Analysis Of Arsenal’s Real Defensive Weakness Against United

I don’t think anyone will argue against the fact that Arsenal are defensively weak down their left flank. And as far as mindless criticism goes, it’s hardly surprising that Clichy has taken over from the goalkeepers.

Having watched the game again and after looking at the facts there is no doubt the game against United was quite close and could have gone either way. The hosts shaded it because of some mistakes by the Arsenal midfield, especially Wilshere whose inexperience was exposed, and Arsenal lacked composure and quality in the final third.

Let’s look at the two best chances created by United in the first half. The first one was the shot by Nani that went just wide. It started with a long ball over the top.

Nani wins the header but it’s important to note that the run by Fletcher is not tracked. Wilshere is ambling around in loads of space completely unaware of his responsibility. As a direct result, Koscielny is forced to come wide and the defence was stretched.

When the cross comes in there is a huge gap between the two central defenders and neither of the defensive midfielders has dropped in to cover. Song does make an attempt to sprint back but Wilshere has barely moved five yards while Nani sprinted into the box. Clichy’s momentum was in the other direction when he went to challenge for the header so it would be impossible for him to regain his balance, turn, and then catch Nani.

There is an argument that Squillaci should have done better with the header but the cross had no pace on it so it was always going to be tough for him to head it away. The reason teams like United and Chelsea look strong and solid in such situations is that the midfielders drop into the defensive line as we’ll see later in this post.

The simple problem here was that Wilshere just couldn’t read the game defensively.

Now let’s look at the goal.

This came from another long ball off a goal-kick. Since the ball went to Fletcher, Koscielny was forced into coming out of position to challenge for it. Wilshere couldn’t challenge for the header (which is acceptable) but he doesn’t realize the danger of having a central defender coming out of place.

Arsenal only had Squillaci and Clichy between the goal and the dangerous pairing of Rooney and Nani. Given that we had plenty of time to get into shape as Van der Saar took his time over the goal-kick, it’s a shame we got into such a weak defensive position. Wilshere should have been much closer to the defence so that he could mark Rooney when Koscielny went for the header.

The defenders couldn’t get too tight because there was too much space in behind them. Rooney could easily find Nani who was alone on the wing. Again Clichy had no support.

Nani has acres of space and Clichy does well to slow him down so that others can get back in support.

By the time Nani gets to the box Arsenal have four defenders back but no one is tracking the run of Park. The bigger problem however, was that Wilshere ambled into a meaningless position when he should have sprinted back to provide cover for Clichy like Song does for Sagna. This would have forced Nani to pass backwards or we might have blocked his shot better.

Again it was a case of Wilshere lacking basic defensive awareness. But the worrying part is that this happens far too often at Arsenal. Wilshere/Denilson and Arshavin just don’t offer the kind of support that a fullback would need at this level. As a result Clichy is often having to deal with two attackers or has to cover large spaces on his own.

The contrast can be seen from the way Arsenal defend on the Right.

Nasri is right there when Sagna is closing down Park. Song and Squillaci are covering the pass to Rooney. This is just one image but if you watch the game again you’ll see Nasri and Song offer much better support to Sagna on a consistent basis.

We got a perfect example in the 16th minute when Wilshere lost the ball on the Right side. Sagna had moved into the United half and Park got a clear run. Squillaci did a good job of slowing his run down, just as Clichy slowed Nani down, while Song sprinted back to make this tackle.

Sagna is nowhere to be seen in that image but the right side is still well covered. On the left we would have been exposed and people would be blaming Clichy for being out of position. In this case it was not Sagna’s fault that he was up-field when Wilshere lost the ball, just like it’s not Clichy’s fault when he makes a forward run and someone else loses the ball.

The best approach to defending can be seen from the way United defended both flanks and the centre.

As we see in the image above, the United midfielders and defenders tracked their man perfectly. This is something they do really well and is one of the reasons for their general defensive superiority. Four Arsenal attackers are being tracked, the RightBack is holding his position and blocking Arshavin while Vidic is there behind him to cover if Arshavin tries to knock it behind and run past Rafael.

The snapshot above shows United had five men in the box when Clichy attempted a cross. So apart from the central defenders and Evra, they had Carrick and Fletcher dropping into the defensive line to deal with the cross. Anderson was just on the edge of the box to pick up the loose ball if someone headed a ball out. This is vastly different from Arsenal’s defensive midfielders ambling around on the edge of the box.

United and Chelsea look far more solid defensively because their midfield and wide players offer excellent support to the defence. Arsenal are very weak in this regard and our defenders have to work a lot harder because of that. It’s not that Arsenal get it wrong all the time, otherwise we would be fighting a relegation battle, but we do leave ourselves exposed a lot more often than the other big teams, especially on the left.

When we see these errors repeated game after game one has to wonder why we don’t have better defensive coaching and training. Running into the right areas, tracking players, and providing cover doesn’t need exceptional skill. It can be coached. That is the reason smaller teams with less skilled players can still do a decent job defensively. It’s about organization and awareness and to me it seems Arsenal don’t pay enough attention to this part of the game. Unless this is sorted we will continue to be thereabouts without really being there at winner’s podium.


