Defensive Frailties Mask Progress and Win An Emirates Stadium Tour

Arsène was in a reflective mood when talking of the season which is drawing to its’ climax, determined that the prefix “anti” should not be attached to any discussion. The defensive performance of Internazionale at the Camp Nou has drawn unfavourable comparisons with the second leg of the quarter-final, harshly since the Arsenal side was not at its strongest whilst the Italian champions were pretty much able to draw on their full strength squad.

Wenger though was critical of the number of goals conceded, an area which needs to be improved he acknowleged:

Where we want to set ourselves a target next season is we conceded nearly 40 goals, and that is too many to win the League. This is one area where we want to improve

There were no individual criticisms nor should one player be singled out as a major cause, quite simply because it was a collective failure to defend throughout the team. Of course within that there have been individual errors which have been the source of conceded goals, these are issues to be worked on with the individual, eradicating them from their game, improving the collective.

However, there is a crucial aspect which should not be lost sight of. 39 goals have been conceded in 36 Premier League games, the highest of any of the top five clubs. The total though is skewed by the clashes with those nearest to Arsenal. The eight games against United, City, Chelsea and Tottenham saw sixteen goals shipped, two per game; the remaining 26 fixtures has seen 23 goals given away which suggests that it is more of a mental issue with regard to ‘big’ matches this season than a collective defensive failure every week.

A meaner attitude at the back in those matches against the rest of the division would have helped; not letting in three at Wigan would have been more than useful, likewise the lead being dropped at West Ham and Burnley. Arsenal should be able to go to those grounds and expect to keep a clean sheet or at the very least not concede more than once. Points dropped in those matches are as crucial as those in losing to close rivals for the former are supposed to be where compensation arises for the latter.

Perhaps Wenger’s key issue is knowing where who will be here next season. Reading between the lines is a dangerous occupation but his comments earlier this week whilst talking about William Gallas‘ future suggested, to me at least, that Mikael Silvestre will not be offered a new contract irrespective of any comings and goings. Gallas though has yet to put pen to paper and there must be a strong suspicion that he is not going to do so either. Arsène has not admitted that, publicly at least, he is any the wiser, choosing to put a gentle timescale on a deadline.

This year it is vital that transfer dealings are completed before the World Cup, not just from a financial point of view. The tournament will stagger the returns of players depending on how their nations fare, eating into the pre-season. Having new players already at the club, gives them a longer period to become accustomed to the formation and how the rest of the squad interacts on the pitch.

How many newcomers is open to conjecture and speculation about how big his wages / transfer pot is only serves to muddy these waters. The truth is that no-one knows the true amount because of contractual secrecy; authoratative statments on the web and in the back pages are no more accurate than a back of a fag packet calculation.

Recent weeks saw the title dream fade, descending into acrimony, one performance overshadowing the progress made in the season as a whole. That progress should not be lost sight of and wholesale changes are not needed. It seems unlikely to me that Wenger would ever bring in more than two new players, anything above that amount would be as a result of departures. One whom Wenger wants to stay is Eduardo:

We extended his contract because we believe in him. He is very important but I will assess that situation and sit down with him before the end of the season, you want to see as well how he feels. He is 27 years old he wants to play.

It seems apparent that Wenger views him as an important player; the question is how much playing time he will get. Injuries will no doubt play a part in that, not just his own but to others as well. van Persie is the first choice central striker and Eduardo can play on the left. However, would he benefit more from a full season on loan elsewhere, regaining sharpness? It leaves a void to be filled in the Arsenal squad, which is the quandry. It would be unusual for the manager to let him have a season away but in the long-term, it could be more beneficial.

Finally for today, a reminder that A Cultured Left Foot has been nominated for The Best EPL Club Blog at EPL Talk; you can vote here.


Gooner Gifts has kindly donated An Adult Legends Emirates Stadium Tour For Two as a prize for answering the following question:

Who am I? I scored 49 goals in 179 appearances for Arsenal including a famous 111th minute strike.

Email your answer, name, age and contact email here. Competition closes at midnight, Sunday May 9th 2010. Any entries received after this date will be consigned to the electronic waste basket and totally ignored.

Best of luck.

’til Tomorrow.

Posted on May 1, 2010, in Arsenal, Football, Premier League, Premiership, Soccer, Transfer Gossip. Bookmark the permalink. 58 Comments.

  1. arsenehollis

    So Arsene thinks that we were too poor defensively to win the title. He makes no mention of injuries. He thinks we need to sign a few players to add to the squad.

