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Don't blame the defence....

As we agonise in trying to find rational explanations for irrational events as in the apparent claim that two ricocheted goals conceded means that we lack fighting spirit - or more bizarrely our play is so predictable that teams know how to play against us as though they deliberately plan to score from ricochets - we invariably end up looking at our shortcomings from the wrong end. Much credence has been given to a statistic that we have apparently conceded more goals from set pieces than some others have. I`m not sure of the makeup of the stat, presumably it includes the 6 penalties we`ve given away, but if true it means that we`ve conceded fewer goals from open play than the average which is a defensive strength I would imagine?

Doubtless, though we accept that keepers must find it difficult to read the flight of the ball from 25 or 30 yards but not apparently outfield players from corners or free kicks, there are improvements that can and must be made in the art of defending that hasn`t really been the main reason we have fallen short in the title challenge this season.

Defensively our poorest performances have come away from home. We`ve shipped more goals away from home than any other team in the top four and pretty close to the average number of away goals conceded for the whole league. Yet we lead the away league by a healthy margin by virtue of the goals we`ve scored which is almost double the average number of goals scored in the premier league this season away from home.

By contrast our home form has been better defensively having conceded only one goal more than those around us with the exception of ManU who have conceded 2 less than we have. Defensively we have performed far better at home conceding far fewer than the league average for home goals conceded but we`ve scored at a rate only slightly above the home average and some way behind those above us in the home league table in which we currently sit fourth, behind Liverpool and slightly ahead of City who have a home game in hand over us. Even Bolton has scored more home goals and partly thanks to the weekend`s failure Stoke are just a goal off our total for the season so far.

The conclusion then that our attack has failed us as much as if not more than our defense has this season is a compelling one. Relevant though it is, instead of getting too exercised about our defensive failures, the questions we need to be addressing should focus as much on the relative shortfall in our creative play at home.




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The Journalist

Writer: Amos Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Monday May 9 2011