89 Responses to Analysis Of Arsenal’s Real Defensive Weakness Against United

  1. African fan says:

    If Wishere, a boy of 18 and more of attacking mid than DM why should Arsene play him in that position? Where was Song? Instructed to play attacking mid instead?

    Blame the Manager and the useless senior players like Rosicky who offered nothing.

    • Steve says:

      Arsenal play 2 DM against the top teams – right and left – I like Wilshere too but if credit is given where its due then he has too take responsibility for mistakes – Desi Gunner is spot on with this analysis!

    • venky says:

      Arsene plays Wilshere in the DM be’coz right now he has got nowhere to play other than that position and if you dont play him at all then people ask how can a precocious talent not be in the team?. Desi is just mentioning the facts,I dont think he wanted to blame Jack

  2. PestILEnCe says:

    Very good analysis, I think this year we have put more men behind the ball then last year when we lose possession, but it seems we press better upfield then close to our box. To have wilshere and arshavin on the same team is suicide defensively against the big teams. Arshavin clearly tries to help out defensively but lets be honest, we possibly can’t rely on him for a full 90 minutes to orchestrate attacks and defend when needed. One must consider that we have done an incredible job with the little time that the new defenders have had together, when vidic and ferdinand have bags of experience. Once we can have all our players back we will naturally get stronger with more options, but chelsea will also become stronger with injured players coming back and united will soon have rooney fully fit. Can we really do it this year?

    • desigunner says:

      I agree, this year we can see the effort going into improving the defence. Also with your point that we have done an incredible job with the little time these defenders and new players have had together.

      Can we do it? I’m not sure about the Premiership or the CL, but I won’t mind as long as we see consistent improvement. At times it does get frustrating to see mistakes being repeated and that must be eliminated.

  3. eirik says:

    Agree.. I would rather have someone like Albrighton or Park or the left who can defend well! And wilshere needs to be coached like you said

  4. Golden Gooner says:

    Love the way you break it down. I’m fairly new to the game and learn more about it from your blog than any other. What’s your football bio/background?

  5. African fan says:

    What was Song’s job? Arsene’s new Messi and keeping Wilshere rather behind? Answer this question.

  6. IndianGunner says:

    Great analysis Desi. I used to wonder why teams are able to score successfully from the left against us.
    Now we can see why. I guess any left back would be vulnerable when he doesn’t have any support from midfield. Taking that into account Clichy is doing a great job.
    I was just thinking can we move Wilshere to the right and Song to the left just to even out the weakness? Since Nasri puts in a better shift on the right Wilshere shouldn’t be a liability on the right and Song can provide better protection to Ciclhy?

    • desigunner says:

      Interesting thought but I’d say swapping Nasri and Arshavin might be better than Wilshere and Song. Although that will reduce the attacking impact the two wide players have it’d be worth a try if the opposition is getting a lot of joy down our left.

  7. SoCal_Gun says:

    I’ve been waiting for this since Monday…

    great analysis (as always). Do you think that Wenger and the coaching staff to a “film study” like this every week? It happens in every major American sport, we even did it in High School. I would have to assume that they do, but nothing ever changes. It pains me to see such simple/obvious/basic defensive mistakes cost us big games time and time again. Coach B wouldn’t stand for it in on the Varisty team, why does Wenger???

    I also saw on the JustArsenal blog that “Against Chelsea and Manchester United combined we average 0.74 goals scored per game and concede on average 1.95 goals per game”. Not suprisingly their record vs. ManUre over the last 2.5 yrs is 1-1-5 and vs. Chel$ki it’s 2-1-10. Those are horrible numbers. I almost cry just reading that…….

    • desigunner says:

      I’ve no doubt Wenger and his staff look at these details. The problem is that it’s not so easy to solve. For us it would be easy to say he should have tracked the run and things like that (which is a valid point no doubt) but the player has to find a balance between attack and defence. He has to think constantly and take split second decisions. It would only come with constant training and playing together over time. More so when we are trying to take a talented, aggressive, and attacking player like Wilshere and playing him in a deeper position.

  8. FoolishGooner says:

    You got it covered partner! That is what i have been saying to people who love to find scapegoats. It is not Clichy’s fault that he doesn’t get help difensively. It is team selection, i too watched the game again (Monday MU game) and it was close. What we have is iniffeciences specailly on the left. Jack Wilshere and Arshavin should not play on the same side. Jack is an Attacking Midfielder he should Sub in for Cecs/Rosicky and whoever is the attacking Midfielder. I said it before and i will say it again, start Koc/Johan/Verma in the middle with Song in big games. Because Cecs,Robin,Arshavin,Wilshere are all weak links defensively. We can only afford three of those 4 to be on the same pitch.

    • desigunner says:

      I guess a lot of us do like the idea of one of the defenders moving into midfield for the big games. Personally, I’d prefer Vermaelen alongside Song because he is very good on the ball and can contribute while going forward. But again that’s something that would need a great deal of work in training. Given that our central defenders are new and haven’t played together it would be difficult to train them for both roles. Certainly an option for the future.