    Looking forward to him getting shafted on here for a lack of faith, a money orientated approach that means he should be a chav fan and so on and so on.

    Common sense from a brilliant manager, shame so many people on here have been ranting against it.

    Champions next year.

  2. That’s rubbish ‘holis.

    No one on here has ever said that they are against new signings. What has been said is that we don’t need a lot of new signings nor should we embark on a ‘Galacticos’ course.

    I think you know that.

  3. Did you see AW’s press conference on Thursday, hollis?

    We’re talking two players…three at a push.

    If nobody apart from Silvestre leaves, then it could even be a grand total of one – Chamakh.

  4. I think most fans get excited by player signings but won’t demand them simply because things are not going quite as planned. Signings which unbalance the team and put the clubs future at risk are even more pointless. Arsene knows the market and players better than anyone and only signs players we need and can afford. Of course, even the great man gets it wrong now and again. Who amongst us is perfect. Arsene knows BEST.

  5. The mad season is about to begin: the transfer season. After another disappointing season I feel the problem for us maybe more who we can hang on than who we buy.
    Let’s start with Gallas. He probably wants to go to Italy to get his last chance at a different feel of football. He has had English and French. With probably only two years more of competitive football left in his legs he probably wants some Italian too.
    Next is Cesc. We know about the pull of home football. But the bigger matter is Barca and Real’s failure in the champions league. When any team fails to win what they really want there is always talk of the need for a big buy. Don’t so many of our own fans talk of a big buy that will “rescue” us? Well in Spain Cesc “is” the big buy. They’ll be coming for him and they’ll come real hard. Maybe for even more than the 50 million so often quoted. Even if we do hang onto him it will probably be no more than a couple of seasons. Mercifully for us the longer he stays the greater his value.
    Next is Clichy. I remember people wanting to eat my head off for claiming he played so well at the Nou Camp as a form of advertisement to Real Madrid. Now Barca also want him. Will he stay? If Cesc leaves he’ll definitely leave. There is also the lure of being a galatico or playing the art of football at Barca. And don’t forget the Spanish sun. But for him it’s really about how big we can be and how soon.. A six season wait can drive any great player nuts. Will the clubs ambitions seriously match Clichy’s.
    And Sagna? For him it’s all about ego. Great players have big egos! Being subbed for the likes of Eboue – even when they are playing better than him – is galling. So it depends a lot on his relationship with Wenger and his own ambitions. A rumoured move to Inter will long attractive unless he feels personally loyal to Wenger!
    As for Arshavin it’s neither here nor there. He’s disruptive in the press and hasn’t delivered the great football we expected from him. Nobody will go wild about buying him. In fact he needs us more than we need him. Another season like this and he’ll be heading back to Russia with his tail between his legs.He better find his consistency and fast. Next season is probably his last chance.
    As for the rest we can probably hang onto them or release any that we feel are excess garbage.

  6. You made all that up, kenyan gunner

  7. Kenyan Gunner
    That doesn’t look like much faith in our players and even if you were right most of them signed long-term contract so Wenger has the last word and as he said in previous interviews he won’t let his player go just because Real, Barca or any club shows him a big fat cheque.
    Wenger only let a player under contract leaves if he thinks he is past it (Lunberg), diruptive (Ade) or not worth the squad (Hleb).

    I think as Yogi said Sylvestre will leave for sure, Campbel will be offered another one year contract for his experience and he can still be a help.
    I fear more and more Gallas will leave which will be a big loss if he does which will probably mean two defensive player coming in, one if he stays.
    Add to this Chamack and I feel we have the 2 or 3 signings Wenger spoke about. This summer will just be a continuous flow of rumored departures and crazy signings that will never materialise.

  8. I’ll have to take your word for it, KG. I don’t share your telepathic powers, prescience or insider knowledge of Arsenal, Barcelona and Real Madrid’s summer plans, you see.

    I thought I recalled Clichy and Cesc re-affirming their loyalty to the club no more than a couple of weeks ago, but I feel I’m going to have to defer to the psychic and accept that their Arsenal careers are about to end.

    But I do chuckle when people talk about the “Spanish Sun”.

    The summers are warm, but from November to March – a big chunk of the football season – it’s grim where I live. We had snow just five weeks ago.

    Meanwhile nightly temperatures – Madrid and Barcelona play most of their weekend games after dark – can sink below freezing everywhere except the flatter parts to the south during the winter months.

  9. I only deal in probabilities and not physcoanalysis. And I don’t fear being wrong since I don’t mind being corrected. But lets not forget the frequent comment that players are too powerful. Players only remain at clubs for reasons of their liking. Like RVP who received great offers but stayed for the promise of the club.

