Pre-season is an interesting time to be a fan… it’s a time where you’re told not to read into any of the results, and you’re told that “it’s only pre-season”, “the players are gaining fitness”, but in reality, you can’t help but analyse and possible over analyse as there isn’t much going on.
It’s hard to see us go through a season with such a basic defensive set of errors under-mining our season, and throughout the pre-season, it’s reared it’s ugly head again and really makes you ask what is being done about it. Whether it’s Koscielny, Vermaelen, Djourou or Miquel, there is a serious defensive issue at the club. It’s clumsy, it’s hapless, it’s school boy. It’s been with us since the end of the back four that Wenger inherited and despite a great unit when Sol Campbell was around, it was too mentally unstable (Campbell, Toure, Gallas etc) to actually be solid… but you get my drift.
It’s been interesting to see two forward players come in – obviously with the departure of Van Persie, they are very much needed, but it’s also strange to see no defensive re-enforcements brought in. As much as you try and change Djourou and Miquel – can they ever become Premiership players capable of challenging for titles and leagues? Don’t get me wrong, I wish they did – but Djourou is a player who has been with us for 8 years, and if anything, he has gone backwards.
Kitchee 2 – 2 Arsenal
The 2-2 draw with Kitchee was another display of bad defending, and the manager was quite dissappointed:
“I think defensively we looked fragile, especially in the first half. In the second half not so much because we were not challenged. Defensively we have a lot of work to do as a unit to do much better.”
With Steve Bould as the new assistant manager, you’d expect something better defensively – I suppose he’s not had too much time to get his teeth into his new job.
We can take the defensive performances as something we need to work on, something that we will work on and be glad that they’ve happened now – or we can worry that we’re going into another season with such defensive issues. I’m hoping it’s the former and I hope that this material is used to make us better, but it is worrying none the less – worrying because it’s clear that we have two decent defenders in Koscielny and Vermaelen – two decent wing backs in Sagna and Gibbs – our rivals (top 6 from last season) have better players in those positions, with the exception of Sagna who I think is the best right back in the league – players like Cahill, Kompany, Jones, Vidic etc are very good defenders. Outside of our first XI – i.e. our best back four – our strength in depth / back up is very worrying. To see a back four of Santos – Mertersacker – Djourou – Jenkinson would be nightmarish – a repeat of the Old Trafford debacle surely on the cards.
What is the next step? Well, we are in a transfer window, and we have some cash. If we’re offloading Van Persie to Juventus, let’s try and get Chellini in return… Having some options will really help us – if we don’t buy, then we’ll be back in a similar position to last season, and we’ll be undone at some point of the season. Getting players who are better than we have is key and Arsene has always suggested he wants super-quality to add to the team. But when he goes and buys Squillaci and Mertersacker, I am not sure what he really means by it!
The other option is to train the existing players we have – but as mentioned before – can Djourou, Miquel, Mertersacker and Squillaci ever really get much better?
Pre-season + the internet + the games on ESPN = a bad combination.
10 years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to see our pre-season games, I wouldn’t be able to write this blog and no-one will read it – the times have changes, the analysis is ripe. Where we end up at the end of the season determines on whether or not we can sort out our issues, whether we can get better, whether we can improve and have a good start to the season.
At the moment, all I can say is “fingers crossed”.