  9. Raffi says:

    This vindicates what I have been thinking lately in that the likes of Clichy, Squillaci, Koscielny, Gallas and Toure were or are not bad defenders but instead they were badly supported by the midfield. It is not only Wilshire I have noticed just ambling back and ball watching. I have seen Diaby, Denilson, Nasri commit the same crime. There is no communication between the players or any leader directing or point out were the danger is. The problem is in the coaching and it has been going for far too long now that the team is now conceding goals with the 1st attempt of the opponent. It is so frustrating!!!

    • cee dee says:

      spot on! lack of communication and leadership in the team! even with d best coaching there are bound to be lapses even from quality players but U SIMPLY MUST HAVE VOCAL LEADERS on the pitch consistently communicating with d squad for 90mins.

    • desigunner says:

      I do agree about the need for some leaders on the pitch and lapses in concentration by some players but we must also acknowledge that in many games we reduce the opposition to one or two shots on our goal. That is down to some high quality team work. We just have to ensure those chances don’t result in goals.

  10. Kofi says:

    At least someone finally realized Wilshere one of the problem in tidying up the midfield. I feel Denilson is best suited for that role

    • JP says:

      I think Denilson is better defensively and poorer offensively than Jack. But while better than Wilshere defensively he’s not great at all and would cause the same problems. I am tired of seeing him running slowly after someone barging into our box. He has done it too many times.

    • desigunner says:

      As JP said, both have their pros and cons. I have a feeling Wilshere will develop at a much faster rate because of these experiences.

  11. Arsenalisto says:

    The reason behind the defeat is that our best 3 players weren’t on the pitch by the start of the game, simple as that, and you know who are they, and if I was AW I would have put Walcott in as the first sub to offer penetration rather than RVP and Fabregas.

  12. JP says:

    Good analysis. Spot on. It originates from having too many offensive type players and trying to make them play defensive roles. We need some more defensive minded midfielders who have some grit and are willing to do the hard work when we don’t have the ball. Lots of fans have been asking for a true DM for some time. One to either substitute for Song when he is out or to use in times like now when playing with two DM sitting in front of the defense. Wilshire, Denilson, Rosicky (most of our midfielders) are not naturally defensive minded players. Diaby could probably help this situation a bit more too when he returns. Needing players to stick to assignments and do the hard work of tracking players and marking is essential. Also, it seems like we play a zonal defensive system when the ball is coming into the box (either that or the lack of marking makes it appear this way). I am an old school fan of man marking (follow a man like shadow if needed) and getting to the ball first as the defender. Vidic and Ferdinand did an excellent workshop of this. Even on the goal, Park was not tracked and on top of that when he headed the ball one central defender was behind him (not between Park and the ball) and the other was a couple of yards off him. Unacceptable. Arshavin is the type of player I could not stand playing with when I played back in the day. Offensively very gifted but could not give a twat about ‘help defense’ and winning the ball back after he loses it. Frustrating to say the least.

    • Furovich says:

      As for the goal Arsenal conceded agree with Desi on some points but for me there is a couple of other issues.

      Koscielny shouldn’t be running up almost to the halfway line to try and win a header, especially one he can’t get too. Wilshere is already there in a good position and Koscielny should let him contest it. Even when Fletcher wins the header it shouldn’t be of any great concern as he is only on the half way line. Koscielny should be more concerned about watching the space in behind him. There was an interview on Arseblog which you may of heard a few weeks ago with a french football analyist talking about how many tackles Koscielny makes. This is obviously at times a good trait but it also means at times he is getting drawn out of position. Typically, you don’t want your centre back making too many tackles. The best ones usually don’t have to as their good positioning allows them to make well timed interceptions opposed to tackles.

      As for Wilshere’s role of tracking back and helping out with Nani, if you watch the video, you will see he is keeping an eye on Fletcher and his position is far from meaningless. If he moves into the space Desi circles on the photo, Fletcher is completely unmarked and Nani could easily pick him out with a pass that would of provided United with an even better scoring opportunity than what the cross into the box did. If someone is going to fill the circle Desi draws, it probably should of been Arshavin.

      As for Park being unmarked in the box, Sagna is initially tracking his run but then gives up for some reason just a couple of seconds before Park makes the crucial header. Song was also in a position to win the header but failed to do so.

      I agree that Wilshere isn’t perfect defensively but he has spent the majority of his formative years playing behind the striker in a very attacking role. This is something that I find a little bit interesting about Wenger. Of all the midfielders that took the pitch against United, Rosicky, Wilshere, Nasri and Arshavin are all essentially second strikers but Wenger is trying to get them to play defensive or wide positions they are not used to. While Song, the clubs only defensive minded midfielder, has licence to roam into the opposition penalty box.

      • santori says:

        Agree with Furovich on some issues :

        1) Kos need not commit himself so far up when there was ample cover.

        2)Wilshere’s position was not meaningless as mmoving into said circle would have open space for Fletcher.