  10. Mongolian Gooner

    I think our squad is strong enough. With two or three additions in defensive department we may become another invincible team. We scored many goals and also conceded many too. So if we impove defensive record next season I can see us lifting that league trophy and the one with big ears.

  11. Alex Ice Cream

    We need to buy for one simple reason: some of the players we have are not ready or not good enough to win the Prem or the CL or we do not have enough players of sufficient quality in a particular posiiton.

    No team will win anything with Silvestre – the worst signing of the Wenger era- yet he played in most of the important games at the end of the last 2 seasons. Wenger got this horribly wrong.

    I am not convinced that Gallas is the best partner for Vermaelen who would benefit from having a stronger, more physically dominant partner. I think Gallas will go and if he does then so be it. I like Billy but he is increasingly injury prone and is a high earner. My gripe is whether he will be replaced by established quality or not.

    Even if Billy stays I would buy someone else who is better than Djourou who is still unproven.

  12. The answer to your question YW brings shivers to my spine just thinking about THAT goal.

  13. Let’s be totally honest, Gallas, Silvestre, Campbell and Senderos can all go, reasons:
    Gallas – Too moody and whilst he and Vermaelen have a reasonable partnership it’s not as good as Dunne & Collins, King & Dawson, Ferdinand & Vidic, Terry & Alex, etc, etc.
    Silvestre – Absolutely disgraceful signing, goodbye and good riddance
    Campbell – 12 apps only 5 wins he looks slow and cumbersome, unfortunately the heart of a lion is no good in the body of a rhino
    Senderos – the unluckiest of the lot, a few high profile errors 2 seasons ago, but no more than any of the above. But he is going and that is that.
    We used 6 CH this season in all competitions and will need the same number next season. Vermaelen, Djourou + 4 more to replace those above that are no longer good enough.

  14. “Too moody and whilst he and Vermaelen have a reasonable partnership it’s not as good as Dunne & Collins, King & Dawson, Ferdinand & Vidic, Terry & Alex, etc, etc.”


  15. gooner2,

    Billy is (William) Gallas. I thought any Arsenal fan would know that.

  16. I think chamak is already Heading Towards our Team.But What I think is that we need to get rid of Denilson,eduado and shitvester.And we need to buy a Strong Dm.And a New Center back to Replace willy Gallas.

  17. It is hard work trying to decipher the content of some of the comments. I think I will just skip them in future.

  18. arsenehollis

    Consolsbob – I completely agree with that position on transfers, it is exactly mine. However, the truth is that there are definitely some people on here who go on the attack when it is said.

    The truth is probably that they don’t care to read and just react on reflex, but i wouldn’t presume to make excuses for Nasir, Shotta and that mob.

    In fact, they have fallen very quite of late. Having fallen foul of the monitors for wolves in sheep’s blah-blah when I lost it after Manuel had a shocker, I find it extremely hypocritical that they have not been out in force lambasting Yogi for his strident comments of late on our goal-keeping situation. Perhaps even for them it is a step too far into fantasy and away from dignity to attack our gracious host, but it shows up sharply their shallow, fair-weather attitude.

    Anyway, we are very close to dominating the English league and a little prudent investment will help us on our way. I still hope we sign a goal-keeper, but will support whoever we put out come match day.

    Monday will be a real chance for Fabianski to show he can weather the storm of Walrus shite that will be thrown at us.

  19. Paulie Walnuts

    I have a gut feeling that Eduardo will leave. He was made for us but it just hasn`t worked out for him & it wouldn`t surprise me if he wanted to move on.

    It sounds a cert that Chamakh is arriving & Silvestre will be allowed to go.

    Of the others, Gallas would be silly to turn down a two year deal with anyone who can match his Arsenal wages if we are offering just the one year.

    Clichy ? Nothing surprises me when it comes to the Spanish `giants` so if they offered daft money like they regularly do, then who knows. The best left back at the club may well have been playing centre back in his first season for us, so with TV , Gibbs, Eboue & Cruise we should have enough cover there.

    I`d expect a new centre back regardless of any outgoings – maybe two if Gallas goes as D`jourou has had a serious injury.

  20. arsenehollis

    Would keeping Eduardo not “kill” Carlos Vela?

  21. arsenehollis

    Yogi – why do you presume the problem in big games defensively is mental?

    Isn’t it natural to concede more against good teams, doesn’t it just highlight the problem rather than offer an easy solution?

