Why Arsenal’s defensive frailties must be addressed this summer

Arsenal is coming off the back of yet another disappointing season following their failure to reach the top four and flopping in the Europa League final. For a club the size of the Gunners, this performance is really not acceptable, and most of the fans will agree that some big changes are needed. The problem is that the club has backed itself into a corner with regards to wages, transfer funds and players leaving on a free.

The fact that a player of Aaron Ramsey’s gravitas has been allowed to walk away without a fee is unacceptable in itself, and there is still an argument about whether he should be permitted to leave at all. The contract that Mesut Ozil signed in January 2018 has the German earning a reported £350,000 per week, and yet his performances rarely merit that kind of money. This is just one deal that has stung the Gunners in recent years, but they also need a lot more from the current squad if they are to improve next season.

Defensive unit needs to be re-evaluated

The Arsenal defence has become a bit of a joke over the last couple of seasons. Despite adding the experienced Stephan Lichtsteiner and Greek centre back Sokratis, Emery’s side still shipped 51 goals in the Premier League last season. To put this into context: that is more than Leicester, Wolves and Newcastle – all of whom finished below the Gunners in the table.

This season has to see improvements in this area if no other. The worst defensive record of the sides finishing in the top-four were Tottenham and Chelsea (both 39 conceded), which is a big jump ahead of Arsenal – but at least there is some consolation that Manchester United was even worse at the back, shipping 54 times.

Whether Arsenal can sign players on a tight budget is the tough question that has to be answered by Unai Emery and his scouting team. The Gunners do not want to drift further away from the top-four sides in England, or their odds of finishing in the Champions League places, currently, 11/10 in the Premier League betting markets, will only get longer.

That attacking xG tells us a lot

Going forward, there is a perception that Arsenal is in pretty good shape. That can certainly be argued, but the xG data provided by InStat Football tells a slightly different story.

The outstanding Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang was bang on his xG, which stands at 22, by netting exactly that number in the top flight. Yet, the next best xG of any Gunner was the 12 registered by Alexandre Lacazette, who did slightly better, netting 13. In the meanwhile, Henrikh Mkhitaryan hit a derisory six goals from an equally disappointing xG of 5.3.

What does this tell us? Simply put, Arsenal is too reliant on Aubameyang and, even though they hit 73 goals last season, they will need to improve across the board in order to make up for the inefficiencies at the back. It is a huge summer for Unai Emery and one that he must get right starting with the defence.


  1. gotanidea says:

    No defenders can survive without the attackers’ pressing on their opponents

    Aubameyang’s and Lacazette’s goal tally just masked the ineffectiveness of Ozil’s and their pressing. Had they not missed so many sitters and had Ozil performed more effective in the front, Arsenal would have sit in a better position

    Emery is also responsible because he should have been able to create a better system that is more suited to the players’ abilities. I think the usual suspects such as Mustafi and Xhaka would stay, but Arsenal would change the old defenders with the likes of Holding and Mavropanos

    1. ThirdManJW says:

      I disagree with what you’re saying about Emery, because he tried so many different systems throughout the season, and what he found was that he didn’t have the players for ANY system!

      He had zero wingers to work with. He had to accommodate two strikers, which left us off balance most times, as almost no managers play with two upfront anymore. He had to start using the disgrace Ozil more as the injuries mounted up. He couldn’t use Kolasinac in a back 4. He had no RB for half a season. Etc…

      The Ramsey injury at the end finally killed us off as well. I actually feel sorry for Emery!

      1. ozziegunner says:

        Verry sound analysis,ThirdManJW. The bulk of this squad have now failed under two well credentialled respected manager/coaches over the past three seasons.
        People need to remember that Emery is only paid to coach the players that others bring in. A coach can only pick a team so many ways when you don’t have the “cattle”.

      2. MartinM says:

        It’s not true Emery had no winger. He chose to loan out the excellent Reiss Nelson. Also he could have used Sead Kolasinac as an emergency winger (with a back 4). And as for “the disgrace Ozil”, had he managed Ozil so as to get the best from him (rather than treating him with disdain) last season might have turned out very differently. Sadly we need a new manager (albeit also and more importantly a new owner).

  2. kev says:

    Aubameyang is the main CF for us so its likely he would have those numbers in a club that lacks wingers who score many goals.Lots of chances were created for him last season and I don’t think overall many can argue our strikers didnt have service else noone would even complain in the first place of our strikers missing numerous chances.Lacazette was the one who usually dropped deeper and got more involved meaning the space was occupied by Auba hence more chances created for Auba and thus more goals for him.If Laca had the same role he’d score more goals than Auba.
    Arsenal have a big decision to make this season because offering both long term contracts only to play one at the wing will be a terrible decision.I still stand by my word that we shouldnt have signed Aubameyang but rather used the money on a winger or other positions

    1. gotanidea says:

      Are there other wingers linked with us currently, kev?

      Apart from the likes of Carrasco and Fraser

      1. kev says:

        Claude-Maurice,Pepe(main target),Zaha,Trossard,Bergwijn and others

  3. GunneRay says:

    I still maintain we need a stronger more organised midfield!

