Can Arsenal afford to play a high line all the time with these defenders?

Can Arsenal afford to play a high line defence all the time? by Eddie

Got a great win yesterday, and it was a nice game to watch but the defence stays dodgy. Chelsea lost at home, a great result for us which means we’re back on the same points. Somehow, I kept wishing Torreira got a yellow card after he came on, I was cussing at the TV and asking him to get a yellow, and just make it easy on Weds but it wasn’t meant to be.

My analysis and purpose of this article is about our defence. It’s known everywhere that we need to get world class defenders, but my observations have been on the high line we play. Studying our last 4 matches, we’ve played a high line defence and in all games we’ve conceded silly goals, especially from counter attacking positions. Emery’s tactics is the pressing game and playing the high line defence and though it’s working so well.

There’s a little bit of flaw in this strategy, we leave our keeper too exposed, and invite pressure on ourselves when we lose the ball. The game against Southampton, losing the ball up field, our defensive line was broken with just Kos running back trying to cover his position. We conceded 2 goals in that game while playing the high line defence, the last goal exposed it clearly, “get the ball from their attackers, try to lob it over their defenders and then we’re free to run with the ball to their net” must be some kind of instructions coaches use against us.

The Carabao cup against Spurs, both goals, playing high line defence, we got caught up and it’s a free highway for them. All Son had to do was step on the gas pedal after our defenders were caught up in the middle of the field. He stepped on it, was untouchable and scored a nice goal.

Goal no 2 also came from breaking our high line. All Kane had to so after getting the ball was to lob our defenders who once again were caught up in the middle of the park. Say bye bye to Dele Alli. We got punished and I was seriously hoping we would fix it.

Having Sokratis in the defence is a blessing, alongside Mustafi who we all miss now, Ironic isn’t it?? But today right out there, we could’ve conceded a number of goals again from playing the high line, so many times they broke through and wasted their chances. Sokratis had to take one for the team by getting a yellow card after once again it seemed our defence was getting caught up field.

Pressing game is so perfect when you learn to balance it and adjust to it in matches. The Manchester City’s back line is filled with players with enough pace to cover up if their line gets broken at the midfield. Breaking City’s and Liverpool’s high line defence needs luck, and Palace had all the luck today. One Penalty, one fantastic goal that came from a poorly headed ball by Bernardo Silva, and a lovely first goal which Ederson should’ve saved. My point is we need the proper and world class defenders if we’re to keep playing this high line from the back. Something needs to be done about it, Emery should find a way for the team to balance and adjust when playing.

If we don’t do so soon, we’ll pay for it dearly against good teams, we’ve conceded lots of goals after our high line got broken this season and definitely you don’t want to get caught high in the midfield against Liverpool on Saturday, the pace in that attack of theirs is insane. We need to find a balance and get rid of putting ourselves at risk all the time when we lose the ball up field. We need a temporary solution and we need it fast at least until we get a world class defender.

Eddie Hoyte


  1. Pat says:

    It think our defending tactics are bad, we get caught out most of the time, it put pressure on the goal keeper and it also gives other teams the belief that they can score goals against us. Am always very uncomfortable whenever our defence is under pressure because 70% of the time we usually concede. So I really don’t know if it is because of our defenders our the way we set the up. Emery need to address this in any case.

    1. Pat says:

      On a different matter, I think Sean Dyche should swallow his pride and realised that Arsenal matched his team’s aggression and the better team won on the day. His players dived, kept pulling our players to the floor, showed excessive aggression, and were still beaten. Referees all over the world don’t see every action on the pitch absolutely correctly even with VAR. I think the defeat most have gotten to him too much.

      1. The manager does not even have defenders and people blame him for bad tactics. Most of people who blame him would have failed in their first days in chage.
        He is trying his best with what he has got. Let s give him at least 2 windows to start criticising him.

        1. Phil says:

          Totally correct assessment.When Emery took over he inherited a defence that not Top4 quality.That was obvious to everyone and was why we finished outside the CL places for two seasons.With a very limited transfer fund available and CB’s Plus CDM to address what more could the Manager Do?Sokritis andLichstiener were brought in for the NOW not the future.They have shown that at least we are able to compete against the rough house tactics Dyche “Coached” into his players.Before this season we did not have this.
          Sokritis is a lot quicker than I thought but he is not lightening quick for the high line we play.But we are at least competing in our defending as a team although almost the whole back line will need to be replaced.Bellerin has improved under Emery and Kola has really found some form especially going forward.Monreal rarely lets us down but age is against him now and although he would be a fantastic player to have around the squad I can see him leaving this season.
          So although the manager has improved our defensive performances there is no doubt a major rebuild is needed over the next two transfer windows.And it is TOP QUALITY we need,not bargain basement.GOT THAT KRONKE.