        And might I add :

        3) Squillaci should have headed the ball out rather than meekly back into the danger zone.

        Fundamentally, I think we also set ourselves up wrong and wer carrying a spare body (Rosicky) at the expense of extra teeth.

        With United set up to snuff out our midfield, space was always going to be at a premium.

        I know some on this board diss the importance of formations/tactics but you do yourslef no favour if the team shape is unbalanced and the wrong tools are available for the job.

        I feel the better set up to have had would have been 4-4-1-1.

        a) RVP in the hole just behind Chamakh. Yes he is far from his best (even when he came on later) BUT i think in tight spaces, he is the more appropriate choice to open the can than Nasri

        b) Nasri out wide right. Why put a player with good pace in the middle in congestion? Nasri should have been wide right stretching the game and getting at Evra. It would open space on the corresponding flank for AA to operate.

        In essence, Desi is correct in saying our mids have yet to perfect their fundamentals in morphing between attack and defense effectively.

        Contrast with United who get back quickly and clam tight, we needed to have been able to adopt a simple effective defensive posture …4-4-1-1, to banks of 4, everyone knows where they should be (rather than the elaborate extra man)

        Then when attacking, the wide men move up which effectively puts us into a 4-2-1-3 (with wing backs supporting)

        We weren’t that far off in competing but we have to get it right.

      • santori says:

        Sorry for the double post. Second one seems a clearer format. Feel free to delete the previous post Desi. Cheers

      • Furovich says:

        Yea I also agree with Desi that the general midfield play isn’t tight enough defensively.

      • Confidentgoner says:

        Kurovich,

        desi is very very correct. Jack was supposed to help Clichy in dealing with the Nani threat and he did not. \do I blame him? No. AW should have got out from the dugout to shout instructions to him

      • desigunner says:

        Furovich,

        I agree with you that Koscielny didn’t have to contest for that header. It will be interesting to know if he had instructions to go for those kind of balls or did he take the initiative.

        Wilshere should not have been tracking Fletcher because that job could have been done by Song or Rosicky. We know Arshavin will not track back so other players have to adapt. If Wilshere had moved backwards as soon as Koscielny started his forward run or when he went for the jump, he could have challenged Rooney or closed Fletcher down much earlier.

        I’m not trying to blame the kid just that as a team we need certain solutions given the limitations we have like Arshavin not tracking back.

      • desigunner says:

        Santori,

        Nasri did play on the right but Park and Evra marked him out. He looked far more threatening when he came into the middle.

        Also I feel Rosicky did an important job of having a body in midfield because RvP would not have run up and down as much as he did. In which case United might have created a lot more chances as Song and Wilshere got further stretched.

      • Furic says:

        Ideally, you don’t want to have other players dealing with Arshavin and Koscielny being way out of position. Arshavin is in the best position to help defend against Nani and therefore he should be the one doing it.

        In terms of covering for Arshavin though, Wilshere can only push out to hep shut down Nani if other midfielders are sliding across to fill the space left by Wilshere as he moves out to the wing. Rosicky or Song should of pushed across to pick up Fletcher and communicated with Wilshere to push out to the wing but that didn’t happen so Wilshere was just trying to stay with Fletcher who was originally his primary priority.

        In a team sport situation, when players start trying to do other players jobs (such as Koscielny challenging a header he should of left for Wilshere) defending becomes extremely difficult. Song or Rosicky could of slid across to pick up Fletcher and pushed Wilshere out to help with Nani but once Arshavin and Koscielny are so far out of position, the problem is already there.

    • Furovich says:

      I agree with you. This season Wenger has tried to give all midfielders attacking freedom to roam up the pitch but I just don’t think certain players in the Arsenal line up are good enough in possession to do this. Arsenal in most of their games are giving the ball away far to cheaply and as a consequence, leave themselves more exposed at the back.

      Even Barca, who are far better at pressing the ball and winning it back than Arsenal, play with Busquets as an out and out defensive midfielder but Wenger has even let Song abandon that role.

      What I also found interesting about the United game was that Arsenal weren’t even under instruction to press the ball and play high up the park. They were sitting back in their own half but they don’t have the defensively minded players to do this.

      It’s hard to criticize a man Like Wenger but I just can’t understand his tactics in the United game. To me it looked like a lack of belief in ability. Arsenal have spent the last few seasons including this one, trying to play possession football but against United they were playing a far deeper defensive line than what they usually do and didn’t press high up the pitch to win the ball back at all.

      It looked like after the last few matches against United and getting on caught on the counter, Wenger has tried to change his tactics, but with the players he had on the pitch, I just don’t see how it was ever going to work. To me it looked like they had lost a bit of their identity. In the last couple of seasons we’ve seen Arsenal dominate the play against United yet concede cheep goals and loose. This match he changed his tactics but kept the same players that in every other game he’s tried to get to play extremely offensively.

      • Furovich says:

        At above comment, I meant to say I agree with JP.

      • santori says:

        Well I think it’s high time we learn to absorb some pressure and i think we are capable of it if sufficiently drilled.

