Wednesday, 9 January 2013

An Attack on Defence

For too long the achilles heal of the Arsenal starting XI has been the defence. We rarely keep clean sheets and therefore we need to score at least two goals in any game in order to pick up three points. In my last blog I broke down the goals for and against versus Newcastle and it wasn't until our fifth and the games eighth goal that I thought there wasn't much a defence could do to stop a world class cross meeting a perfectly timed run, it was in a way unavoidable due to talent displayed in that sequence of play. So after our game on Sunday at Swansea I was thinking when do we ever conceded well constructed goals or ones that you simply think fair play to the opposition. So here's a breakdown of our latest defensive shenanigans dating back to the beginning of December.

Arsenal 0 Swansea 1 Michu 88' - An incisive attack that drew Vermaelen out of position, Michu played a one-two before finishing with aplomb.

Arsenal 0 Swansea 2 Michu 90' - Jenkinson started with the ball on the touchline parallel with the edge of the Swansea box. Dyer pressured him back down the field and towards his own goal. Dyer tackled Jenkinson five yards shy of the halfway line which set Michu away to coolly slot home. Only Tomas Rosicky offered any form of desire to attempt to get back but his efforts were in vein.

Olympiacos 1 Maniatis 65' Arsenal 1 - We initially cleared a corner but the ball was lofted back into the box and Ramsey was left three on one at the back post. The initial header ricocheted of his chest and the Greeks levelled.

Olympiacos 2 Mitroglou 73' Arsenal 1 - A superb strike from the substitute who'd only been on the field a matter of minutes. He curled in a shot from the edge of the box into the bottom right hand corner of Mannone's goal. Vito didn't really anticipate the shot and dived as the ball flew past him but still a good finish nevertheless.

Bradford 1 Thompson 16' Arsenal 0 - We conceded a needless free kick next to the corner flag. Jones whipped it across the face of goal, it got flicked on and there was Thompson, who was completely unmarked (initially Sagna's man but he was ball watching) and he finished in style giving Szczesny no chance.

Reading 1 Le Fondre 66' Arsenal 4 - Kieron Gibbs played a suicidal ball from left back into the centre of our half and this left us two on two at the back. Tabb played a defence splitting pass and Mertesacker stood motionless from the moment the ball was misplaced and Le Fondre rounded Szczesny to tap home.

Reading 2 Kebe 71' Arsenal 4 - Robson-Kanu seemed to be running down a blind alley before turning back inside and threading through Kebe and with Mertesacker stood ball watching he finished coolly to reduce the deficit further.
Arsena 1 Newcastle 1 - Ba 43' - Newcastle won a free kick on the edge of the box after a very poorly timed challenge from Sagna. Ba stepped up and Wilshere cost Arsenal a goal by turning his back on the ball in the exact fashion Nasri did it against Manchester United. This left Szczesny clutching at thin air. 1-1 HT and both goals could have been easily avoided.
Arsenal 2 Newcastle 2 Marveaux 59' - The second equaliser of the day and a catalogue of errors. First up Bacary Sagna, if you offered me Sagna v Obertan I'd take that match up all day without any worries at all. However it appears Bac's head is elsewhere at present and his performances are suffering. Obertan breezed past him and got the yard he needed to get his cross in. Koscielny got a foot on the ball but I'm not convinced his position was as good as it should have been. Then you have Marveaux stood all alone at the back post in about ten yards of space with seven Arsenal players standing watching. Pathetic defending but that would get worse soon after.
Arsenal 3 Newcastle 3 Ba 69'- Marveaux turned creator this time and he picked out Ba with a superb outside of the left foot pass. Gibbs was once again beaten and after watching replays he actually looked at Ba before the ball came in but he completed ignored the threat of one of the hottest strikers in the league and we were punished yet again. 
Southampton 1 Ramirez 34' - Arsenal 0 - Podolski played a ball to Koscielny, which instantly had the Frenchman under serious pressure. He was closed down and Schneirderlin won possession, he worked to Lambert and just as it looked like Sagna was going to clear the danger he lashed it across the box and the ball finally fell to Ramirez who had the simplest of finishes.
Swansea 1 Michu  58' Arsenal 0 - A long punt down field saw Dyer out jump Gibbs (it appeared to be that Dyer wanted it more) and Koscielny failed to deal with Graham which allowed Michu to run at Mertesacker who was too square on and the rest is history.
Swansea 2 Graham 87' Arsenal 2 - A corner that saw several players from both sides miss attempt headers, it fell to Graham on the edge of the six yard box and he had time (with approximately nine Arsenal players in the box) to set himself before lashing home. Arteta was the closest player to Graham at the time of the shot and he seemed reluctant to put his body on the line and eventually turned his back on the shot.
So that's a total of thirteen goals in approximately six weeks and I think we could have avoided eleven of them. I accept that there will be times when players make mistakes but this should be few and far between fora team that regularly competes in Europe's elite club competition. I wrote a blog earlier on this season about the 'Bould Effect', which has come back to haunt me somewhat. It was foolish of me to think that three league games into a new season that we would have solved several years of poor positioning and ball watching in one summer with Steve Bould. Look at Reading's first goal against us, it's Gibbs' mistake but watch Mertesacker throughout that attack, he doesn't move. I still our sides started the season with some drive to defend but that has almost disappeared of late. Arteta's lack of desire to throw his body on the line in order to win us a game has contributed towards us having to replay a game we can ill afford to play at present. I've always been a bit over the top in terms of the amount of players that we need in order to genuinely compete at the highest level again but all of our defenders at present aren't doing the basics and if you wanted to look at areas to improve we could replace them all. I know Sagna is suffering from poor form but when you couple that with the noises that he wants to leave in the summer it doesn't inspire confidence.
Good defending can be as infectious as free flowing attack and we must ensure we lose this mentality of having to score a minimum of two goals to win a match.  I've seen a couple of blogs focus on Arteta's play at defensive midfield, again something I thought that worked at the beginning of the season but are we really getting the best out of him as a player? I'm all of the stats relating to interceptions and blocks etc I don't see any other top defensive midfielder in there because their sides tend to control matches and they show discipline when you have to adapt to the harder side of the game. I'm sure I'm not the only one that is sick of our uncanny ability of finding new ways to concede goals but as it was pointed out to me tonight, you rarely here Arsene comment on defensive issues, it usually centres around our offensive play. Hopefully with games upcoming against City, Chelsea, Liverpool and Bayern Munich we'll up our game but I'm not holding my breath.

No comments:

Post a Comment