Three defenders back for Sunderland game… but will it make any difference?

I haven’t posted for a couple of weeks as I’ve just returned from a lovely holiday in Portugal. I was able to watch the latest calamity at Shite Hart Lane from the back of a Portuguese bar, but without internet access I couldn’t do any blogging. Just as well to be honest – I’m getting fed up with writing the same criticisms every week. My match report would’ve been an elaboration of the following key points:

1) We were good in possession, but Friedel didn’t have one save to make.
2) We’d be in the relegation zone if it wasn’t for the brilliance of Szczesny (shame about their second goal).
3) The number of times bad refereeing decisions have gone against us this season is ridiculous.
4) We can’t defend properly.

That’s all I’ll say on the matter, let’s move on.

The good news ahead of the Sunderland game on Sunday is that we have defenders coming back from injury. The bad news is our best two are still injured – Vermaelen and Sagna. Koscielny, Djourou and Squillaci are now fit and available, but I doubt that will help improve our woeful defensive record.

Sebastien Squillaci

Squillaci is fit for the Sunderland game... whoopee!

It seems that no matter who plays at the back, we fail to do the simple things right. So far this season we’ve fielded Vermaelen, Mertesacker, Djourou, Koscielny, Miquel and Song at centre back. Traore, Gibbs, Santos and Sagna have played left back while Sagna and Jenkinson have played right back. That’s a lot of personnel and many teams have been lucky enough to have the same back four every week. Injuries and suspensions have robbed us of that luxury and I believe we will improve at the back when we can field our first choice back four each week. With Sagna’s lengthy absence though that could be a while.

However, the lack of a settled line-up does not excuse some of the comical defending we’ve seen this season from almost all of our defenders. Song and Mertesacker leaving the ball to each other allowing Bale to go clean through; Koscielny’s own goal at Blackburn and Djourou diving in rashly on Olsson during the build up; Santos playing Yakubu onside twice at Blackburn; Jenkinson getting caught the wrong side of his man at Old Trafford and being sent off; Chris Eagles of Bolton finding himself clean through against Szczesny literally seconds after we’d taken a corner up the other end of the field.

These are all poor, poor mistakes and you have to wonder whether the problem isn’t simply one of personnel. Don’t forget that Vermaelen played in the first four games of the season, including the home defeat to Liverpool, so don’t assume his eventual return will cure our defensive woes. It’ll help, but the problem goes deeper.

I don’t have the answer, but my point is there is something fundamentally wrong no matter who plays in our back four. A lot of it is concentration and motivation which is down to the manager. This would explain Pat Rice’s dressing room outburst after the Spurs defeat, as reported in the Daily Express:

“Pat went crazy in the dressing room. He left the players in no doubt they have to improve – and quickly. He told them to look at themselves in the mirror.”

So whether it’s Koscielny, Djourou or Squillaci partnering Mertesacker on Sunday, I fear the same mistakes will be repeated. Throw in the inexperienced Jenkinson at right-back for the next three months and we’ll need to outscore our opponents if we’re to start winning matches again.

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  1. kiki

    u said even if kosienly, djourou, squillasi partner mertarsacker the problem will be there still. Have u ever thought the problem might be mertarsacker, cuz i prefer kozzer nd d verm pairing.

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  2. s

    The problem isnt that we have bad defenders but individually ours defence is very good. the real issue is we dont defend as a team
    when have u seen gervinho or walcott spriniting to help the defenders when they think they have no chance. I remember the midfied vs spurs was all over the place howd u expext our defenders to defend when our midfield leaves massive gaps that even a secnd rte player could exploit

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    • Gooner Steve

      You make a good point. The perfect example was the build up to Spurs’ second goal when Ramsey let his man go from a throw in (I think it was Ramsey, it was hard to see from the back of the pub!)

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  3. Karim

    The problem is, we never defend as a unit. We’re lacking a leader in defense and midfield area. Song tried to do it but now we could see him playing alongside Mertasacker where I think he clearly outshining Kocielny and Djorou.

    I think, Coquelin can be our revelation this season, that is if he continued his sparkling performance in big games. Even though the two games he played end up in defeat, clearly he’s the best player in those games. I wish we could just play Coquelin and Arteta in the midfield with AOC and Walcott in the flanks although AOC needs to sharpen his workrate tracking back in defense.

    Whatever it is, Wenger must sort out the team and make them tick as a unit, not in patches.

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    • Gooner Steve

      Yes, lack of leadership is a real issue and has been since 2005 when Vieira left. Gallas filled the void adequately until he lost the plot, but since then Wenger has appointed our best player as captain instead of our best leader, ie Fabregas and then van Persie.

      This season our captain should be Vermaelen or, better still, we should’ve bought somebody with leadership qualities like Scott Parker or even (and I can’t believe I’m saying this) Joey Barton.

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  4. Shanzuman

    I agree we lack leadership and that Vermaelen or Scott Parker would be ideal candidates BUT PLEASE do not mention the name of that thug Joey Barton! As for the Spurs game we lacked in midfield and have yet to see a replacement for Fabregas.

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    • Gooner Steve

      Barton is indeed a scumbag, but the fact remains he has more bottle, spirit and desire than all of our midfielders put together.

      As for a Fabregas replacement, you are right, it’s a massive problem. Arsenal cannot attract the likes of Mata or Gotze so we have to hope Ramsey will grow into that role, which could take another three years.

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  5. David

    Although he might be tall but i think mertesacker is not good enough as a defender

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