Per Mertesacker was turns slower than milk, Laurent Koscielny is mistake ridden, Garbiel is a liability, and Calum Chambers has been ruined by Arsene Wenger. Not my words, but the words of many across various platforms.
And this morning I read this…
Is it true? Has Arsenal’s defending been shocking over the last 12 years? I decided to do some research.
On average, over the last 12 years, Arsenal have conceded 7 goals more than the Champions, and 10 goals more than the best defensive side. At no point over the last 12 years have we had the strongest defence in the league. That is clearly not good enough, and clearly a key reason why we have not won the league.
However, and there is always a however, I would like to break the table down further.
Since signing Laurent Koscileny, our average goals conceded a season increases by 3. But the least goals conceded in the league also increases – by 4; and the goals conceded by the Champions increases by 6.
This is mainly due to them stingy Manchester United and Chelsea sides of the mid to late 00’s being removed. In the 00’s, you had to concede under 30 to win the league. Since 2010, this has not been the case.
Arsenal defence might have got ‘worse’ but in comparison to the rest of the league, you could say it has improved.
The signing of Per Mertesacker in 2011 did not do much to massively improve Arsenal’s defence. The average by Arsenal, and across the league, changes very little. Although what is obvious on that table it the first year of Mertesacker joining. Arsenal conceded 49 goals. 14 of which were conceded in the first 5 games of the season.
In the remaining 33 games, of which Meretsacker played most, we conceded just 35 goals.
Since Thomas Vermaelen left Arsenal, and Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscileny became the undisputed first choice partnership for Arsenal, things have improved further.
Over the last 3 years, we have averaged just 2 goals less than the Champions.
Now whilst we have mot won the league, and that is the ultimate aim of any top side like Arsenal, I think we could all agree that over the last 3 years, it has not been goals conceded that have stopped us, but goals scored.
You could also say defensively, the bigger issue over the last 3 years has been in goal (before we signed Petr Cech) and the midfield protecting the defence, rather than the actual centre of the defence.
With Cech now number one, and defensive midfield options including Granit Xhaka, Mohamed Elneny & Francis Coquelin, we have the support around Mertesacker and Koscielny to go from strength to strength.
I have long been a big fan of Per Meresacker, but I think he does restrict the team. His lack of pace does not suit the tactics we play.
High pressing and defending the half way line does not suit a centre back with no pace. We saw it a few years back with John Terry, when André Villas-Boas instructed the team to defend the half way line. Terry was exposed.
Last year Leicester were champions and had the lowest goals against in the league. They did not do this by having the best defenders in the league, but by having a system that suited those defenders.
Robert Huth and Wes Morgan were camped for the entire season on the edge of their own box. They played to their attributes of power and strength. Had they defended on the half way line, they would not have won the league.
Often in defence, the tactics are more important than the personnel.
Over the last 12 years, at times our defence has been shocking. But on average over the 12, it has simply been below par, rather than shocking. And the defence has certainly improved since Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny became a partnership.
Over the last 6 years, the Champions have won the league with an average of 36 goals conceded. Arsenal are not too far away from having a Championship winning defence.
Arsenal defence is not as bad as what people make out. It has its odd blip, like against Southampton last season, but I am comfortable saying our back 5 is amongst the best in the Premier League.