Arsenal’s calamitous finish to the Premier League season has once again left their fanbase in a state of disbelief and also frustration, with the Gunners showing an all too familiar fragility at the back. For the umpteenth season in a row, Arsenal have been unable to deal with their seemingly never-ending defensive woes and not for the first time, it will cost them a top-four finish.
The feeling of groundhog day was as strong as ever around the Emirates after a 1-1 draw with Brighton, which put the final nail in Arsenal’s top-four coffin. Only a scattering of fans waited around to acknowledge the squad as they completed their lap of honour, but there was very little cause for celebration with attention already turning to next season and how the Gunners will eventually begin to address their long-standing problems.
Attacking wise, Arsenal are, on paper, the third best team in the league – their 70 goals this season has only be eclipsed by Manchester City and Liverpool. The problem is that Unai Emery’s men have let in a whopping 50 goals, which if the table was based purely on goals conceded, would leave them in a tie for ninth.
— Leicester City (@LCFC) April 29, 2019
In fact, it’s only Spurs’ superior goal difference that will keep Arsenal out of the top-four on the last day of the season should results go the Gunners’ way. It’s a painful way to surrender more ground to Spurs, but further agony could be on the horizon as Pochettino’s men are now at a mere 11/4 in Champions League betting to win Europe’s greatest club contest. Whoever thought they would see the day and one can only hope Liverpool are able to spare Arsenal’s blushes on June 1st.
Meanwhile, there has to be a concerted effort to get Arsenal right for next season so this eventuality never happens again, starting with the addressing the defence.
Whilst the problem of a leaky defence is hardly groundbreaking news for the Emirates faithful, it does prompt the question if the board aren’t going to go about fixing these problems by spending, is the only other option to change the style of play at the Emirates? That may even cause a greater outcry from the fans than letting in soft goals. However, if you were to take Newcastle for example, who are 14th in the table, they have let in fewer goals than the Gunners with (on paper) a worse backline.
As poor as Mustafi has been, he is generally considered to be a better defender than the likes of Fabian Schar or DeAndre Yedlin. It’s possible to let in fewer goals even with Arsenal’s current backline but with the onus on attacking football, keeping it tidy at the back is never going to be the priority but perhaps it really should be though, given the Gunners away woes this season hasn’t seen them keep a single clean sheet on the road.
Realistically, until the board sees fit to bring in world-class defenders, it will be a case of you can’t have your cake and eat it for Gunners fans. In any case, the only way that Newcastle have been able to concede fewer than Arsenal is because of Rafa Benitez’s dire football that often sees as many as ten players look to stop a team attacking in their own half. There is absolutely no way that would fly at the Emirates, but is there some sort of middle ground that could be found where the likes of Aubameyang and Lacazette, can still operate freely with a fortified defensive formation behind them?
— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) May 5, 2019
These are the question that will, with any luck, be answered over the coming months with the offseason fast approaching, but it will have to be one or the other in order to change the narrative at Arsenal. Whether that’s spending their way out of the problem which will afford Emery the chance to stick with a free-flowing football or if not, the Spaniard will have to adopt a more pragmatic approach that will see Arsenal become less adventurous but more resolute at the back.