Why have Arsenal struggled defensively this season?

On 15th December 2014 by Kieran

It’s no surprise that Arsenal’s defence has received such high amounts of criticism so far this season, having conceded from the oppositions first shot on target on 7 occasions already this season. But why have Arsenal struggled defensively this season?

There is no doubt in the matter that not investing in an extra defender as well as a defensive midfielder during the summer was a poor decision on Arsène’s part. Especially seeing the significant amount of injuries that have been picked up already this season. Arsenal have already had to field a total of 9 different defensive combinations.

Injuries have already seen both Mathieu Debuchy and Laurent Koscielny miss matches, with Calum Chambers collecting cards on a regular basis. The depth of the Arsenal defence has been stretched, unnecessarily. With young players such as Hector Bellerin and Calum Chambers having high amounts of pressure already plunged on them. Both have attempted to tackle their responsibilities but the inexperience has led to defensive mistakes. This showed against Stoke, with multiple mistakes being made. Although it is not just these two young players who have shown lapses this season. Kieran Gibbs was caught out against Stoke, failing to recover to cut off a cross leading to Stoke’s 19 second goal. Per Mertesacker has not had the start he would have wished for this season. Considering Mertesacker is a World Cup winner, he has been an average defender at best. His experience should be helping guide the young players within the team bringing confidence to the back four, from such an experienced defender it would be expected for him to play his game, as well as making up for that which the youngster lack. Having played almost every game in the premier league this season Mertesacker has been doing the exact opposite, causing more problems from his slow pace to misjudgments of tackles, Arsenal need a leading figure at the back, whilst Koscielny is out, they do not need a figure who complicates matters further.

The transition between the attack and defence has also been of a poor standard. Arsenal are lacking the vital defensive midfielder that fans called for during the summer. Mathieu Flamini, a liability at best, with Mikel Arteta the only other real alternative in that holding midfield role. Jack Wilshere excelled in the holding midfield role for England, yet Wenger “doesn’t see Wilshere as Arsenal’s defensive midfielder”. Even if Wenger were to have a change of heart, the Englishman is not set to return until late February, so signing one to dominate the defensive midfield will be key during January.

Until January the struggle may continue with Arsenal’s defence, until they can establish some form of back four who can play together long enough to form a bond that is tough to break. January could be a game changer for Arsenal’s season, providing they come out of the transfer window with additions to both the holding midfield and centre-back positions.

But don’t forget. It could be worse. It could be Liverpool’s defence!

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