Arsenal slumped to another Premier League defeat on Sunday at St. James’ Park. After going ahead through Alexandre Lacazette, Arsenal’s torrid defence shipped two more goals. This year’s league campaign is a disaster and the numbers prove it.
Arsenal’s Torrid Defence a Cause for Concern
The 2016-17 Premier League season seemed a calamity at the time. However, statistically speaking, the current campaign sees the Gunners taking yet another step backwards. The ageing Petr Čech is well past his sell-by date, the once-formidable partnership between Shkodran Mustafi and Laurent Koscielny is waning and the midfield is not protecting the back line.
Time for Čech to Check Out?
The Czech shot-stopper has the most Premier League clean sheets of all time with 200. There was once a time when he was the undisputed king of ‘keepers in England, however, his fall from grace is nearly complete.
In the 2017-18 league season, Petr Čech has made six errors which have led directly to goals. Over the course of the previous two seasons combined, that total stood at three.
In fact, Arsenal’s torrid defence tops the Premier League in that metric. The North Londoners have made 15 errors leading directly to a goal this season. For comparison, last season’s total was just five. And the team has five more matches yet to play this year.
Certainly, the goalkeeper cannot take all the credit for such a regression. However, Čech’s mistakes are not few enough in number to write off as an aberration. Not when he leads the league in such a statistic.
For Arsenal to make gains on the top division’s best clubs, they will need a ‘keeper that they can rely upon to keep them in matches.
Defenders Not Doing Their Jobs
While Petr Čech’s problems may be bad, they are compounded by his defence. Koscielny and Mustafi are at fault for various defensive lapses over their two seasons together. They are also regressing when it comes to errors.
With Newcastle scoring two goals at the weekend, Arsenal’s torrid defence has shipped 45 goals so far this campaign. Last season, at a time when planes with “Wenger Out” banners hanging from them were not an uncommon sight, the team allowed 44.
Shkodran Mustafi is also credited with two mistakes leading directly to goals, while Koscielny has done so once. Hector Bellerin and Nacho Monreal likewise have given one away, making the total for Wenger’s preferred back line five.
So, between Arsenal’s first-choice goalkeeper and first-choice back four, the team has made 11 errors leading directly to goals. That is as many as the next most error-prone club, Crystal Palace, have on the balance of the season.
For the Gunners to regain their former place as one of the Premiership’s best clubs, they will need either better defensive focus or better defensive players.
The Rest of the Squad is not Doing Much Better
Granit Xhaka was once thought to be the defensive midfielder that fans craved. However, the Swiss international’s Arsenal career has not been defined by fearless defensive displays.
For example, he has made three errors leading directly to goals this season, the second-most at the club. He has also contributed just one league goal and five league assists this campaign, making his frailties going back all the more costly.
This is a trend which is not atypical of this Arsenal side. Despite leaking more goals than last season and making three times as many errors, the Gunners are not scoring at the same rate. The 2016-17 season saw 77 goals scored at an average of 2.03 per match. In the current campaign, 33 games in, Arsenal have scored 62 goals, averaging 1.88 per 90 minutes.
Having a sturdy defence is not the only way to find success in the world of football. Liverpool’s triumphs over Manchester City this season is proof of that fact. However, a leaky back line must be offset by a potent attacking force in order to be successful.
Arsenal’s torrid defence is not aided by a torrent of goals from the forwards. This serves to highlight the many defensive issues which have plagued the team this season.
The Bottom Line
Arsenal are just not good enough. The club has lost five consecutive away league matches for the first time since 1984 and has not gone so long into a calendar year without a single point away from home since 1925.
The defence is gifting goals to opponents and the attack lacks the cutting edge of previous seasons. The club must invigorate themselves with fresh blood, both on the pitch and off, to become relevant in the Premier League.
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