Have Arsenal’s defensive problems been of their own making.

The continuous blah blah about Arsenal’s defensive issues, have been a regular feature of many a blog, commentary, podcast and pundits analysis.

In regards of the latter, we see circles around players who deemed as the culprits and arrows indicating where they should have been, instead of where they were.

Each blunder is played and replayed over and over again questioning the positioning, awareness and anticipation of some poor bugger but it’s been a recurring factor of Arsenal’s failure over several seasons.

Of course everyone has been aware of the gunners defensive incompetence and deficiencies but you need to stand back to look at it from a different angle.

Is it a question of buying cheap or buying poorly or is it down to coaching ?

Surely, the initial reaction would favour the first part of the question and there is enough evidence to support that as a theory.

Oleg Luzhny, Andre Santos, Igors Stepanos, Sebastian Squillaci, Pascal Cygan, Pat Lydersen, Gus Caesar, Philippe Senderos, Sylvinho and Gabriel have all suffered in an Arsenal shirt and were generally considered poor purchases. 

As for Gus Caesar, Squillaci and Cygan, there are regular debates about who is the worst player in Arsenal’s history and you will find them somewhere in the reckoning, whenever Arsenal fans need to persecute someone because of a resounding loss or perhaps to comfort themselves that things aren’t actually that bad as days gone by.

So then, Arsenal’s problems are basically due to buying inferior players, because on this evidence, they appear to have bought more than their fair share of flappy and confused misfits 

Gabriel spent two and a half years with Arsenal. being derided by fans for his performances and lack of consistency, yet he has impressed regularly for Valencia.

The Spaniard spoke of his time at Arsenal 

“I deserved more of an opportunity,” he said. “Sometimes I played because my team-mates were injured. I did play and sometimes even after playing well, I’d go home sad, given that I was only playing because my team-mate was injured. I don’t think I deserved that.”

He added 

“Sometimes I’d play three or four games and if Arsenal lost, I’d be dropped and everyone on the outside would say, ‘It’s Gabriel’s fault.”

He has a point but the fact that his career is on the upturn does beg the question is the failure down to lack of persistence and the club’s existing coaching staff.

Would the defenders that Arsenal purchased have benefited from the expertise of a specialist defensive coach ?

Not someone like Pat Rice or Steve Bould, no offence but they belong to a time when the game had less demands and wasn’t as technical, so what can they offer the modern game ?

It needs someone relevant in today’s game and someone who is exclusively involved with drilling the defence.

George Graham invested resources and time to ensure his defensive unit was solid and the training may have been slightly one dimensional but it worked and worked well.

Stability has also been a problem and every time Arsenal failed in defence, they dipped into the transfer market for another quick fix, which didn’t work.

This lead to the arrival of a succession of flatfooted, pudding hipped,ball blockers and hoofers, to fill the void.

We also know that Arsene Wenger was predominantly obsessed by attack and freedom of expression, almost sacrificing the defence on occasion, in the belief that Arsenal could overturn any deficit.

He inherited, what is widely recognised as one of the best defences in the premiership and as time went by, up until 2004, Wenger managed to make additions that allowed Arsenal to challenge at the highest level.

The following years, weren’t as kind as he attempted to find talent that could fill the gaps but it’s never been solid and has been partly responsible for the club’s decline. 

It’s not because of lack of investment, because the newer additions haven’t been cheap.

Mustafi cost £35 million, Sokratis recently cost £17.7m Koscileny cost a paltry £10m and Mavropanos was even less at £1.8m.

Arsenal certainly aren’t going to spend £75 million for a Virgil van Dijk but they could have bought him for £12 million when he was at Celtic.

It’s more evidence of Arsenal passing up a golden opportunity and in Van Dijk’s case, Wenger baulked at the fee and Arsenal’s chief scout, Steve Rowley, decided against signing him because he was too nonchalant. No wonder Rowley is now working in Tesco’s at the deli counter, selling ultra thin ham and pickled sausages.

Hopefully Emery can succeed where Wenger failed by reconfiguring the defence and establishing a cohesive defensive unit which allows for a credible challenge in the premiership.


  1. All valid points Longshadow.
    You are an astute student of the game, ( or both of us are fools?)

    1. Author

      Thank you Glenn, hope all is well.

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