        With the way United would play against us, I thought we were better serve to play them at their game a little and set ourselves up to exploit their space in a counter.

        My problem with us playing ‘possession’ is we are not doing enough of the ball running. Particularly with a team like United, this is even harder as space is a premium and we miss Fabregas at his best who is able to pick the lock with his own ball over the top passes.

      • desigunner says:

        I thought the tactics in this game were good. If we kept it 0-0 till an hour or so United would have tired and we could have brought on Walcott and others to push on late in the game.

        When the opposition has players like Rooney, Nani, Ronaldo, Messi, etc and a strong defence, it’s difficult to play with a high line all the time as they will always create something on the break.

        As far as the DM role goes I think Arsenal are trying to evolve a system where one player holds (rotating role) when the team goes forward while two do it when we lose the ball.

        It’s not been perfected but we can see the effort being put in to achieve this. This season we’ve conceded much fewer goals from counter attacks and lack of a DM has not been that big a problem. The problems have been more to do with individual errors.

      • Furic says:

        I agree that it looks like Wenger is trying to evolve a system where there is no single defensive midfield player as players share the responsibility.

        If Wenger implements this successfully (which I think it’s fair to say he hasn’t yet as the midfield isn’t functioning great as a unit) it would be quite amazing. I hope Wenger proves me wrong and Song does turn out to be a quality box to box player and Wilshere turns out to show great defensive characteristics. My opinion is that I would like to see Wenger keep it much more simple. Song was still learning his trade as a defensive midfielder and now he’s trying to take on attacking responsibilities.

        As far as tactics go, I think it’s pretty subject to personal opinion and it’s certainly easier to comment after the fact but personally I don’t like watching Arsenal sit back like that. Obviously Wenger didn’t want to go out and get caught on the counter again but my way of thinking is that in Wilshere, Rosicky and Nasri, Arsenal’s midfield should be able to dominate possesion and control the game like they have so many times before.

        I don’t think Asrenal need to change how they’ve played in the past, I just think they need to get better at how they’ve played in the past. I’ve heard Pep Guardiola say “We need to win the ball back so quickly because we don’t know how to defend.” I think it’s much the same for Arsenal. They don’t have defensive minded midfielders and they have no experience at sitting back and absorbing pressure then playing on the counter. Inter and Mourinho can do it because that’s the style they know but with the players at Arsenal and the style they have always previously played, I can’t see how those tactics will work. If Wenger persists with it, I hope he proves me wrong.

        In my opinion Arsenal were at their best this season in the first half against Aston Villa. They were extremely good in possession, pressed the ball when they lost it, put Villa under all sorts of pressure and completely dominated. For me, this is the way Arsenal should play because it’s what they know and what they are good at. They suffered a little in the second half as players like Arshavin tired and they started giving the ball away and putting themselves under pressure. This is what I think they need to work on and if they can do that while the back 4 and possibly 1 or 2 midfieders improve, I think Arsenal will be at their best.

        If Wenger wants to play a more defensive style, I just think he needs different players at his disposal with more experience playing that style of football. It will be interseting to see how Arsenal shape up against Barca because if they play the tactics they did against United, I can’t see them ever seeing the ball.

      • Furic says:

        I agree that it looks like Wenger is trying to evolve a system where there is no single defensive midfield player as players share the responsibility.

        If Wenger implements this successfully (which I think it’s fair to say he hasn’t yet as the midfield isn’t functioning great as a unit) it would be quite amazing. I hope Wenger proves me wrong and Song does turn out to be a quality box to box player and Wilshere turns out to show great defensive characteristics. My opinion is that I would like to see Wenger keep it much more simple. Song was still learning his trade as a defensive midfielder and now he’s trying to take on attacking responsibilities.

        As far as tactics go, I think it’s pretty subject to personal opinion and it’s certainly easier to comment after the fact but personally I don’t like watching Arsenal sit back like that. Obviously Wenger didn’t want to go out and get caught on the counter again but my way of thinking is that in Wilshere, Rosicky and Nasri, Arsenal’s midfield should be able to dominate possesion and control the game like they have so many times before.

        I don’t think Asrenal need to change how they’ve played in the past, I just think they need to get better at how they’ve played in the past. I’ve heard Pep Guardiola say “We need to win the ball back so quickly because we don’t know how to defend.” I think it’s much the same for Arsenal. They don’t have defensive minded midfielders and they have no experience at sitting back and absorbing pressure then playing on the counter. Inter and Mourinho can do it because that’s the style they know but with the players at Arsenal and the style they have always previously played, I can’t see how those tactics will work. If Wenger persists with it, I hope he proves me wrong.

        In my opinion Arsenal were at their best this season in the first half against Aston Villa. They were extremely good in possession, pressed the ball when they lost it, put Villa under all sorts of pressure and completely dominated. For me, this is the way Arsenal should play because it’s what they know and what they are good at. They suffered a little in the second half as players like Arshavin tired and they started giving the ball away and putting themselves under pressure. This is what I think they need to work on and if they can do that while the back 4 and possibly 1 or 2 midfieders improve, I think Arsenal will be at their best.

