As the coach says, kudos to the young lad for asking the question.
The answer applies equally to football. Think about the times whenever you hear from Dixon, Winterburn, Adams – and lesser now – Bould. It is always about defending first and foremost.
The coaches words made me wonder about the players we have now. Nacho is a defender; George Graham would have liked him and the way he applies himself to the basics. I’m not so sure about any of the others. That doesn’t mean they aren’t good players – some of them are – but few of them are good defenders.
Attitude is the one thing which lets them down. It seems like I’m picking on Mustafi, but I’m not; his is the first name which sprang to mind in this segment.
It’s painful to watch. I was going to point out that he’s a Germany international but their poor showing in the summer suggests that defending isn’t quite as good as we’re led to believe it is in the Bundesliga.
Everything about that goal is wrong from a centre-back’s perspective and nobody dares say it’s a one-off and expect to be taken seriously.
It is all about the attitude toward defending and that is the one thing that concerns me about this coming season. IBased on what I’ve seen in the pre-season friendlies, I don’t think Unai Emery has effected a great change.
The proviso is obviously none of them were competitive matches. Emery told his adoring public these were about match sharpness and grasping the changes he wanted. However, irrespective of circumstance or opposition, a defender with the right attitude always displays defensive thinking and concentration.
I hope I’m wrong and reading too much into the friendlies. We’re five days away from finding out.
No, Mr Bond, I Expect You To Die
Mustafi isn’t the only defender with question marks over him: each is flawed. While Mustafi is the more error-prone, playing a high defensive line is a questionable tactic with Sokratis in the centre.
He is more defensively astute than either of our previous first-choice centre-backs but that’s hardly a recommendation. There’s a sense that he’s a stop-gap signing, a two-year man tops. But he has a cynical edge to his game – like Lichtsteiner – that is a welcome advance from the naivety we’re used to.
My guess is that Emery is working longer-term on the younger players. Chambers is further down that road in terms of experience and I suspect that’s why he’s allowed out on loan. Maybe he is in the shop window; I don’t know the answer to that. A year-long loan at Fulham gains him more Premier League experience, which benefits Arsenal if he is part of the long-term plan.
We’re linked with Bond villain Demagoj Vida but Wolves reportedly bid £15m for the Croat. I doubt we’re interested; an over-active Mr20% looking at clubs whose defence he thinks his client could improve is probably the answer.
There must be some defensive improvement through the change of style. When we pressed in the friendlies, it looked quite good. Inconsistent as players got used to the demands of the system, but good. That helps the defence – as will cover on the flanks for the full-backs – and is one reason why Mesut Özil is unlikely to feature on either flank.
Defending isn’t his game; fair enough but in a press, everyone has to do it or the system falls down. There’s an element of defending he’s going to have to do. However, the full-backs need more support than they got during the summer. There’s no question of that.
More importantly for the centre-backs is the pairing of Torreira and Xhaka coming together. I’d expect some of the Uruguayan’s streetwise tactics will rub off on the Swiss. However, having a defensive midfielder in front of the central defenders is a novelty and I would expect that to bring a positive response from the back four.
Is too much expected of Torreira? There is a danger of that, no doubt about it. We’re so desperate to see an improvement that it’s reached Pythonesque levels. He tackled someone! He’s a defensive messiah! Our reality is that there’s a lot of work to be done with that side of the team’s game and one summer won’t solve those problems.
Confidence in the defence is low. I don’t recall seeing an Arsenal back-four so bereft of it, even in the ‘Banter era’. Bad habits surfaced in the summer occasionally which Emery and the coaches must eradicate. Do that and it becomes an issue of personnel. Future transfer windows will then see a big turnover in defenders as he looks to move out those bad habits permanently.
Manchester City is a baptism of fire on every level. There’s no breaking yourself in gently to the new system. This is a team which scored nine against us in three meetings last season. We must see an improvement on that, surely?