      2. Sue says:

        Sour grapes! I didn’t hear him saying about how Barnes was lucky not to have been sent off!
        A few more dodgy decisions yesterday (not just in our game) look at Mike Dean sending Dunk off.. booked the wrong player for the first yellow!
        We need VAR!

      3. jon fox says:

        I saw it your way too Pat. Though I thought it mostly a shapeless and scrappy game, after all those “being bullied years” under Wenger, it is great to once again see us, all through this season, now an Arsenal side with guts, with will not to be bullied or beaten and once again prepared to fight , really fight hard, for our cause. I KNOW WE HAVE MANY TEAM AREAS STILL TO STRENGTHEN but the great difference this season from Wengers stale dog days, is that Emery has restored pride in the shirt. I now feel we are watching MEN, not easily bullied skinny teenagers, wearing our shirt. Much still do do but much has already been done, even though I thought the actual game yesterday a shapeless and gritty one, in the main.

  2. Grandad says:

    A very good article which echoes the real concerns of all realistic Arsenal fans.To be fair to Elneny he has had to contend with a rash of injuries to defenders and although all the players involved are not top quality, the continuous chopping and changing of systems and personelle is having a detrimental effect on our defence as a whole.Composure has gone and panic is setting in with virtually every high punt into our box.We simply do not have the quality defenders to risk a high line and until we do a more conservative attitude to defending is necessary.In my opinion it’s not coincidence that the team with the best back four in the league is currently in pole position.Alexander Arnold, Gomez, Van Duke and Robertson are the best collective back four in the Premier League.Oh to have them at Arsenal.

    1. jon fox says:

      How true!

  3. AndersS says:

    Good article.
    We have a problem with our CB’s, when Mustafi is injured as he is one of the quicker CB’s, who is able to play in a high back line.
    Holding is actually too slow for it. So it is true, we really need a new good and quick CB. Not easy to find.
    But the problem also lies in our attackers and midfielder, who are only gradually learning to press.

    They still give the other team way too much space and time to create a pass, long ball or even a cross so the quality of those passes, balls and crosses is better than it should be, which puts too much pressure on our defenders.

  4. Sue says:

    Sour grapes… Barnes was lucky to have stayed on… didn’t hear him mention that!
    Refereeing was a bit dodgy again yesterday… not just in our game. Look at Mike Dean.. sent Dunk off… booked the wrong player for the first yellow! VAR is needed…. until you see Mike Dean as the assistant referee ??

  5. Jah son says:

    @ Eddie
    I wouldn’t worry about the high line against Liverpool as they would push our entire team back naturally hence why they have big problems against us. I think we tend to defend better when we are cautious and show a little respect.

  6. ozziegunner says:

    There is no doubt that the injuries and the need to constantly chop and change defenders and positions impacts on combination and teamwork in defense. The worrying thing is the failure of many of the Arsenal players to clear the ball from the danger zone. Again against Burnley, the ball was allowed to bobble around within the penalty area with no one clearing it, resulting in their goal. This has not been an isolated incident in the last few seasons. What ever happened to the basic defensive ploy of hoofing the ball up field or “the side line is your friend”?

    1. jon fox says:

      Ozzie, Steve Boulds and Tony Adams best friend was Row Z. In small part their comfort with using Row Z made then the legends thay were. ALL PROPER DEFENDERS, above all else, must ALWAYS protect their goal from imminent threat, whatever it, legally, takes! Yours were wise words indeed!

      1. ozziegunner says:

        Further question, jon, why isn’t Steve Bould coaching these basics? Socrates certainly knows this and with him, I doubt Arsenal would have lost at Southampton.

  7. Tissiam says:

    a lesson to our so called fans,man city lost,Chelsea lost and you don,t see their fans slamming,going all out after their players,manager……this is a very long season and if you include suspensions,injuries…it doesn,t make things easier!!you don,t see them asking for the manager sacking,players being sold….we all know we have certsin problems like in defence but like the fans of other clubs show some patience,give the manager,staff..time to rectify things,buy & sell players,just food for thought!,even Liverpool were lucky a few times this year and will eventually lose!we are at the start of new era,over achieving what else do do you want??

    1. jon fox says:

      Tissiam,I cannot remember anyone, save the JAH SON person on other threads, EVER saying they wanted Emery sacked as you wrongly allege. Just to correct a false statement, unless you consider jah son to be “some people”, Which I suppose, technically, he is. Or to be precise “some person”!

  8. Jah son says:

    I am so confused with my arsenal as I don’t think Emery was signed to buy a team. I think he was signed to coach one and make a few changes here and there our owner is not a big spender. Now our defenders who are already not so good are falling, we need wingers the manager wants a new#10 from all indication with our owner this could take a long time

  9. Bur says:

    Who is the defence coach? Our defence is diabolical! Look at the farce yesterday. Sunday league defending, that’s an insult to Sunday league.