        If Wenger wants to play a more defensive style, I just think he needs different players at his disposal with more experience playing that style of football. It will be interseting to see how Arsenal shape up against Barca because if they play the tactics they did against United, I think they might really struggle. Like I said, I want to see Arsenal with the confidnce and ability to go out press the ball and play possession no matter who the opposition. Barca don’t change their tactics against anybody because they’re good enough not to have to. I want Arsenal to have this mentality.

    • desigunner says:

      JP,

      I agree about the need for defensive minded players or for the current players to develop a better understanding of defensive concepts so that they can instinctively take better decisions.

      I’m not sure we can blame the central defenders for the goal because the ball was not hit towards Park. Koscielny was blocking the shot while Squillaci was marking Rooney. The ball flew towards Park really quickly and the central defenders didn’t have any time to react to it. Only a man tracking the run could have made a challenge. Sagna might be fault in that case.

      Arshavin has a fitness issue I feel. I remember Wenger questioned his fitness after Euro 08 when there was talk of Arsenal signing him. That season didn’t start well and we got him in Jan but I’ve a feeling Arsene knew this weakness all along.

  13. shottagunna says:

    Very good analysis but unfortunately, in your desire to emphasize the defensive breakdowns there is a failure to recognize all the good stuff we did defensively that made it very difficult for Man U to break us down more than twice or thrice at best. Unfortunately, our emphasis to be less susceptible to the counter and to the long diagonal balls affected our offensive ability making it almost a stalemate.

    The difference between an armchair general and a true professional is that the former has the comfort of being faraway from the battlefield and the benefit of hindsight to always have the right answers while the latter must make decisions on the battlefield without the benefit of perfect information and not having the ideal resources. Desi – From your writings, I know you are very aware of this difference. Not so sure that many of your posters know the difference.

    • santori says:

      There’s only one type of true professional though, those engaged in running the clubs at the moment. Everythingelse is theory (some more informed than others of course)
      😉

    • Confidentgoner says:

      Shotta,

      What Desi has highlighted is what every footballer or enthusiast see in AW’s team. You don’t need to be an expert to analyse this. Don’t make out footy is one difficult science that only guys like AW can get it right, yet we see right before our eyes that he does the wrong things over and over.

      During the match we all saw how the left wing was isolated well before their goal. Was it too much for your idol to get out of his ass from the dugout to:

      a) Remind Jack to help Clichy
      b) Ask Arsh to track back
      c) Put Nasri or Rosicky in the left wing – players that do track back.

  14. gooner king says:

    I just wanna start by saying what a great observation. I was laughing when I was reading the article because this is exactly what I’ve been thinking. I guess I’m gonna sound childish by comparing the real football with FIFA 11. However, the gameplay of FIFA 11 is so real that I can refer to it.
    In my arsenal team, I have never put Song on the right hand side because of exactly the same reason. Sagna has great defensive attributes while clichy,given his pace, is best when utilized to run up and down the flanks. But of course, when he does that, my arsenal will get caught on the break often. That’s where Song comes into the picture, either to slow down the opposing players(this will allow clichy with his blistering pace to come back and cover). or use his well renowned technique of stealing the ball. Once clichy is back in position, slowly Song will go back to the middle of the penalty box to get ready for header battles.
    One more thing, everytime I play big teams. I prefer denilson to pair song,
    1st, he’s got great pace
    2nd, he has a great passing ability. Especially playing away from home, he can be a great defensive asset, while waiting to pounce on the counter attack.Sorry if my observation would sound silly since it is from FIFA 11. But I guess it can also apply in the real life.

  15. Weenson says:

    Desi this is great. Many thanks for the analysis. Arsenal should really hire you!!!

    Enjoy your Christmas

    • desigunner says:

      Thanks but I’m sure Arsenal has enough people who can identify problem areas, the tougher job is to find the solutions that give the right balance 🙂

  16. Gunner says:

    I believe wenger shld have spotted the defensive problem.

    The key issue is, why is it not address to? it is not the 1st day we have this problem. So is this a problem 1) our defence Coach or do we have a defense coach, who failed to explain clear on our defense plans , or 2) our own failed to do their defensive duty.

    In either case, we need a new defense coach who can drill the idea of total defense into the whole team. or regional defense if wenger only plan to assign defense duty to back 4 with DM.

    For sure, we have good players in our current squard that buying players is not a cure to our problem. our problem is more a system faiure in defense. We wont win anything if we keep losing to sucker punchers.. it make us look like big time suckers..

  17. arsenalist says:

    excellent analysis…..i always defends clichy…i think that he is a very good defender….despite of schilachi..all our defenders are great….the problem for me is arshavin…..offensively i have nothing to say he is a great player…but defensively….he is useless….and all the teams who plays against us know it…thats why the most of goals we received are from the left ……and it happened many times this year….againsy normal teams its ok…but big teams like man u you are punished….add to that….clichy cant attack….means no crosses for chamakh..no offensive support….many times in the game….is chamakh who defends in the place of arshavin….watch the games again and you will see it clearely…especially the last 30 minutes….i think that song plus diaby will solve this problem…if AW maintains arshavin in the starting 11

    • santori says:

      Well if you really want to lock it up, (provided all our Cbacks are fit) i would try Kos with Song.
      that should shut shop.

