to another title.  That is what they do and neither Uefa nor the Premier League is going to stop them.

Criticising Arsenal for not seriously competing for the title is ludicrous, and I suspect the writer and his publisher knows it.

But it is interesting that the papers are not considering one other aspect of defences.   If a team wins 6-5 they might well have a dreadful defence.  But they have still won.   So for any sort of balanced view of Arsenal we need to look at the attack as well as the defence.   And since the writers are comparing us with clubs that might win the league let us see how we are doing in the scoring department.  In what follows I am considering “top scorers” to be players who have knocked in four or more goals.

  • Chelsea have one to scorer in this group: Eden Hazard, the only player with seven goals this season.
  • Manchester City have Aguero on six and Sterling on four – which is quite impressive.
  • Tottenham have Kane on five, but no one else with four or more.
  • Liverpool have two players on four: Mané and Salah.
  • Manchester United have one player on four, and no one with a higher scoring record this year: Romelu Lukaku

So there we are, the top five.  And Arsenal how are we competing?  Well it is Aubameygan on six and Lacazette on four.  Which now I come to look at it, looks very similar to Manchester City.

In the end all this knocking of our defence is nothing other than knocking Arsenal.   We are not competing to win the league this year, first because we didn’t do too well last year and are thus building a new team, and second because we do not have access to the money of others.

But “paper thin” defence?  No that is rubbish.  So is ignoring the attack and insisting that the only thing to talk about is the defence.

12 Replies to “Just how fragile is Arsenal’s defence?”

  1. They will keeping knocking Arsenal as that is part of their DNA. Wonder if they’ve heard of “…attack being the best form of defense…”

  2. The standard excuses for a team doing poorly ie new manager with a new system (and doesn’t speak the lingo) several new players needing time to “settle” to the pace of the Prem and new environment & relatively unknown or cheap players at that, have not been needed. After two not unexpected defeats Arsenal have been on their best run since 2007 & are doing rather well. This is on top of the widespread warnings of dire consequences if Wenger left the club. ( Remember “be careful of what you wish for” !!! ) So….there is a lot of egg on a lot of faces in the media right now & they are desperate to come up with negatives about the team.

  3. Whatever be the negative reports in the media reported against Arsenal for their looking to not having a water tight defence outfit this season in the PL, which has looked to have given room to be conceding goals to the opponent teams that is thought they ought not to have conceded have they a stronger defence. But despite their not having the defence that looks as strong as those defences of: Man City, Liverpool, Tottenham Hs and Chelsea, Arsenal have gradually played themselves into contention for the Title after the initial setback they had in 2 matches early this season.

    Therefore, the media outlets are correct to be reporting that Arsenal are in the PL Title race at this time in the season’s campaign. If there be any one who want to say he or she dosen’t believe so, let him or her explain what are Arsenal doing in 4th position in the table now with only 2 points behind the 2 clubs that are above them in the table. Right?

  4. Tony,

    As you are the king of statistics have you looked into shall we call it the “Graham Souness theory of Ozil” that he does not turn up in big games?

    What is it showing?

    Apologies if this has already been the subject of one of your posts.

  5. Oh Muz I am not the king of statistics, but I will try and look. The trouble with that one is how to measure it. For example on Monday he was given complete freedom to venture forward, but sometimes he is clearly told to stay back. But I will try and see.

  6. @Ukesox, I’m certain it’s untold who was warning us of dire consequences if Wenger left the club, telling us to be careful what we wished for. You don’t have to blame the media for every phantom problem

  7. Muz,
    I suspect it is just another made up media point similar to the criticism Ozil received after the Germany team exit in the World Cup. Ozil, in my opinion, was the 3rd best player for Germany during the tournament (after Kroos and Hummels) but for non-football reasons became the scapegoat of German team’s failures.

    Ozil averaged 5.5 Key passes/match during the tournament (highest average in the World Cup), but was let down by the forwards, in particular Timo Werner. But who gets the blame? Ozil according to the media because he was not able to pass it to himself and walk it into the net.

  8. Ergo, I am sorry to say you have got it wrong. What I said was that the campaign to get Wenger out was of itself not guaranteed to get any improvement in the club’s fortune. Some money was needed if we were going to compete with Chelsea and Man C. And of course not every manager can deliver – just look at the problem that Manchester United have had, and the two seasons where Chelsea could not get into the Europa. So simply changing the manager is not guaranteed to work.
    As for the media, they invent stories that will get readership, so they are a perpetual problem. If people treated them with much more caution we would be ok, but it is the media that repeat the notion that any manager is better than this one.
    Thankfully the team brought in over the past three years to oversee the continuity of the club have been doing their jobs rather well.

  9. Jerry

    “But who gets the blame? Ozil according to the media because he was not able to pass it to himself and walk it into the net.”


  10. ‘the team brought in over the past three years to oversee the continuity of the club have been doing their jobs rather well’ – this statement sums up the Arsenal as it is today.

    This group have appointed Emery as coach & have accepted the resignations of Wenger & Gazidis as part of their responsibilities. The structure is unique in football but not in business. It allows for collective decisions with reporting to the owners while maintaining the financial control. How it will work with regard to sporting contracts is yet to be seen as the Ramsey scenario unfolds.

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