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…
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?
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