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February 2019
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Arsenal have a worse defence than Newcastle. But strangely the media don’t notice

By Sir Hardly Anyone.

There is a rambling article in the Daily Express website that contains this statement…”Arsenal currently sit fifth in the Premier League table but have once again struggled at the back this season.”

Now I think a lot of people would go along with that, probably without even thinking about it too much.  Arsenal have struggled at the back again this season.  Yep sounds fair.

But… it is?  I thought I would take a look.  We are currently on 22 games in the league and so the logical and obvious place to start is to look at what has been happening after 22 goals against us in other seasons.  The brown line is obviously the best and the red is the worst.

  • 2013: 24 goals against after 22 games
  • 2014: 19 goals against after 22 games (0.86 per game)
  • 2015: 25 goals against after 22 games
  • 2016: 21 goals against after 22 games
  • 2017: 23 goals against after 22 games
  • 2018: 28 goals against after 22 games
  • 2019: 32 goals against after 22 games (1.45 per game)

So including seven years this is the worst season in defence after 22 games.  None of this “once again struggled” – this year we have struggled in defence like we haven’t done for quite a long time.

Indeed if we compare now with the rest of the league and construct a league table that is in goals against order we see this…

Pos Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Liverpool 23 19 3 1 54 13 41 60
2 Manchester City 23 18 2 3 62 17 45 56
3 Chelsea 23 14 5 4 40 19 21 47
4 Tottenham Hotspur 23 17 0 6 48 23 25 51
5 Leicester City 23 9 4 10 29 29 0 31
6 Wolverhampton Wanderers 23 9 5 9 27 31 -4 32
7 Newcastle United 23 5 6 12 19 31 -12 21
8 Arsenal 23 13 5 5 48 32 16 44

Arseanl has the eighth best defence in the league equal on 32 goals conceded with Brighton, Crystal Palace and Watford.  We have a worse defence in the league than Newcastle, Wolverhampton, Leicester… well you can see above.

So my point here is not to start hiding facts but say there is a fairly awful fact out there, which is our defence is quite a bit worse than the top four defensive clubs.  And then to ask “why is the Express that loves to knock Arsenal not running the headline story that this is the worst Arsenal defence since…?”    And I leave that statement open because I don’t know how long it has been since we had a worse defence than this after 22 games.  If you know do tell.

Of course in seeing the figures one could argue that Mr Wenger left the club in a bad place – last year after 22 games was itself the worst in terms of defence in a long time – and this season it has got worse.   But then that would start to ask the question as to why it has got this bad.

After all in 2014 Mr Wenger gave us a defence which by this time in the season had only conceded 19 goals – a record that is equal to Chelsea at the moment.   Using the Express’ logic we ought to be seeing headlines that tell us that “Chelsea have sunk to the depths of Arsenal’s defence in 2014 – that’s how bad they are!”  But maybe that is a bit complex for them.

The reality is, it is hard to know why Arsenal has not been able to put together a defence that can handle Premier League attacks.  But here are some reasons numbered but not really in any particular order…

1: Koscielny is now in his 30s, but he is still a fine defender, and had he not got injured he would have been in the France World Cup squad – quite likely playing in the final.  Yet he missed a lot of the season.

2: Mavrapanos is young and inexperienced but he looked good when we saw him last season – he’s been out with injury all this season.

3: Monreal has been excellent on the pitch for Arsenal, able to play left back and in a back three.  He’s been out injured this season.

4: Rob Holding – an incredibly cheap buy by Arsene Wenger was really looking very good indeed earlier in the season – and a player who was now ready to be a regular in the defensive back three.  He’s out for the rest of the season.

5: Maitland-Niles – a youngster of course but showing great calmness and poise and a remarkable ability to play in a variety of positions, including full back on both sides.   Out for quite a while with an injury.

6: Jenkinson – was a very promising up and coming full back until he got his serious injury playing for West Ham on loan.   It does happen – players not coming back to their top strength after such a long lay off.

I’m sure you are starting to see a pattern here and clearly we have a defence problem.  And the cause of the problem could be this manager or the last manager – but it is not possible to cover against a very high level of injuries in one department.  We can only have 25 men in the squad, we don’t know where the injuries are going to come and so cover is balanced.  What’s more, not surprisingly, only the younger players are willing to spend much of a season not playing in a team.  If they don’t get games they want to move on, just as youngsters want to be loaned out.

As for the Express, I must say I am rather amused.  The Express is now so incontinent, (and that is not a misprint by me) they can’t even get their own anti-Arsenal rhetoric right. “Arsenal currently sit fifth in the Premier League table but have once again struggled at the back this season.”  Nope, if you want to write a real anti-Arsenal story, that’s not it at all.  Could it be that they are getting distracted by some political matter, and not paying attention to football at all?

12 comments to Arsenal have a worse defence than Newcastle. But strangely the media don’t notice

  • Tom

    Yes Arsenal is the wosrt in defense. The injury that arsenal player has to me shows that there is a serious problem in the arsenal medical team. Other teams players do not have the kind of injures the players in arsenal have.

  • Tom I really don’t think that is right. If you look at Physioroom’s analysis day by day of injured players you’ll see Arsenal are rarely at the top of the list. Just at this moment there are six PL clubs with more injured players than we have – and it has been like this not just this season but for many years.

  • Ben

    Tom – add this to your favourites in your browser

    https://www.physioroom.com/news/english_premier_league/epl_injury_table.php

    West Ham are top with 7. Arsenal 4.

    West Ham have not fixed Wilshere’s injury issue so does this mean West Ham medical staff are at fault as well?

  • Andrew Crawshaw

    @Tom,

    It could be that we get more serious injuries because certain referees allow opposition teams to kick the sh.t out of our players providing the precursors that make injuries more likely.

