The latest MNF Extra, with Jamie Carragher, looks at Arsenal’s defensive battles and inquires?
Arsenal’s capitulation from Watford on Sunday was the latest reminder of the defensive issues that continue to hamper them. In the end, despite having reached they were lucky to emerge in Vicarage Road with a stage.
That they avoided defeatis very little consolation to Arsenal fans who’ve seen it. A trip to the Premier League’s bottom side ought to have been a assignment. Rather, another masterclass was produced by Arsenal at self-destruction.
On this event, the principal culprits were Sokratis Papastathopoulos, whose weak pass from inside his own box enabled Tom Cleverley to evaluate Watford’s primary target, along with his centre-back partner David Luiz, that surrendered the punishment for the equaliser after he first brought down Roberto Pereyra.
“For a very long time, going back to when I was a kid, Arsenal were known as a very good team,” Jamie Carragher tells MNF Extra. “They’ve gone the other way. They are a group you expect things that are stupid to happen to. Even when they’re 2-0 up, you will never be able to be convinced by them.
“I believe Liverpool had a similar problem a few decades ago, under Brendan Rodgers and in the start beneath Jurgen Klopp. Regardless of what the situation had been, you believed something could go wrong. What is stressing for Arsenal is the fact that it is occurring again in Emery’s second season.”
The individual mistakes have been a theme of this Spaniard’s tenure. Emery was charged with enhancing the defence of Arsenal when he had been appointed last summer, however, since then they have made 14 errors leading to resistance targets and surrendered 10 penalties, putting them high one of Premier League sides in both categories.
Relegated Fulham are the only side who come close to Arsenal’s total for errors – they made 12 season – . The figures point to defensive frailties.
When playing out from the trunk the problems have been exacerbated by Arsenal’s battles. Emery’s side were unable to play Watford’s press on Sunday, their determination to perform short goal kicks eventually costing them a target, and it was not the time.
According to the complex metrics of Opta, Arsenal have surrendered this year to 34 turnovers that were high. Surprisingly, that is seven more than another Premier League side. By losing possession close to their goal, they’re encouraging resistance pressure and paying the price.
In part, the problems come down to personnel. “Emery inherited poor defenders,” adds Carragher. “He has tried to move on Shkodran Mustafi, that left a lot of errors, but at David Luiz they’ve signed an additional defender who makes errors and in Sokratis, the team have brought in someone else who is possibly not in the point where they need him.
“I could comprehend the signing of David Luiz as he had been cheap and they wanted somebody, but I’m not his biggest fan and to give away two penalties in four games isn’t a fantastic start in any way. The issue is, that will not change. David Luiz has had plenty of supervisors and he’s always had the same issues.”
However, the match of Sunday has set the man . Their flaws are being exposed rather than protected, although Arsenal’s error-prone defenders not help emery.
On Sunday, Arsenal supporters were able to wonder Emery turned to Joe Willock, 20, 19, and Reiss Nelson, if they should have been safeguarding their direct. A midfield which was struggling suddenly became even more stretched and Watford took advantage.
Not having organisation and discipline in midfield has been summed up from the passage of play which resulted in the equaliser of Watford. Arsenal had been 10 minutes away in success, and Lucas Torreira, apparently their holding midfielder, was one of five players stationed within the Watford box once an attack broke down and the hosts sprang forward.
David Luiz took the blame because of his subsequent filthy however while it is a fact that the Brazilian has been more prone to lapses of concentration, it should be pointed out that he surrendered three penalties. At Arsenal, he is not being afforded anything.
“Sunday was incredible in how open it was,” says Carragher. “You do not see many games like that. It had been embarrassing for Arsenal it was to perform through them. They looked like they couldn’t run. You simply need to check out that second half and you can understand that the equilibrium of that team isn’t perfect.”
These structural issues do not reflect well on Emery along with the fans at Vicarage Road left their frustrations clear when they booed the decision.
“It was not a fantastic day for Emery in relation to how he’s seen from the Arsenal fans,” adds Carragher. “I think this really can be really a big season for him. At the season you receive a little bit of leeway, and I would still say that they had a good time, but I believe people would soon look more in the trainer compared to players.
“People asked him in the end of last year when they missed out on the top , and they’re questioning him again now. Can matters change? Could he change the machine to improve them? These players he is working with now are mostly players he’s brought in, so it’s down to him to start getting results together.”
Arsenal is going to have more choices in defence when Hector Bellerin, Rob Holding and signing Kieran Tierney come back from harm. They will be further fortified by William Saliba’s arrival from Saint Etienne. But their issues run deeper than humans. Evidence suggests they’re not any closer to understanding the lessons of yesteryear.
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