Have Arsenal really sorted out our defensive problems for the future?

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. 

Weak Spots

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.

Building Blocks

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.

9 Comments

  1. Grandad says:

    Next season I hope Saliba will return to provide real competition for Holding, Gabriel and Mari as our senior centre backs.I hope Luis is not granted an extension to his contract and that Mavroponas is finally given an opportunity to show what he can do.It remains to be seen if these young guys can rid Arsenal of the image of being a soft touch, but certainly in physical terms, they have the credentials.Saliba and Gabriel are fairly quick whilst Holding and Mari are not, but as a pool of four, I think Arteta will be reasonably satisfied with that group to kick off next season.

    1. Raheem says:

      You spoke my mind. Free luiz and chambers to give saliba and mavropanous chance. We will be getting better with them not worse.
      Too many back passes will also be managed.
      Give academy defenders chance on loan as well so that they will be ready in the next 3 to 4 years.

  2. jon fox says:

    Reasonable article BUT with a glaring mistake about Bellerin being a quality right back.

    No he is NOT! He is a clear and long lasting weak link who we need gone, asap!

    1. A J says:

      Totally agree.

  3. Son says:

    I’ll take cedric over bellerin any day
    The defense looks promising with the young signings that have come in these past three windows
    we need a backup leftback and rightback
    and a better holding midfielder to xhaka

  4. Khadii says:

    The earlier we realize that bellerin is a serious liability in our defense, the better.
    Watching him all these years up until yesterday and seing his level of inconsistency in both defense and attack is alarming.
    Can’t pass, can’t run, can’t cross, can’t defend consistently for someone as experienced as he is.
    We need a more dynamic RB to be honest. I’d take Cedric all day long ahead of Bellerin. More promising ones like Matty Cash, Lamptey, Max Aarons, Kyle Walker Peters are available

  5. Brad says:

    Our defence is clearly not good enough.
    We ride our luck through most games.
    Bellerin isn’t good enough.
    Tierney I fear will be another sicknote.
    C/Backs need sorting.
    We haven’t a clue what Saliba will be like.
    Gabriel I still have my doubts about.
    Holding is clearly not good enough.
    For how poor Luiz can be the sad thing is he’s probably our best C/Back.

  6. Raheem says:

    The defence is getting better with responsibility by other players unlike 2-3 years back. Team is getting younger and more promising. MA needs to emulate Leeds team if we want to compete at higher level. Many players keep dragging the foot when we ought to be at the fore front. Some players will make you themselves available for pass upfront but the midfielders will keep passing back or when the forward has relaxed. Too many passes backward. Leeds utd players always go forward and attack. We need to play more at the opponent half/box instead of our own half when not under pressure. 7 offsides withing how many minutes?….ask the passers. We now have the players, they just need to be consistent.
    I have believe 100% that despite all the release, we are having better squad.

    1. Nyasing'a says:

      It’s true from your point of observation,
      Back passes from m/field creating a lot of pressure in defense and offense. Manager to be very careful about.
      Manager to introduce young guy from academy to m/ field to solve back passes. Miguel Azeez. Passer, skills.

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