Arsenal now have a defence as good as George Graham’s and know how to use the dark arts

It might be strange after scoring 3 goals to focus an article so much on our defence but make no mistake; if we win our first title in two decades, that will be the department that will be the difference.

For 20 years we have been burnt by Arsenal not having the mentality to get over the line and make that next step. With one of the youngest squads in the division we compete with a Man City side with years of experience, of not just dealing with must win conditions every few days, but embracing them.

Liverpool also have a spine of players used to lifting trophies.

The Gunners don’t have that. What we do have, perhaps our one advantage, is a back 5 who are starting to believe in every game that they will not concede. Who would have thought we would ever say that about Arsenal?

Even at the height of Arsene Wenger’s success we would always give the opposition a chance.

A generation grew up not trusting Arsenal to close out a narrow victory.

A fanbase taught that we were not reliable enough to keep clean sheets.

Gooners educated that our philosophy being that attack was our best form of defence.

Supporters conditioned that grinding out a narrow victory was un-Arsenal like.

Yet Saturday’s shut out was our 4th in consecutive games. Away from home in the League it’s now 5 matches since we last conceded.

That’s why at 1-0 at the Amex I now have faith in our game management.

Previous versions lacked the maturity to do what’s required to get over the line.

There are now periods in games where the whole team is prepared to soak up pressure, with forward talent like Odegaard and Havertz tirelessly pressing and not shy in tracking back.

Mikel Arteta has now created an environment where his players are happy to take periods in matches to take a breath, an acceptance that spells exist where opponents will have the ball. In these moments we now have the confidence to invite our foes to try and break down our 11 men behind the ball.

Saliba and Gabriel are like magnets to the ball, getting their heads to everything, centre backs who love to defend, celebrating a tackle like they have just scored. At a time where there is an obsession with how good your defenders are on the ball, it’s refreshing to have defenders who are passionate about the concept of defending.

Both are playing like a prime John Terry. Organised by a manger like a peak Jose Mourinho or Rafa Benitez.

Because let me stress it’s an art form what we are doing at the moment. It might not be as sexy as attacking football (not that that doesn’t exist). It’s a skill set to time when to step up, to time every block, to maintain the focus to not get your footwork wrong.

While some might not condone players timing when to lay down, faking a head injury to slow the game down, it’s these dark arts that can help you make that next step.

You have to go back to the George Graham era where our defence were this reliable.

Not quite ‘1-0 to the Arsenal’ but huge for our mindset to approach each game with the knowledge that we are hard to score against.

I wouldn’t dare label us as ‘Boring Boring Arsenal’ but if this is to be our 4th Premiership, none will be more thanks to our defence.

Dan Smith

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Tags Arsenal defence


  1. You couldn’t ask for a better centre back pairing – both are fast, strong and highly confident, both read the game well, both are comfortable with the ball, one is more aggressive, the other more standoffish, Gabriel in particular is a leader at the back and both can score the odd goal.
    Even better, saliba’s still very young, and Gabriel is only 26. We just need to keep them and we’ll be sorted for a number of years to come.

  2. I loved the win on Saturday but I loved the way we scrapped together to keep a clean sheet
    Watching KH chase back 50 yards to stop Brighton gave me the same pleasure as seeing him put the ball in the back of the net.
    Watching every one celebrate with Gabriel when he blocked the shot
    We looked and felt like the real deal
    7 to go and still a few more twists but it’s feeling good sitting top
    Onwards and upwards

  3. Balanced football made simple, it can be demanding hence draining so i’d suggest all the efforts go into our league title cause for the remainder of the season, while we mount a proper CL challenge next season. Meanwhile, let’s enjoy our game tomorrow in an all Arsenal fan packed stadium. COYG!!!

  4. Great article Dan. Our defenders rightly and deservedly get the plaudits for our solid defence but I am impressed with the defensive contributions of our attackers as well. It’s a team effort. I’ve noticed Odegaard is making more of those tactical fouls to stop counter attacks in the middle of the park.This is a dark art City have been using for years.The relentless pressing from him and Havertz is just impressive. Saka,Trossard and Martinelli tracking back to assist their fullbacks as well. Have to mention Jesus too. He can be frustrating in the final third but you can’t deny his defensive contributions. The number of times he wins the ball back in defense is just incredible. It was nice seeing Havertz sprint back to do the same yesterday. These are things most star forwards in the big teams don’t do. We are fortunate to have forwards who don’t shy away from doing the dirty work.

  5. We had better attackers in ground, obameyang, Sanchez, lacazette, and wonderful midfielders like Ozil, fabrigas, wilshere, Carzola, rosicky, yet Wenger refused to invest in quality defenders making us to come short of important titles every season. Imagine mustafi, mertasaker, Silvester, Gabriel. Thanks God for Arteta.’s process

  6. Unless the spine of a team is strong , the prospects of winning the Premier League is decidedly remote.We are, at long last, able to boast a strong spine which just could win us the title.One game at a time is the mantra to follow and while Villa will be competitive, they seem to have hit a bad patch and they will be without Douglas Louis who is suspended.The Bayern match will represent a slightly different challenge as they are highly experienced in the Champions League competition ,and like Real Madrid, they seem to find ways to get over the line, even when they are below par.

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