It is not every weekend that the two North London clubs in the Premier League concede 13 goals between them but that the was the case last Sunday. There are a number of contributing factors for their obvious problems at the back but I don’t think it was necessarily just their defence that contributed to the stuffings that were handed out by both of the Manchester teams.
At Old Trafford, Arsenal were without first-choice players Thomas Vermaelen and Bacary Sagna plus a number of defensive midfielders. Young Carl Jenkinson played at right-back with Djourou in the centre and another youngster Francis Coquelin made his debut in the midfield.
Wenger tried to play a high defensive line that would catch the Man United strikers offside but with no form of pressure from the midfield the on-form United forwards found too much space and could exploit the offside trap.
I think Arsenal lacked cohesiveness without the ball, Coquelin, thrown into the deep end on his debut, played in quite a deep role so he could pick up Rooney, something he was doing successful until Wenger removed him in the second half. Wenger wanted to chase the game with the score at 3-1 but it was a decision he may have come to regret as it left the Arsnal defence completely open and led to sending off of Jenkinson.
Throughout the game Arsenal had no pressure on the ball in the Manchester United midfield despite the decent job that debutante Coquelin did sitting in the hole between the defenders. Both Ramsey and Rosicky had the jobs of closing down Anderson and Cleverley but failed to achieve this giving the two young United midfielders far too much too time on the ball.
The secondary problem for Arsenal was with the suicidal high defensive line that Wenger tried to implement when there was no pressure on the ball. This combined with a back four who looked unable to work as a unit just left the Gunners defence completely exposed for United players to take advantage and score past the helpless Szczesny.
The best example of this was the Nani goal when a through-ball left the Portuguese winger onside with an easy chance. Other times the young Arsenal back-line would leave a fellow teammate exposed behind the rest of the defence and force them into taking drastic action, this is how young Jenkinson picked up both of his yellow cards.
For Tottenham it was a case of trying to get their isolated wingers into the game and far too often they were forced to come inside in the progress decreasing the space they have. With no holding player in the side and instead the creative paring of Modric and Kranjcar in the middle of the pitch, left Manchester City ample room between them and the Spurs back four. This gave Nasri and Silva time to exploit the space left by the lack of a defensive minded midfielder and this lead to three of the City goals.
How do Tottenham shape up defensively? A combination of Dawson, Kaboul, Gallas and, when fit, King provide competition for the centre back positions with the ever-improving Benoit Assou-Ekotto at left back. Kyle Walker is also back at the club after his successful loan spell at Aston Villa last year, where he showed his quality and got priceless Premiership experience. It is a strong looking defence and I think it more the formation that Harry played that resulted in his side conceding the five goals.
After the weekend thrashings both Spurs and Arsenal were keen to add defenders in the transfer window. Arsenal succeeded in adding Brazilian left back Andre Santos and experienced German international Per Mertesacker to solidify their somewhat leaky defence.
I think a partnership of Vermaelen and Mertesacker will certainly be an improvement for Arsenal after Sunday’s events. But their rivals Tottenham didn’t manage to get target Cahill and I think they may come regret this. Hopefully both managers will realise their mistakes and change things in two weeks time.