  22. arsenehollis

    I think it would be brilliant for the players who Wenger has nurtured for the last 4/5 years to be get some really strong characters in the squad to make them fight for their playing time.

    The Scum game showed that we have huge talent, but lack a bit of mental fortitude. These players need to be pushed, having been praised and promoted for a few seasons now through thick and thin.

  23. heh it almost seems like Kenyan Gunner wants our players to leave. So would i if i was cesc, all that comes out of “our camp” is “he will leave” ” he has to leave” “hes not a gooner, hes a Barca player” “his heart has never been with gooners”.. fans like kenya gooner has never ever had the belife that players actually think its ok to be a gooner, that they may stay because they belive in a project. That is sad. Its actualy really sad when fans cannot belive the players. they think cesc is lying when he says he will stay. THinking he is a cheat. Well if people thought i was a cheat i would leave too. if people refused to belive what i said i would leave too..

    Well you will get your wish fulfilled kenya gooner. you happy now?

  24. I’d like us to get Felipo Melo from juve. The guy is tough and talented and also looks like Denilson!

  25. Golin analyse without emotion. I remember the day I heard that Michael Thomas left us for ‘pool. I was drenched and it didn’t make sense to me. But I learnt that the club you love is bigger than any player, even Thierry Henry. Off to watch mancity vs villa now.


  27. He has a poor disciplinary record, doesn’t he? Perhaps he needs to melo out.

  28. I also think he’d be a lot better if he learned to play football.

  29. Evilfiek what are you laughing at? Felipo Melo is a Brazilian international. But more importantly Arsene Wenger has the knack of bringing the best of players who’ve lost their way in Italy. Remember Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira and Nwankwo Kanu? They all came to us after floundering careers in Italy!

  30. Inter Milan’s back four isn’t any better than ours, but I wonder whether all our players could be persuaded to assist in defense as the Inter players did on Wednesday.

  31. dupsffokcuf @1:27pm I fully agree!! Some of the comments seem to be posted by 2 years olds, they barely pass as English and are more confusing than anything else.

    Silvestre will leave and maybe WG, outside of that I do not believe there will be any other departures. Fran Merida is leaving because he wants more play time and I can understand that. But as far as Clichy, Cesc, Sagna and Edu are concerned, why would they leave? CL football every year, EPL is the most high-profile league in the world, and they know where they stand re: selection i.e. playing time. The only question would be Edu if we do sign Chamakh. But he would have that problem with any team, having to fight for your place is a given.

  32. Kenyan Gunner – Not quite right about Henry. Yes he was playing for Juve and not fitting in when he was bought by Arsenal but what you need to remember is that he only signed for Arsenal because of Arsene Wenger. Wenger was the manager of Monaco and it was he who gave TH his start in pro football, that is why he went after Henry.

  33. have to say that every time I see Carlos Tevez play, I can never stop myself from picturing him in an Arsenal jersey!! The guy never stops running!! And he can play!! Does anyone see it even as a remote possibility that if Money Shiteh fail to get CL football that he will leave them and maybe we could buy him?

  34. “Inter’s defence isnt any better then ours”. very funny Poliziano.

    So harry redknapp is refusing to say the ‘c’ word……. i wont, he’s a c*nt.

  35. Irishgray Wenger did go after Henry just as he tried getting Melo and thats the point.

  36. sorry that should be “Inter Milan’s back four isn’t any better then ours”

  37. let’s get some new keepers so we can”kill” flappers!!!!

  38. Not sure Tevez is Arsenal material. Hard working but not graceful. With some height ala Bendtner maybe. But our shorter strikers have speed and technique!

  39. Gainsbourg69

    If Tevez leaves City he will do so for a massive transfer fee, which means one of two clubs. Barca or Real Madrid. No Italian club can pay the massive amounts of money he demands and Chelsea is already getting Aguero.

    Kenyangunner, Sagna getting upset at being subbed for Eboue as a reason he might leave is stupid. Eboue is a quality player who has had to sit on the bench while someone who doesn’t do a job going forward plays infront of him. And Clichy gives his all in every match. To suggest that he plays well just to show off to other clubs is incredibly cynical.

    Did nyone watch jackie against the Spuds? He made a few good plays and had a shot on goal from what I saw of the second half. He must be incredibly frustrated playing among a shower of hoof merchants.

  40. It’s no joke, Duke, although I admit Lucio is better at feigning injury than any of our defenders.

  41. Poliziano @ 3:59.

    I agree with you statement completely. Why has our team culture become complacent with regards to defending? If the problem is not the talent of the players then it has to be either the players motivation or the tactics. Motivation and tactics both come from the coaching staff. I believe that the team so engrossed with the idea of playing beautiful attacking football that we have either consciously or subconsciously lost track of how important it is to also defend well. Bad defending has lead to a crisis in confidence in our ability to defend.

