Bacary Sagna touched upon a topic that could be described as Wenger’s Achilles’ Heel. Here is what the French full back said,
Sometimes I think we play too much, We just want to do that and do not think about what is good for us – sometimes we just need to cut out the football, stop playing for a bit and just consider what will help us achieve what we want.
In the wake of conceding four goals in another big game it is understandable that a defender is asking for some focus on defence! If you want to be critical you could say Sagna is advocating anti-football, something most of us Arsenal fans look down upon. Or in a positive sense you could see he is being pragmatic.
I’m not a big fan of putting 10 men behind the ball. Not even against a team like Barca. After all, Chelsea tried that and for all their defensive abilities, they too were dumped out.
There is a difference between parking the bus and being a strong, well-organized defensive unit. Barca received a lot of plaudits for their passing, flair and attacking play. One aspect of their game that some people missed was their tactical switch to containment in the second half at the Camp Nou and a perfect execution of beautiful yet safe football!
I’ve been talking all season about the need for a proper defence coach and rigorous training. You could say that I’m being disrespectful towards our present coaches and have no idea what we actually do in training. Well, you could be right but I’ll find it difficult to change my opinion as long as we conceded stupid goals just because our defenders are afraid of kicking the ball out for a corner!
Defenders in every other team that I’ve seen in England or in Europe are quite comfortable in knocking the ball out as a safety first policy. Arsenal are the only team whose defenders repeatedly make suicidal reverse clearances. Clichy did that against Bolton, Sagna against Birmingham and most recently Vermaelen at the Camp Nou. And these are just some top of mind ones, I’m sure I can think of more if I really try.
To me our fear of conceding corners and this statement from Sagna is clear evidence that our own defenders are not confident about our defensive skills as a team. It’s not an issue with individuals. Even the likes of Song and Vermaelen who are amongst our best players this season have been guilty of blunders that have gifted goals to the opposition in big matches.
The first thing is that everyone needs to recognize is that there is a problem. More than everyone, Arsene needs to acknowledge this.
The counter argument some people offer is that we’ve only conceded 34 goals this season. 4 more than Chelsea, 7 more than United which is not too bad. I’d say the other way of looking at this is that teams below us in the league like Villa, Liverpool – who are supposedly having a hopeless season, and even the tiny Totts have conceded less than us! Villa are a good 17 points behind us yet they have conceded 2 goals less.
More importantly, the issue is not about conceding only 4 more. It’s about the nature in which we’ve conceded and some of the goals have been down to really dumb mistakes and school boy defending. When too many of your top players make silly mistakes in defence, is it not safe to assume that we don’t train well enough?
It could be down to the coaches, the amount of time, the exact drills that we do or any other factor. I don’t know what the exact cause is as it’s likely to be a combination of factors.
I know we all want Arsenal to be associated with positive and beautiful football. Yet, as Barcelona showed us, we can be positive and pragmatic at the same time. It’s high time Le Boss gives the art of defending it’s due respect.