Many supporters feel that we have carried a degree of defensive frailty for some time. The absence of a central defender that fits the oft quoted image of someone ‘big and ugly` (for some reason it is always necessary to be ugly as well as big) to deal with high balls and the alleged incompatibility of Toure and Gallas are cited as causes for concern. These concerns have been heightened by the lack of a specialist defensive midfielder.
During the summer Wenger said that he needed to do something defensively and while it is far too early in the season to be saying too much he clearly thinks that we have improved. He tells the club`s website “We have defended very well. It has not been noticed yet but we`ve only conceded those two goals from two corners. In open play we are quite solid. That, for me, is a good response and a good explanation for the team attitude in the squad.”
So far this season we have not conceded in open play. In nine competitive games we have conceded 2 goals from corners plus a questionable penalty against Kiev.
It is a curious fact that the best defensive records are held by those who attack the most hence our home record defensively was only bettered by ManU last season. Away from home we didn`t fare as well. Clearly the pattern of the games away from home are different but Wenger is keen not to forsake attack for defence if he can help it.
“What makes me happy at the moment is that we have a good combination of defensive balance and offensive efficiency,” said Arsene. “Sometimes when you work on defending better you lose a number of goals.
“But at the moment we are combining the two and it means when everyone puts the effort in we still can be very dangerous going forward.”
Arsene`s comments suggest that he has worked on defending better this season. It is too early to claim it has been a success and even though we haven`t conceded in open play there have been times when we have come mighty close to it. In any game the weakest opponents will still have opportunities but if we can maintain our current improvement then perhaps some of the defensive concerns many have will be allayed. At the same time Wenger will have proved that you can defend without big ugly central defenders or hard tackling ball winning midfielders and that good defending can indeed take more subtle forms.
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