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By DJ Dragonfly
I am a great believer in that success within a team must start from the back, which includes having a solid backline in play, which are capable of providing the team with clean sheets.
Would you say at present that our current backline is capable of keeping clean sheets, when we are one to two goals up in games? I would have to say no and I must say I am very worried about this.
As I write after our efficient 4-1 win away to Wolves, Chelski have achieved seven clean sheets in twelve Premiership games, which is a very impressive record to have at this stage of the season. However if you compare their record to ours, we have kept three clean sheets in eleven Premiership games (These were achieved against Wigan and Spurs at home and Fulham away).
I can understand why many Arsenal supporters are not too worried about our inability to keep a clean sheet at present, due to the team recording an impressive 36 goals in the Premiership (which works out to an average of 3.27 goals per game), however there will come a time where the goals will dry up and we will have to have to rely on our defensive capabilities to ensure that we keep a clean sheet.
Some of the goals we have conceded so far could easily have been avoided in my opinion (the goals conceded against Everton, Portsmouth, Birmingham, Blackburn’s first goal and against Wolves instantly spring to mind).
Wenger and the backroom staff have clearly improved the defensive elements of our play during the close season and this was very evident in the early stages of the season, however I feel since the beginning of October, our defensive work off the ball has declined in the latter stages of games, which has led to late consolation goals being conceded.
I remember watching a game at Highbury during the 2000/01 campaign, where we beat Leicester 6-1 and seeing Captain Fantastic (Tony Adams) rollicking his defenders when we conceded a goal when we were three goals up. I haven’t seen anyone from our backline display this when we have conceded goals so far in this campaign. It’s as if they are not too concerned, since the team is already three to four goals up and for me, this is the wrong attitude to have.
The team should be busting a gut to ensure that they don't concede a goal in games. At present, we are striking fear into the opposition with our ability to score a high percentage of goals across a variety of players within our team, however imagine if the opposition knew that once we went a goal up, the likelihood of them scoring against us was very low, due to the team having acquired a number of clean sheets behind them? We would be able to gain an additional psychological advantage over our rivals.
Do you think I am overreacting in regards to the team’s inability to gain clean sheets or do you feel this is cause for concern? I look forward to reading your feedbacks in the comments section.
Mean Lean's Response
You raise a good point DJ Dragonfly, it has been something that we haven't been able to shake off since the start of the season. It is a strange one because we have looked pretty solid on the whole this season. We haven't really had spells where we have had continuous chances against us or our back four have been a mess for any long period, it just seems like the players lose a bit of focus and it costs us.
Looking across our team from a defensive perspective and I am pretty happy with what I see, at least in our first team. Vermaelen and Gallas have been fantastic in central defence, they have hit the ground running as a partnership and they have been the springboard for our good start so far. Bacary Sagna is one of the best defensive right backs in the Premier League. Gael Clichy has been up and down so defensively he can still improve but Song and Diaby ahead of them are doing a very good job so I do not see this as a major problem.
We have also missed Denilson's defensive capabilities from midfield for a good few weeks. His ability to intercept passes or make important blocks may have impacted on some of our games but that is something we will never know but he is back after the break so lets see if the team finds some more balance with his talents in the squad.
In some of our games we have conceded late goals because we have still been pushing forward looking to get more goals, At 4-0 up I would rather we risked attacking than keeping 4-0 at 2-0 it is a different story. I have only been truly concerned twice this season. Once against Manchester City when we were left horribly exposed trying to win the game after coming back to equalise and once against AZ Alkmaar when we dominated the game then dropped off defensively.
I would imagine that when we start playing the big teams, the ones who can punish us, then our team as a whole will be more defensive, they will take less risks and hopefully avoid the lapses of concentration.
We certainly are not as good at the back as we are going forward but I think that is part of the problem. We play an attacking formation with attacking players so we are bound to concede more goals.
At the moment I find it frustrating but not a major problem as yet. The more we play the more understanding we will have defensively. We have some big tests coming up so we will judge the team then.
One question I would like to know is what do readers think the problem is. Is it a player, is it our formation or something else.
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