    I think we need to add some new players at CB and GK, but most important the entire organization needs to rethink our priorities regarding the importance of team defending.

    What do you think?

  42. Gainsbourgh69 I was pointing out the egoistical nature of top sportsmen. Its a problem all managers have to deal with.

  43. Paulie Walnuts

    Lucio simply has to be the most cynical centre half in world football. Hang on though, Samuel is even MORE cynical & they play together. Maicon is another from acting school but I`ll leave Zanetti out of it as he has a touch of class.

    In reality , Inter have a back 8 , or even 10 as they had in Barca so comparing like for like with our defenders is meaningless.

  44. Paulie Walnuts @ 5:53.

    All the rubbish about the acting skills and antics is just that. RUBBISH. Even if it was true who cares as long as they are effective.

    I do not like the “special ones” tactics any better then you but Jose M. gets these guys who have been around for a long time and made huge amounts of money to defend like thier careers depended on it. That is what is amazing. That culture of effort on the defensive side of the pitch is what AFC is missing. I wish they Inter would drop some of the antics but damn I wish that our guys would have the same desire to defend. We would dominate the world if we could somehow gain some of that mentality for defending.

  45. Bill,

    Did you ever read comments about Eboue’s ‘acting’ and the abuse he received from some of our fans.

    How do you think our fans would react if we had most of our defenders acting like Inter’s did on Wednesday?

  46. dupsffokcuf:

    I agree, I do not want our guys play acting and diving etc etc. However occasional gamesmanship can be helpful within reason. Obviously I do not want us to become the diving queens of North London.

    However, the main point is that Inter defended like their lives depended on it. Obviously you can not play with that much intensity every game but we need some of that intensity and some of that organization. United and Barca both play excellent defense almost every game yet they still have the energy to attack. Both of those teams outscore us and they both out defend us by miles. We need more effort and efficiency and organization in the back. That edict has to come from the top.

  47. I think the problem is further upfield. When RVP and B52 are both fit they both track back. Unlike AA and Edu. That would not be too bad of a thing in a regular 4-4-2 but in a 4-3-3 it is huge disadvantage. Arsene has to instill in the team the need to revert to a 4-4-2 when we do not have posession of the ball, and to quickly adopt a 4-3-3 when we do. A perfect example of this is Brazil under Dunga. When they do not have the ball there shape changes instantly to a more defensive one, at times it even resembles a 4-5-1, with every player doing their part. If they do not they are dropped instantly, no matter how big of a star they may be.

    Arshavin is a perfect example. When we do not have the ball we become a 10 man team. Rosicky on the other hand will chase down every thing he can. Yes AA is much more dangerous on paper but give me Rosicky any day over AA.

  48. And Rosicky’s tackling — I don’t think we have anybody in the squad who does it better than him. Always clean, and he gets the ball most of the times.

  49. Also on the issue of GK, I just heard that Arsene may be interested in Shaktar Donetsk keeper Pyatov. At 2.5 million a steal, he has proven he can play in the big games by winning the UEFA cup and is also an international keeper with 17 caps for Ukraine.

  50. EvilFiek – dam straight!! he could teach a lot of players the art of tackling.

  51. Have to just point out how amazed I am that the only English club left in Europe is Fulham!!

    And the only Spanish club left in Europe is Athletico Madrid!!

    Well best of luck to Fulham, manager of the year in Hodgson and please God Almighty let Bayern beat that a-hole Mourinho, in fact I think they are going for the treble this year, either way it would be a travesty if the Retarded One wins it.

  52. Things must change significantly if we are to have any chance next season. I dont know why people want to keep gallas. He will be 33 next season and ever since he has been here he has brought infinitely more negatives than otherwise. No question, sell him.

    Well what has been GLARINGLY EVIDENT for the last 4 years now apparently has a chance of being rectified (at last!). Arsene has to get the central defender that this team is crying out for. I have to say he has to pull something out of the hat this time.

    If he buys another lame duck like cygan or senderos then quite simply we wont win anything next year either. So fingers crossed there.

    With the 25 rule coming to place. The need to clear out deadwood is paramount. I think the fun has been had and players like denilson, flapianski, silvestre(why is he still here?) and a few others need immediate removal, If we want to win the league that is.

    We will know our fate before the summer is done.

    Cheers all!!

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