  • Josif

    I made a bit of a research taking 23 games into account (we have conceded 32 in 23 or 1.39 per game so far).

    In Wenger’s years, it was in the season 2011-12. We conceded 33 in 23 which included infamous 8 at Old Trafford, 4 at Ewood Park and 3 at Stamford Bridge and Liberty Stadium respectively. It’s worth mentioning that our defensive record was largely determined by our defensive injuries – Vermaelen, Sagna and Gibbs were out for Old Trafford while Mertesacker and Arteta hadn’t signed yet, Sagna broke his leg against Tottenham and our game against Swansea was part of the sequence when we couldn’t field a single natural full-back on either side of the defence. We finished 3rd, scoring 74 and conceding 49 in the process.

    If we go back in pre-Wenger years, we have to dig really deep to find a season with a worse defensive record.

    1983-84, Terry Neill’s and Don Howe’s Arsenal had shipped 33 by Gameweek 23. We had scored 40 by that time so it seems that we were a very entertaining side for the neutrals.

    After 23 games in that season, our record was P23 W10 D3 L10.

    We finished 6th, with a goal-difference 74-60.

    We also did a treble over Tottenham. The first NLD of the season finished 4-2 for us. We knocked them out of League Cup as well.

  • Samuel Akinsola Adebosin

    I think Arsenal defensive struggles in the last 2 seasons in the PL and this season is largely at away but small at home. And talking about the injuries suffered to Arsenal defenders this season during which Rob Holding and Hector Bellerin are out of the season for Arsenal at different time in the campaign in the PL, and Mustafi and Monreal who had spells on the sidelines nursing injuries but I think are now back for Arsenal training to play. While Mavropanous’ groin injury who is now back for Arsenal training to play dates back to the endings of last season’s campaign. But Koscielny who suffered from a long Achilles problem that became aggravated at Atletico Madrid towards the end of last season is back for Arsenal after a long spell on the sidelines and played very well scoring a goal that enhanced victory for Arsenal over Chelsea at the Ems last Saturday in the PL. But I don’t think Arsenal medical personnel who are in charge of treating the Gunners when any of them is injured should be blamed or held responsible for any Gunner who got injured when playing for Arsenal.

    But in a situation where a Gunner should not be allowed to used to play in the first instance after just been satified healed from an injury by the Arsenal medical but rushed back to play by the Gunners head coach, then, a reoccurance to his injury happened or a different kind of injury is suffered to the Gunner due to his not been at the enhanced 100% fitness level to play. Then the Arsenal medical center and the Gunners boss could be held responsible for the Gunner getting injured again soon after he has just been declared healed. But I think despite he could a times be under pressure to get a win result, the Arsenal head coach, Emery being a professional should not allow himself to fall into the trap that could cause a Gunner to fall into injury if he is used to play but shouldn’t have been used to play in the first place just after the Arsenal medical unit have declared him healed. But wait at least for another one week or 10 days to get more strong before he’s used to play I should in my layman’s medical thinking think.

  • MickHazel

    Most good defensive units result from being able to play a settled lineup week after week where the individual players get a chance to blend into a cohesive whole.
    All the injuries we have suffered have meant we have been unable to play the same defensive formation from one week to the next. Hence no chance to develope tha relationship with team mates so vital in having an efficient defence.
    Our defenders are as good as any others, they just need a chance to gel without being disrupted by injuries all the time.

  • Mikey

    It’s great to have a really tight defence but for me it’s all about goal difference. If you play a certain style of football which takes slightly more risks but these risks are outweighed by the benefits you get in front of goal then surely it’s worth it. If we conceded a hundred goals in a season I’m sure we’d have the worst defence but if we could score 200 would that be a problem??

    Concentrating simply on defence though, the point made in the article and backed up by Josif about injury is critical. We got slated by the media after the Liverpool game. Let’s not forget though that there were tow dubious penalties which, if not given, means we lose 3-1 away at a team that was beating everybody else for fun too. And, as pointed out, missing for that game were Bellerin, Monreal and Koscielny was not fit enough to start (in fact after he came on we only conceded the two dodgy penalties. Now Alli is injured all we have heard since is about the injury crisis faced by the Spuds cos Kane is out too. What did we hear from the media about our defensive problems before, dring or after the Liverpool game?!!

  • Mikey

    @ Tom

    Please tell us about your intimate knowledge of our medical team and your own experience as a medic within a top class football club and while you’re at it per haps you’d like to post a link to the scientific comparison that has been done which conclusively shows why the Arsenal medical team behaves differently to that of any top club…………………….or alternatively…………

  • Yes, we have conceded 1 more goal than Newcastle, but then we have scored 29 more.

    swings and roundabouts anyone?

  • Finsbury

    They can’t discuss this data and observation Tony as it would therefore mean that their groaning at the “defensive coaching” specifically last season with a weaker and smaller squad at the back, with a one legged limping doped up as opposed to a fully fit Koscielny (for just under half a season this year) etc would mean:

    That they write gibberish.
    That they are gibberish copywriters!

    😬

  • Gord

    Arsenal don’t have the same team as ManU, Man$, Chel$, Liv!! or whatever.

    According to reports (whoever that asshole is), Arsenal is this, that or the other thing.

    If you (the fans that come to the game) want to make a statement, you need to make a statement. And it is likely you can only mak eone statement per game, and you may need to make it more than once.

    If you feel strongly that Ozil should be playing, and he isn’t (he wears the number 10), in the 10th minute you get up and you leave the stadium.

    The medja idjuts may or may not clue into what is happening. And they are being paid to make Arsenal look bad, so one expects them to notice.

    And we’ll move on from there.

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