Time: 12:25PM

Your Comments

Good article and pretty balanced, the same as our criticism needs to be. It's a team effort and we failed as a team yesterday. All three goals were defensive lapses. Djourou lost his man at the corner, Sagna inexplicably wandered off and let Pennant drive towards goal (the shot may have been deflected, but Sagna shouldn't have let him get that far) and Djourou's "clearance" for the third was .... well .... don't really need to put a label on it. Howver before all that happened I commented that I've not seen an Arsenal side lack creativity like that in a long long time, completely devoid of ideas. And just another reason why those say our performance against United shows we don't needs Cesc .... well those performances have been few and far between, yesterday showed exactly why we need to keep him!
Rocky7
Utter garbage Amos!!! You can't conceed 39 goals from 36 games and say the defence is not to be blamed. If you want to compare something then you should look at the fact that we have scored 69 goals (second in the league) and yet our goal difference is 3rd and better than City by 9 goal for 4th (even though we have scored 15 goals more than them). Goals will dry up every now and then, but please remember this if they dont score we wont lose....
Villa
It's both our defence and our attack that's let us down. The more important question is: what is it about our defence and attack that lets us down? Is it the formation? Is it inadequate defensive organisation? Is it the elaborate over-passing game we employ? Is it individuals? The one thing that strikes whenever I see Man Utd is their is a simplicity and penetration to their play. They really go for the jugular and are a very aggresive, dangerous side (with lots of character). Reminds me of what we used to be like under the best Wenger teams (who employed a fluid 4-4-2 or 4-4-1-1).
Gooner_Vin
Good summary Amos. Highlights that there are problems at both ends of the pitch that need addressing. We had 74% possession of the ball against Stoke yet were comprehensively beaten without any foul play or bad refs decisions. We are so easy to play against its frightening, you have to ask questions of the manager when no marks like Pulis, Bruce and Keane are out thinking him and he has no response but to bring on Bendtner as a winger.
iceman10
I think they use the wide areas far better than us GV. You wont see a better chalk on your boots wing display than the one Valencia gave yesterday, they really stretch the pitch giving Rooney the space to come deep, Hernandez then plays on the last man which stretches the pitch length ways creating more space.
iceman10
Iceman - agreed. There's also a willingness to score the 'simple' goal, i.e. good wing play (at pace), then a decent cross and a couple of quality players in the box to put the ball in. It's not rocket science what Man Utd do. They just do it better than most and are nearly always able to deliver when the occasion asks. Arsene really looks completely lost on the bench nowadays, his whole demeanour is one of a man whose belief has been drained out of him.
Gooner_Vin
If we were so easy to play against we'd be in a relegation battle. Let's keep it in proportion. It would help to read the article before jumping in Villa. Two thirds of our defensive failures have come away from home yet we'll top the league on away form - and on relative goal difference. Our defensive performance at home this season compares favourably with our peers but our attack doesn't - and home is where our goal difference is relatively poorest despite a comparable home defensive record. It's true that if they don't score we don't lose but we don't win unless we score - and it's not winning, not not losing that the disaffected are complaining about.
Amos.
Which shows how ****** our home form has been then Amos.
LondonGooner
The simple fact is that there is no team in the league better at squandering clear-cut chances than Arsenal. For a team that prides itself on brilliant attacking football, we are lousy at actually putting the ball in the net. Fabregas - lousy. Walcott - inconsistent. Even RVP, for all his goal, should have had more given the chances he gets. For all the concerns about the defensive coaching, Wenger does not prize clinical finishing. That he bought Chamakh (the complete striker, aside from... striking) speaks volumes.
krismon1
That's what I said LG - but not ****** defensively. Why do ManU feel so much more confident at OT than they do away? Is there something about OT that inspires or encourages their team more there than there is at the Emirates? Or is it just our pattern of play at home? A lack of creativity perhaps?
Amos.
But why only at home krismon? Nobody gets near us at taking chances away from home. RvP has set a PL record for consecutive away goals. We clearly aren't lousy at putting the ball in the net away from the Emirates.
Amos.
"If we were so easy to play against we'd be in a relegation battle." - Oh please. The undeniable fact is that we've seen average managers and teams repeatedly figure us out both home & away. We've seen average managers & teams come to our home ground feeling they can get a result. They don't feel that way when they go to OT. And the well documented stat that makes us the #1 team in the league in conceding goals from set pieces is a very simple stat requiring little hemming & hawing or rationalizations--this team doesn't get trained very well on defending set pieces, end of. It's a years-long continuing weakness which even Arsene pointed to in his post-game interview. Gee Arsene, you think maybe it's a longstanding problem you should finally address? All that said, you're right about the bigger problem being our offense. Esp. in 2011 our offense has been worse than our defense even with Squillaci & Kos (our weakest CB pair) playing in some games. And that points to a couple of things: lack of clinical finishing, lack of ideas in getting past park-the-bus teams, no willingness to just SHOOT THE FKG BALL, over elaboration, no real wingers, ponderous build-up, our tallest player doing the crossing to a much shorter one in the middle of a bunch of giants, and so on. And yes, a lack of creativity - in a team full of attacking CMs.
jaelle
Don’t look at the stats, look at the context and the manner in which we concede goals. I think it is fairly clear that our problem is defence but it comes from the whole team. I think that the players truly believe that they will concede at some point during a game and that has a dreadful de-motivating effect, particularly on the creative side. We are often encamped in the opposition’s final third passing the ball from left to right and getting nowhere and this tends to snuff out the attack. Yesterday was a classic example of this until RvP scored, but due to our vulnerability in defence we conceded directly afterwards. Had we not shipped three avoidable goals perhaps we would have won 1-0.
