Sizing Up Arsenal’s Defence the Last Few Seasons
Since Arsène Wenger’s departure, Arsenal has failed to recapture the glory years and have looked more mid-table than invincible. If you watch the London club, it’s no secret that the quality of football has dropped and the results are lacking.
Unsurprisingly, the defence has been much poorer in recent years than when the club was a perennial Top 4 contender. And if you keep an eye on the Premier League table, no one would judge you for not thinking too much about the club’s current record.
Below, we look at some of the problem areas and bright spots, and what is potentially to come in the future.
Where Did It Go Wrong?
Near the end of Wenger’s tenure, the cracks were already starting to appear in Arsenal’s defence. In his last two years as manager, his side let in 44 and 51 goals, respectively, with the 51-goal tally being Arsenal’s worst defence in Wenger’s 22-year tenure.
Whether it’s poor transfer policy or tactics, Arsenal’s recent transfers in defence have largely failed to shore up the backline.
This is perhaps best seen in the £35 million purchase of Shkodran Mustafi. The German centre-half was much maligned by the Arsenal faithful during his time in London, and Arsenal terminated his contract in February 2021.
The next season, Arsenal brought in Sead Kolašinac, another overhyped defender who was loaned out to Schalke in 2021.
After Wenger’s departure, Arsenal has continued to disappoint in the defender transfer market, with the likes of Sokratis and David Luiz failing to solidify the defence.
Simply put, Arsenal does not have a strong, commanding leader at the back. Players like Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker have not been replaced since they declined and left the club.
While players like Calum Chambers and Rob Holding have tried their best, Arsenal does not have the strength in central defence to compete for Top 4 in the Premier League.
An addition like David Luiz added a big name to Arsenal’s defence, but his erratic and sometimes spectacular play is not the answer to a defence in need of consistency.
Arsenal has struggled at times going forward, but no one can deny the ability of players like Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in attack or the emerging Bukayo Saka on the wing.
For Arsenal to recapture its former glory, the club needs to be much shrewder in the transfer market. The majority of recent transfers have failed to deliver the goods, and if this area of the squad is not improved, the manager will live in constant fear of sacking, whoever they may be.
While the Arsenal faithful often give him stick, Héctor Bellerín has been the only constant across the last five seasons of Arsenal’s defence. He’s far from perfect, but he has shown over the past years that he’s a quality Premier League right-back.
When it looked like many of Arsenal players were phoning it in, Bellerín has always put in a great effort, showing he’s committed to the club.
And when he’s healthy, Kieran Tierney on the opposite flank of the defence has shown immense quality. If he stays healthy, he will continue to develop and solidify himself as a top fullback in the Premier League.
Bernd Leno in goal is the best player in Arsenal’s defence, and if he’s surrounded with more quality, especially in central defence, he could easily hit a hot streak and compete with the Premier League’s best keepers.
We are all clearly hoping that Gabriel, Holding and Pablo Mari can turn into a solid back line if they could all stay fit (which is still an issue at the moment), and maybe William Saliba will progress at Nice and come back as the finished product, but nothing is guaranteed just yet. While depth is an issue even if Arsenal brings in another solid central defender or two, the Arsenal defence is not far off the mark despite its recent woes.