    We used to have one of the best defensive records when we had our best midfield with Viera and Petit. Both of them were fighters, tall and athletic. Gritty also!

    IOn front of them we had the best N0. 10 in the world (Bergkamp) and Overmars on the flanks.

    It all made our defence more difficult to penetrate. Unfortunately, our attack can be so topsy-turvy that our midfield buckles under pressure and our defence gets lost in the turmoil!

    So many so called “easier” teams have beaten us because we just don’t have A: Leaders B: The right mentality and C: The right balance of quality.

    Our defence is ageing or just simply not tuned. The whole team is like a patchwork quilt! There is no cohesion which tends to drain the confidence and moral when it all goes wrong. This team is frail and it will take more than one or two signings to sort the defence out!

    1. jon fox says:

      Fine history lesson and accurate current synopsis. But you are hardly saying anything not one of us already knows full well.

      1. Declan says:

        Hello Jon not seen you on here for a few days and was getting a little worried.
        Even though we have some quite different views sometimes and are a similar age, I worry sometimes about the old uns and hope you’re well ?

        1. jon fox says:

          Fine thanks Declan and thanks for asking. I am extremely fit and lean for my age and very active and will be gutted not to still be active at ninety. But all any of us can do is give fate every chance of being on our side health wise. I have decided though to be on here a bit less often til the new season starts, as summer is mostly just rumours and lack of actual play. I wish we oldies could have a Gooner site just for us, even though I don’t like exclusions in any form. The old hypocrisy, in fact, that all normal functioning humans share. I have often written and said that a degree of hypocrisy is common, natural and though inconsistent, is also part of what makes us interesting and vital. I am at least as bad and probably far more guilty than the average person of being hypocritical but am not afraid of it. It still doesn’t stop me criticising some others for merely doing what I do myself. This is terrible in one way but as I say, also natural. Only a question of degree and how often it occurs, I suppose. THE WHOLE BREXIT FARCE AND POLARISATION OF PEOPLE, IN BRITAIN ESPECIALLY, SHOULD TEACH US ALL TO BE MORE KIND , MORE TOLERANT. Perhaps some of your own evident niceness will one day reach me. I live in hope!

          1. Declan says:

            Good to hear all is well with you Jon and like yourself, I need to be on here less myself, for various reasons.

      2. Kenny Rolfe says:

        Jon, why do you put GunneRay’s quote down. We all say things on this site the other’s already know, including yourself and me also.He’s just making a fair and decent observation of what;’s going on at our club and even your goodself called it “an accurate current synopsis”.

        1. jon fox says:

          Kenny , I stand, correctly, told off and plead guilty! If you read my reply above this to Declan, it may help explain things a bit.

          1. Kenny Rolfe says:

            Fair enough Jon, Always a gentleman, exactly what I expected. Please to hear you’re feeling well healthwise like myself, sure it’s something to do with all the running around over the bombed ruins we done when we were kids and the active lives we led, playing football from 8 o’clock in the morning till dark, no computers or play stations thank goodness and most important, healthy food.

      3. GunneRay says:

        Well, my dear Jon..

        My point is, there is more than just the “Defensive unit that needs to be re-evaluated” It’s the whole team, coaching staff and tactics!

        It’s a mish-mash!!

  4. Mogunna says:

    WE need to get Umtiti and that youngtar from St Etienne and we will be solid. Attacking & box go box midfield will improve team we have. I pointed a Seville midfield but now on Paris, Barça, Real radar available for 30millions. The way other teams will be strenghten, we can forget Top5.

  5. Sean Williams says:

    Liverpool and Man City have strong and tall main CB’s. Our main CBs are relatively short. It might help to get taller players like Van Dijk and Laporte rather than our midgets. At least Mavropanos has some height. He could be the the main man in a year or two.

  6. Mobella says:

    We don’t need to get defenders in to solve our defensive problems first. The first to do is for the coach have a clear plan how he want to play defensively and get the players he needs. Our defenders may not be capable enough but the problems lie with our defensive play, ,tactics and formations. The coach has to spell out who does what and not keep chop and change the players. Not 4 defenders today and two tomorrow. Not going with 7 defensive players without actually defending. And if he wants his team to play from the back, they should do it with purposeful attacking intent and not the defenders passing it among themselves until they get isolated and cut out by the opponent. Finally, no more defending in isolation, we should defend as a unit and attack in opposite.

  7. Bur says:

    the defensive frailties have been in abundance for the last 10 seasons and nothing has been done. More of the same?

  8. Martin says:

    Our defenders are not good enough. However, our defensive frailties is not limited to them. Our midfield is also poor and we have no wingers. Wingers help to keep opposition fullbacks occupy which reduces the attacking number of the opposing team. Our midfielders are not good at holding onto the ball, losing it under the slightest pressure. Aside Torriera and maybe Ramsey they are also poor at closing down opponents and chasing lose balls. When you have these set of people ahead of you as a defender you will suffer. And when you are not also good, you add to the problem.
    We really need to fix our midfield,the sideways passes is too much. Get good wingers, an average winger would have really helped this team at least Iwobi’s headless running was an evident. I was surprise we let J. Campbell leave without even buying a winger. Lastly we have to decide between Auba and Laca, I will go for Laca. The only reason Auba outscored him was because he gave himself more for the team. I was not surprised to see Laca rank 1st in the league for players whose goals won the highest 3 points.