    1. jon fox says:

      Not to the Sunday team I played in 40 years (and more) ago! But I take your point, even though our injuries have been a massive factor. Just this moment I am watching the Villa v Leeds game onTV. Leeds have come from 2 -0 down to equalise in about five minutes and the Villa keeper, ball at his feet and being fast closed down by a LEEDS FORWARD, INSTEAD OF HOOFING IT UPFIELD , chose stupidly to try a chip to his own player and almost got caught by the forward. What happened to defend your goal first at all costs? How I miss proper defenders who can actually DEFEND , not just with us but almost everywhere, Liverpool being a rare exception. Row Z is your friend as a defender but try telling that truth to any defender today and they will think you are mad! How wrong they are!

  10. ken1945 says:

    Bur, I asked the same question a few posts back.
    What exactly is Stevie Bould contributing?
    One can see the changes Unai has made since his arrival: Sven has been busy in the transfer market by bringing in four defenders:
    But where has the defensive mentality changed?
    For two years plus we have been saying our defence is the weakest part of the club and who has been sitting on his back side during every game, not getting involved in any way and still seems oblivious to any kind of scrutiny?

    1. Phil says:

      Ken-we have all been asking for years what the hell has Boulder been doing other than sitting there chewing his gum.This is one of the very best Central Defenders EVER at our Club and he seems to have no impact at all.Im sure he was only retained for continuity for Emery while he settled himself into the Club and his days now seem to be over.Can you imagine George Graham putting up with the defensive performances we seem to produce every week?He would have drilled those players into a system that breeded confidence.Bould was part of this so it’s nothing new to him.
      Emery is no fool.He knows the problem will need addressing but he can’t do overnight and certainly not with players who will not likely be here in the next year ot two.We need to get Qualty CB’s into the team over the next two/three windows which is what he will do.I have great faith in this Manager.Emery took on this job knowing a complete rebuild was needed and he will need to work with the squad he inherited while slowly introducing his own buys.Surely this is where Bould should be assisting is it not?I see very little difference from the very same players that Bould worked with under Wenger.Individually you can see improvement but still there is little cohesive improvement.Bould will not be here too much longer I believe.Emery will introduce his own man to sort out the defence with his own players.Bould has lost any respect as far as I’m concerned.

      1. jon fox says:

        Who could possibly argue with a single word! Not me for sure!

        1. ozziegunner says:

          You all have my vote! Money for nothing.

    2. jon fox says:

      Ken, The whole Bould tenure as a coach here, has been a massive mystery. It is inconceivable that a legend as he was in defence, cannot know what to do . BUT our defence IS and has been for years a shambles. We are of course under extreme injury pressure right now which is a key factor, but I am talking the whole half season and for many years before too. Bould is not there for his pretty facial looks , his extrovert personality (a la Klopp) or his undoubted gum chewing ability. At least I must assume not! So what the hell is he there for, I and surely tens of thousands of Gooners ask ourselves! What does he actually DO? Any comments of yours offering possible reasons will be read with avid interest, Ken! Rhetorical question obviously, since you have already stated you too don’t know! I doubt he knows why himself!

      1. ken1945 says:

        I agree Bould was one of our best defenders, but that kind of defender (Adams, Keown etc) would not last with the way football is played today.
        I was watching spuds and couldn’t believe how easily players fall over.
        Tony must be laughing his head off at their antics.
        I think Sol would have settled in very nicely as Boulds replacement and it does seem strange that Unai didn’t clean sweep the AW backroom staff, especially as he had such a dossier on the players.
        I hope that Phil’s views regarding Bould are correct, but once again things are never what they seem at our club, so frustrating that simple organisation could help our average defence.

      2. Midkemma says:

        It was Bould who had the troubles with Song, training ground incident…
        From the reports I read it seemed as if Bould had grabbed Song by the scruff and told him to defend better… Wenger didn’t like the confrontation, Song was shipped out and Bould got castrated.

        I have defended Wenger a lot in transfers but I am not blind to his faults. I do believe his biggest flaw was his inability to deal with conflict. He never stood up for a bigger transfer budget, he never stood his ground on getting player X over player Y. In some ways it feels like he took that out with his coaching staff, if they didn’t conform then he would get someone who would.

        It would kinda explain Peyton keeping his job for so long when he was clearly an issue. Kinda explains why such a man(Bould) would become a shadow.

        Just personal opinion though 🙂

        1. ozziegunner says:

          Midkemma, I agree with you regarding Arsene Wenger’s treatment of Bould; however that doesn’t explain his apparent non influence on Arsenal’s defense under Unai Emery.

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