      • katikiro says:

        Spot on! that is what I have been thinking all along. Pair Vermaelen with anybody and move Kosser to the DM, or in the absence of Vermaelen, get all the 3 CBs in the play and move one of them, Kosser a bit upfiled to pair Song. He’ll cover for Song when he makes his, I think sanctioned, headless runs.

      • Steve says:

        This would be a great option – especially in games against the big teams. He and Song would monster the long ball game as well and with Johann behind them we would own the air.

        On Mondays game – many have mentioned Nasri being “doubled” during the game. Unless he was being marked by Van der Sar we should have had somebody unmarked in the forward line – could we not have passed the ball to them?

      • desigunner says:

        We certainly need one more CB to develop some midfield skills. My personal preference is Vermaelen but at least one has to do it. But in that case we might have to buy one more CB because if we play 3 in games regularly injuries and fatigue will be higher.

        I guess that boils down to buying a DM who can play CB or buying a CB and converting one of the current ones into a more versatile player.

  18. colneyblog says:

    great analysis again Desi, the people at le moan and groan could use your expertise. All they do is look for scapegoats without actually paying attention to detail.

  19. GF60 says:

    Desi that’s a good analysis and as you point out, Clichy is often left alone. Could it be that AA is told to stay away from defending in our half? As a “giver awayer” of free kicks, AA’s worse than Scholes!

  20. KP says:

    One of your best analysis. Thank you a very important insight. Keep up the good work.

  21. Ajinkya says:

    Super analysis.
    Who is Arsenal’s defensive coach?

  22. Kushagra India says:

    Gr8 article it also shows that midfielders like Denilson are not good enough for this club as Wilshere is forced to play these big games,Song was also inept last nite and we missed Diaby

    • desigunner says:

      Well who would be better than Denilson and happy to play the role of sixth choice midfielder at Arsenal? As I’ve said earlier, if 18M gets Ramires what options do we have? Diaby was missed no doubt. He was in excellent form last season and would have been immense this year but we’ve come to expect this kind of bad luck, haven’t we 🙂

  23. The true gooner says:

    Excellent analysis Desi.How about some mugs at ACLF and unknown Arsenal,the shit blog,adopt your views for objectivity than bleating there is only one Wanker every time.

    • desigunner says:

      I’d certainly prefer the blogs you mentioned to those who moan and criticize all the time and start witch-hunts against our players.

      Who do you prefer – fans that are positive and try to support or those who go after players like they’re going after Clichy these days without real evidence?

  24. Giddy says:

    However has wengers address should pass this without fail. If arshavin can’t track the ball back then there is no need of fielding him whether he can score goals or not!
    Much blames have gone to Clichy tho the guy is not always week and is arguably one of the best left back in the world with his determination. If truth be told, there is no need for song to roam and two wenger need a new DM to partner song.
    On the other side of things, if Wenger can’t be able to train the defence part of the team, then let him higher appropriate personnel to deal with the same.
    arsenal supporters have run out of patience!

  25. ramcesc says:

    First time reading this Blog..

    Amazing Analysis. I wish someone in Arsenal does the same and corrects it.

  26. Dilip says:

    You are too good Desi.. Spot on mate!!!

  27. joe says:

    Agreed. If gooners have read the analysis above, then they should not be blaming Clichy. This is so because our MDs do not fall back and in most cases leave GC exposed.
    The coaching staff need to relook at the line of defence in its entirety

    • Ray in sf says:

      It’s not just exposed. Clichy actually disposessed Nani several times, but there was no (Arshavin) one to collect the loose ball and Nani, being closest, pickedit up and carried on.

      Hleb for whatever his faults were was very good at supporting his fullback.

  28. Cornelius Ombagi -kenyan die hard fan says:

    This very great analysis please instead of wasting our time discussing who should have done what. there are always such silly mistakes and lack of proper defensive commitments by our team this must be fixed urgently otherwise many funs will keep hanging themselves in kenya. our wenger must know potentials of each. OFF THE REMAING PAIR BOTH DEFENCE ATTACK AND MIDFIED NONE OF THE PLAYERS HAVE AN ANSWER Tactical and waiting patience of opportunity for errors. The players are not in the frame of ensuring that they defend and attach with all their skills and strength . THERE IS SOMETHING WRONG IN HOW DEFEND. IN ATTACKING YOU SEE ALL SENSE LESSLY ALL UPFRONT EXCEPT THE GOAL KEEPER WHY SHOULD CENTRAL DEFENDERS ATTACK WHY SHOULD THEY NO REASON AT LEAST THREE GOOD DEFENDERS MUST ALWAYS REMAIN BEHIND . WHENEVER THE LEFT AND RIGTH BACKS ARE ADVANCING DEEP FORWARD THERE IS NEED FOR THE REPLACED WEAK MIDFILDER OR STRIKER TO DROP BACK JUST AS THE DROGPA ,ROONEY,AND OTHER SMALL TEAMS STRIKERS DO IT WORKS AND THEY MAKE DIFFICULT FOR US . PLEASE TELL THOSE CONCERNED WE NEED MORE FOCUS FIRST THEN STYLE STYLE ONLY CAN NOT DELIVER THE SILVERWARE!!!!!!!!!!WORD HARDER YOU PLAYERS YOU ARE PAID TO DELIVER PERIOD.

