Arsenal supporters have been pretty downbeat in recent times after seeing their side suffer a sixth Premier League defeat of the season at the weekend.
Unai Emery’s men went into their meeting with defending champions Manchester City off the back of successive victories over Chelsea and Cardiff City, and thus full of confidence ahead of their trip to the Etihad Stadium on Sunday. Yet the Gunners were second-best in the North West as a Sergio Aguero hat-trick inspired the Citizens to a 3-1 win, thus inflicting a sixth league loss of the campaign on Emery’s side, at the same time instigating their fall to sixth place in the Premier League table.
Consequently, there have been many disappointed Arsenal fans up and down the country in recent times, several of whom are likely to be interested in recent comments from Sky Sports pundit Paul Merson, who has bemoaned the Gunners’ inability to defend, stating that they are ‘just not good enough’ at the back.
And given how effective they have been going forward this season, and indeed how well the likes of Matteo Guendouzi and Lucas Torreira have done in the middle of the park, Merson is right to highlight defensive strength as the key thing lacking at the North London giants.
Ultimately, defensive woes have been prevalent at Arsenal for many years now, with former manager Arsene Wenger simply unable to completely sort out those issues in the latter stages of his reign – they were often the highest conceders of those sides in the Premier League’s top six.
And 25 matches into this season, that fact still remains given the Gunners have shipped 36 goals in that time, which is one more than Manchester United, who have been heavily criticised for their shambolic defending at times this term, and a staggering 21 more than lowest conceders Liverpool – in fact, 14th place Crystal Palace and 15th place Newcastle United have shipped fewer goals than Arsenal.
Quite simply, if Emery is to take this Gunners team forward and back towards the summit of English football, they have to be better at the back, yet the current personnel don’t exactly inspire much confidence, to the point that they are still heavily reliant on Frenchman Laurent Koscielny, who has spent much of the last eight months out with injury, and will turn 34 later this year.
Shkodran Mustafi may well have made an encouraging start to life in North London upon arrival back in 2016, but it’s becoming clearer by the day that he simply isn’t good enough defensively in the Premier League, and while Sokratis impressed at times in the first half of the season, niggling injury problems have stunted his progress in recent times.
Add in a long-term injury to Rob Holding, and it’s pretty evident that Arsenal have serious issues at the back – big money needs spending if Emery is to sort that area out, an area that has been a problem for many a year now.
Yes, there are plenty of goals in this Arsenal team which will occasionally bail out those at the other end of the field, but if the Gunners are to challenge for major honours once again, they will have to tighten up – there’s no coincidence that the top four teams in the Premier League are the four fewest conceders this term.
And that is why Merson is absolutely spot on to highlight the backline as the key area lacking in sufficient quality and depth at the Emirates Stadium – it is going to continue holding Arsenal back hugely until they get it sorted.
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