Defensive options...

Granted, the score was 4-1 and on the face of it, the results seems like a humiliation.  However, had we taken our numerous chances, it could have easily been another 4-4 draw.  The key problem though is we have conceded 4 goals, following on from the 3 against United.  We have not defended well enough in these two games and been embarrassed at the back.  Whether or not the quality is there, the fact the players let their heads drop, causing more mistakes and the way we defend as a unit is very, very poor.
The problem is not going forward.  We started brilliantly and played 20 minutes of football  that gave me hope that beautiful football was not diminishing from the Emirates.  We should have been at least 2-0 up; we weren’t.  However, this should just provide us with confidence to keep pushing for a goal that would surely come.  Yet, the defensive side of our game let us down again.  We were suddenly 2-0 down within 5 minutes of letting up just a little.
The defence has been criticised, and rightly so, but all the blame should not lie with just the back four.  As they say, “attack as a team and defend as a team”.  Arsenal defend with one group of players, and we attack with a different set.  I understand that people will point to defensive errors which are clearly there.  I fully agree that these players need to cut these out but I believe that the way we defend as a team is far more of a problem than the personnel.  Clearly Sagna is a good defender, we saw it last year and Clichy was touted as one of the best full backs in the world last year.  Gibbs was brilliant today, Silvestre was decent, yet we still conceded 4.  The problem is how they work as a unit.
I saw today even more clearly where the fault lies.  When teams attack us, our wingers are slow to track back and get behind the ball.  Therefore, the full backs are left isolated against the winger, or sometimes against a striker that has drifted out wide.  Then, the centre back is forced to cover across into a position that really should be the full backs.  The other centre back is left with a decision to make: does he cover across or stick with his man in a dangerous position?  There is no right answer to this as either choice will leave space for opposition players to move into.
Midfield runners then have a huge gap in which to move into.  That leads to midfield players running at our back four which is already stretched.  I noticed Cesc in particular did not track his man and Song had to try and stifle Essien and Lampard.  For Anelka’s goal, he ran at least 20 yards unchallenged.  The centre backs could not come out to close him down as we did not have enough cover (wingers up field) and by the time they went to Anelka, it was too late.
Diagram A shows what I mean
 If you watch Chelsea, Manchester Untied and Liverpool, their wide players are quick to get behind the ball.  That means they can tuck into what is considered a full back’s territory.  The two full backs can tuck in closer to the centre backs, making us a considerably harder unit to break down.  Midfield runners do not have space to run into, and we have numbers in the centre.
Diagram B shows this
As you can see, we outnumber them in the centre.  There is enough cover to stifle the wide threat as well as providing cover for the centre backs.  Another element is that we can counter attack better if we defend like this.  We carry the ball out as a team and therefore there are more options available to the man on the ball.  Too often, players are up field and have to wait for the ball to reach them, taking pace out of the move and allowing the other team to do what we do not do, get men behind the ball.
Man Utd did this exact thing to us last week.  They had many men back and broke from the edge of their box.  Players were always moving forwards at pace as they had all been back helping out.
I also think there is a lack of balance in our defence.  As I said, when we have Clichy, Gallas, Touré and Sagna fit, as a group of players they are few defences to rival it.  However, as a unit we are poor.  Toure and Gallas spent their best days playing next to a defensive beast.  Sol Campbell and John Terry would always attack the first ball, leaving Kolo and William to prepare for the second ball.  There were few better at it.  However, as a pair Toure and Gallas have little clue who will do what.  Therefore there is always likely to be some chaos, often if a ball is hit long.  A half decent striker causes us problems as both players want to step off and let the other close him down while he anticipates the second ball.
Wenger has never been a great defensive coach and has often has defenders available to him that were well drilled.  Now he has to build from scratch and he is really close to having a top defence.  The full backs need their confidence back, as well as a few crossing drills.  However, we need a dominating centre back that will put his head where it hurts.  If it means upsetting Kolo or Gallas, so be it but it will not work in the long term.
As a team, we also do not hassle enough. I often see one player running around, following the ball with no chance of winning it.  However, he puts in the work of about four players.  Today I saw Nasri and Bendtner do this at times and wondered why no one else bothered to do the same.  Chelsea on the other hand may have looked dodgy at times but often got themselves out of trouble because every player was prepared to close down and scrap.  Rarely did an Arsenal player have a long time on the ball.  Early on we dealt with it but as the game went off, this Chelsea effort paid off.  Every time Walcott went to shoot, he had at least one player running at him.  Anelka had no pressure whatsoever when he was about to shoot.  As the ball moves across the field, if the clo sest players shuts down the man with the ball, we will frustrate teams and cause mistakes.  It is exactly what Barcelona did to Chelsea and it worked.  When Chelsea got the ball Barca forced them to hit long and because Barca have similar problems to us defensively, it worked.  If we sort our defending out, we will soon put so much more pressure onto teams.
Over the summer, Wenger has to find the right combination to the defence and drill them.  If we have no coaches to do this, we must get on in NOW.  A solid defence provides a team with the chance to go forward and attack.  If we start working as a team to get back and stifle the opposition we will win games well.  Even if we do not play well, it will give us the chance to win games that we do not deserve to win.  At the moment I feel we will concede at least one goal a game; that cannot be the feeling if we want to win trophies.

LOGIN to Comment
LOGIN to Comment