  9. leo10nisson says:

    its not supposed to be a topic that we have to address our defensive frailties… what a disgrace of a backline

  10. ForeverGooner says:

    Our defence hasn’t been sorted for years. Probably since the Invincibles

    For over a decade La Prefessor didn’t attempt to get a Quality Defensive midfielder. We could have beaten Leicester to the Title if he had just got a a DM and a striker. Just 2 signings

    In fact didn’t Wenger say attacking is in our DNA or something like that.

    Now that we have a Manager who appreciates defence more and an acceptable DM we are weaker in CB positions. A reason why we shouldn’t play 3 at the back. We should go back to 4 at the back

    Actually to be honest, I’m not keen on Bellerin as a Defender. Ideally we should get a RB who is better at defending but that is NOT a priority. Bellerin should be out until November (I think), so we need a backup

    I’m fine with LB

    I think we should get two quality, reliable CBs if we have the money.
    Minimum 1.

    Start by selling Mustafi and Jenkinson. Also Chambers if we can get at least £16 million. I rate Holding higher than Chambers anyway

    Just my humble opinion

    1. kev says:

      Coquelin was a a brilliant DM that season and is still today a good player judged by Arsenal fans based on one season(16/17) as not being good enough.If Torreira was in that team we still wouldnt have won it because we had no issue with DM that season.Did you watch how he dominated Barcelona in the cup final as he’s done to every single top club in the EPL?People don’t give him respect but there’s at least there’s one match which proves him dominating City,Chelsea,United,Liverpool and Spurs.I rate him as a superior defender to Torreira but Torreira is better with the ball.

  11. Mrcool says:

    Elneny,mustafi,miki,koshienly,xaka,jekinsen and ozil should be sold to pave way for younger and better players.

    1. Reyes says:

      Whose gonna buy those crap..would u?

  12. ken1945 says:

    We actually beat Leicester hme and away, so we did our bit against them…AND…what you are ignoring is the fact that we finished 2nd.
    How can that possibly be achieved without any regard to defensive duties?
    Where were the likes of pool, city, utd and spuds during that season…with the first three nammed having unlimited spending power?

    Interesting that you say we needed just two signings though, even though the rest have been described as dross, overpaid and lazy!!!
    How do you explain the fact that we needed just two more points from the five games we lost in the run in,to finish in third position this season?
    Will that be forever rolled out as a UE failure, or do you still see him as a manager who appreciates defences?

    It is also forgotten that the likes of Song, Flamini and Coquelin (all on a par with Torreiria) were part of our squad during the ten years so glibly passed over, you know, the ones where we actually finished in the top four and had CL football with a manager who, according to you, never had a defence?

    The likes of Vieria and Petit don’t just grow on trees and, like Henry and Bergkamp, we expected AW to just go out and find their replacements at the drop of a hat.

    Mobella is so correct in saying that our defenders need to have a clear understanding of what is required from UE and for him to stick to the formula instead of changing every single game.
    Stick not only to the tactics and formations, but also by choosing players on a consistent and warranted basis, something else that AW was said to have done.

    If only that had happened, we would be looking forward to CL foootball next season and that woould have had NOTHING WHATSOEVER to do with AW then would it?

    1. ozziegunner says:

      ken, it is a bit hard to stick to a formula when you have the injuries to defenders that Emery had. Good defense is very much about teamwork and understanding. Just remember Arsenal were so short of defenders at one stage that Xhaka played in the back four. Bellerin, Koscielny, Holding, Monreal and Mavropanos spent a large proportion of the season injured.

  13. Grandad says:

    For the past decade or thereby our defensive frailties have been addressed but not successfully because the players brought in have simply not been good enough.Our Management team/s have made errors of judgement which would not be tolerated in the business world but for some reason it took the Arsenal Board some considerable time to “see the light” and eventually they dispensed with the services of Gazidis and Wenger.The dilemma facing the current Management team is two pronged.Firstly how do we unload mediocre players some of whom cost a lot and are earning a fortune,and secondly who can we bring in to replace them within the confines of a very modest budget.Addressing these major problems is one thing, solving them is the real difficulty.The problems are I’m afraid deep footed and it will take 2/3 seasons in my view before we can realistically expect to regain our top four position, particularly when the likes of Wolves and Leicester are so superior to us in defence.

    1. ozziegunner says:


  14. patH says:

    Some of the post about getting rid of this player or that amazes me.If it were only that simple we would only have a very small squad.All the players have binding contracts with the club and such is player power these days should a player not want to go he has every right to refuse. If the club offers a player for sale and another club makes an offer, and the player agrees all is good. However, as in the case with Elneny last season he refused to move. Its easy to say sell him and him but although money plays a big part in these thing it should also be considered that footballers are also human beings,they have wives and children to consider,cultural differences and how well they will intergrate also plays a part in whether a player joins or moves to a club. Players these are well advised on how to look their interest and will not moveon because some think theshould

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