Recent reports are linking Arsenal with a number of players to solve our defensive issues. Ashley Williams, valued at £8M, is the name that most frequently pops up, but Raúl Albiol has also been linked with the club – amongst others.
Ashley Williams has been enjoying a strong season for Swansea and, at 28, is hitting the peak of his career. Similarly Albiol – with 38 caps for Spain – is amongst some of the best defenders in Europe. Looking at these players and seeing the way our defence has looked in recent weeks, you would surely think that one of these players would solve our problems at the back.
However, a quick look at the players in our defence hardly suggests a personnel problem. Compare Williams with the Vermaelen of last season, in terms of the ability and attributes they bring to the squad there is not a huge difference. At 27, Vermaelen is hardly past it, yet he has struggled this season. Similarly, Mertesacker is a German defender who enjoyed a huge reputation before joining the club. With 86 caps for one of the best international teams in the world he is no fool, and shouldn’t be treated as such. My fear is that spending 8 or 10 million on a new defender will appease fans, but not change any of our issues.
An interesting feature prior to Gary Neville’s tactical analysis was the table showing the number of times each team has caught their opponents offside. Leading the table was Arsenal, catching our opposition offside 99 times – hardly suggestive of poor defensive aptitude whilst playing the high line. But then why, oh why, does our defence look so shaky?
Watching the goals we conceded against Tottenham and Bayern I have concluded that the issue lies within our midfield. We are leaving too big a gap between our defence and midfield. Watching the Bale goal, there was literally no pressure on Sigurdsson before he played the through ball. One of our midfielders – it is difficult to tell who from the footage - was a few paces too far to be able to impact the play. Furthermore Arteta loses his man – Bale. Suddenly, in a very quick play, our defence had little time to organise and came up lacking – but this was as a direct result of midfield errors. If situations like these keep repeating themselves any defence will eventually come lacking. Our first and final goals conceded against Bayern were also attributable to midfield errors. For the first goal Ramsey is unfortunate but, in an attempt to protect Vermaelen, finds himself in a no-man’s land – leaving Kroos unmarked. For the final goal, Arteta is slow to enter into the defensive phase, and as a result Vermaelen – who is forced to try to protect the goal from Robben - allows Lahm to overlap him – allowing the cross which lead to the goal.
Now I am hardly trying to claim that we have a picture perfect defence. The second goal against Tottenham was clearly created by a defensive issue between Monreal and Vermaelen. I simply cannot see a need to sign another CB – in my opinion we either need to change the style in which our midfield play, or sign a player who is more positionally reliable as a CDM than Arteta or Ramsey.
That’s all for today,
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