  29. mike in africa says:

    arsenal vs barca! to be the best you gotta beat the best… time for the gunners to step-up! can’t wait!!

  30. drona says:

    Commendable job Desi. I assume that as per your blog’s title goes you are an Indian or of Indian origin. Forgive me if I am wrong. This sort of analysis by a person hailing from where cricket is a religion and football was a rare commodity until the late nineties needs to be appreciated.

    I would also like to see any statistics of opposing teams that launch their attacks on the Arsenal left. I have no doubt that it would be more on the left targeting Clichy and Arshavin.

    If this article could be tweeted to Wilshere he would surely have food for thought.

    • desigunner says:

      Thanks. I’m an Indian and didn’t follow football till after the turn of the century. But Arsenal and Wengerball made me fall in love with the game and I like getting into the details.

      Even I’m looking for those stats but haven’t seen them yet.

  31. usamaa says:

    this is my first time commenting. greeting from pakistan. this is a brilliant article.

  32. Olubenjy says:

    Though we seems to be blaming Wilshere for the lacklurster performance against Man u, our defenders are worst off . Imagine our defenders clearing or droping balls with a header, into our own eighteen most of the time.That defence cannot really face a tough attack. They collapse like pack of cards. This actuall explains why teams will just throw in balls from all angles ten minutes to the end of every game , into our eighteen knowing fully well the defence cannot stand the test of time.Goals always come in , few minutes to the end of every game. If we must deliver, we need strong defenders that can really stand tall when there is fire on the mountain.

  33. rohit says:

    great analysis desi…top top post….echoing my comments from previous post this analysis reinforces the need for a top box to box midfielder….anybody missing flamini?????

  34. rohit says:

    ooooh almost forgot….what do you think abt our chances against barca???

  35. Confidentgoner says:

    Desi,

    Please analyse how we can beat Barca with the current squad and another scenario if we get a Dm, A winger and a Defender in all top drawer.

  36. Confidentgoner says:

    Barca are very beatable, I think.

    You need to press them the way they press you, even harder. You need fast wingers and good strikers. I have seen teams give them trouble without throwing ten men behind the ball. AW has to bring in a DM, a winger and a striker. Let’s assume it happens then,

    ——Cheezeer———

    Eboue—-Verm—CB–Clichy
    —Song—– DM—-
    ——-Cesc?Nasri——–
    –Nasri/Winger—- VP/Theo— Theo

    Every team member has to play for their lives. No walking about the pitch. Theo especially should have more defensive nuance and should show his sprint.

    Arsh can play later in the 2nd half as I see his workrate over 90mins is suspect.

    Their scoring 4 goals was due to lack of pressing from the Arsenal and some lucky deflections from our defenders to Messi’s path. To take the ball from Messi, you need to to push it from behind him, without touching him. he tends to draw a foul if not handled well. Theo or any of the front three can be useful in that regard. Another danger is Xavi and Iniesta, with Xavi being the most dangerous. To nullify them, we need to track the runners that they will pass to, press them to pass sideways and dispossess them.

    With the current team I will go for at the Nou Camp

    ——Cheezeer———
    Eboue—-Verm—JD–Clichy
    —Song—– Kos—-
    ——-Cesc——–
    —Nasri—- VP— Theo

    And

    ——Cheezeer———

    Eboue—-Verm—CB–Clichy
    —Song—– Diaby—-
    ——-Cesc——–
    —Nasri—- VP— Theo

  37. rohit says:

    havard nordveit leaving arsenal for B.monchengladbach!!!!!!!big blow….that leaves us no cover for RB position(if eboue leaves in jan..i believe he is)….anyhoo another one bites the dust……

    • desigunner says:

      I’m not particularly worried by that as he didn’t look all that impressive. Hopefully we’ll get that Croatian kid.

  38. lordgunner says:

    for what i see this year we need a real DM as Song really start to look like PV4,a proprer box to box midfield rather than a simple DM.
    A lot of Diaby fan say he is similar to PV4 but Song is much more a look-like (game style) than Abou ,who is more offensif and not that great at defence.

    We could easily buy one selling Denilson (good player as he is ,he is not suited for the english game)and Diaby (too many injuries and too inconsistent for a great talent).

  39. […] Clichy has come under a lot of fire for his performance against Manu. As Desigunner proves it here and I agree that it was the lack of support on his flank that led to that side being exploited. […]

  40. […] Analysis Of Arsenal’s Real Defensive Weakness Against United I don’t think anyone will argue against the fact that Arsenal are defensively weak down their left flank. And as far […] […]

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