Sir Henry
A post high on indignation but a little light on explanation jaelle because if average managers have figured us out home and away then they have figured out ManU away to a much greater extent than they have us and as both Chelsea and City have been beaten more times in the PL than we have then presumably they can be figured out easily too. As I said earlier our away form dispels that lack of clinical finishing notion. The lack of willingness to shoot, as I've also pointed out before, is simply untrue. Only Chelsea shoot more than we do and no other team shoots as accurately. Similarly the ponderous build up just isn't true either. No other team passes as quickly or as accurately as we do and combined with the number of shots, and therefore attempts we create, as positively either.
Amos.
Keep posting these stats Amos and pretty soon you will convince someone we are back in the title race or alternatively have someones brain explode trying to work out the conundrum that is Arsenal FC.
iceman10
Teams know they don't have to create many chances to score against us. Usually one or two shots brings them a goal. Or just a corner or two. It's a two way thing, defences hang on in there knowing they only need to repel us long enough for them to have a shot themselves. It's true offensively we haven't been ourselves in the second half of the season, very true and basically, it's Cesc or van Persie or it's nobody. But I think the whole team just doesn't respect the defensive side of the game enough and that puts our defenders under pressure. If you asked me for my player of the year,. Djourou and Sagna would figure highly. It's a collective thing, I don't think it's necessarily one part of the team versus the other, it's more a state of mind.
Little Dutch
I'm not looking to convince anyone of anything iceman - just posting information that's all. It's there to be ignored if you prefer. There's always the lack of winning mentality to fall back on. :)
Amos.
After thinking about this for a while, and reading Amos' stat that only Chelsea shoot more often than we do, and nobody shoots more acurately, and couple that with the fact that only Man Utd have scored more goals than us this season ..... the article title seems slightly odd upon reflection. lol
Rocky7
Lol, Rocky. Good one there. I have been of the view that it is a team game and the entire team is responsible for both the scoring and defensive side of the play; it comes down to what is drilled into the lads on the training pitch. I saw plenty of anxiety to "defend set pieces" by our boys yesterday, a direct result of the oft repeated (even if flawed) allegation that we are poor from set plays which is now playing on the minds of the players. As for the shooting side, as far as the stats go, agreed Arsenal has had plenty of shots on goal the problem seems to be with the accuracy (not much that can be done about that). The number of times we have hit the woodworks this season is another bit of statistic. Someone posted somewhere that had every EPL team scored from each shot they had hitting the goal post/cross bar this season, Arsenal could have had the league wrapped up with 5 games to spare. That's how the story went the team.
Naijagunner
You need to see the differences between the home and away stats to follow the significance of the relative defensive/offensive numbers.
Amos.
I'd like to see a stat about how many goals we've conceded withing 5min of scoring a goal. This article would sound real funny after finding that stat xD
thenry009
In 56 games in all competitions we've conceded 5 times within 5 minutes of scoring ourselves. Twice in games we've won, twice in games we've drawn and once in a game we've lost. I don't know how that compares with others but what difference does it make to the point in the article?
Amos.
No, I wouldn't blame the defence entirely....Its not all their fault,they did their best, but one has to wonder about a decision to sign two center backs that have never played in the premier league (Squillachi hardly played anywhere at all - around 30 games in his entire career - and he's 30) and placing them alongside a permanent crock (Djourou). Which meant we were starting our season with only one central defender that has ever played a full premier league season - then looked what happened to him ! No it wasn't all their fault...
radar
It's a fair point that our central defensive partnerships were new and any combination of the 4 we went into this season with would have been learning how to play together on the job. But were we really any defensively sounder with Gallas, Toure, Silvestre et al despite all their PL experience? Despite missing last season Djourou has been around for a while playing for us and on loan at B'ham and Vermaelen had had a full season under his belt. Koscielny has settled in pretty quickly and should be a better player for it next season. I'm not sure of the point about Squillaci. He has played at a decent level for a good few years winning Ligue 1 twice with Lyon and a couple of seasons at Sevilla. There's a bit more to our failure to win a trophy this season that just the performance of our central defenders.
Amos.
Yes I agree Amos, as I said - it wasn't all their fault. As for Squillaci - according to all the stats, he only played 5 games for Seville in previous 2 seasons before signing for Arsenal and only played 13 times for Lyon in the two seasons before that. A bit Silvestre like eh ?
radar
Not sure where you're getting your stats from but according to club figures Squillaci made 69 appearances in his two seasons at Seville and 83 appearances for Lyon in the two seasons before that.
Amos.
Many apologies... I was looking at Arsenal-World website where on the players stats it says that he has played only a handful of games. However on the ESPN soccernet site it says he only started 14 la liga games and 4 euro games in the season before he came to Arsenal. In fact, according to ESPN Soccernet he only started three la liga games from the end of November 2009 to May 2010. http://soccernet.espn.go.com/player/_/id/52339/sebastien-squillaci?cc=5739 You can read anything you like into that but I would be asking how come he wasn't starting for Seville ? - he wasn't injured.....Perhaps their was a good reason for his lack of appearences.
radar
Squillaci was injured for much of the second half of his 2nd season at Seville but still made 31 appearances overall. He was pretty well ever present the season before though.
Amos.
 

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