Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Stats reveal defence as one of Wenger’s worst

335 words. Estimated reading time: 1 minute 20 seconds.

The season can’t end quickly enough. But at least the latest feeble performance makes it even clearer what the priority of this summer’s spending must be.

Plenty of blame is being attached to Fabianski’s performance yesterday against Blackburn. It is true he wasn’t blameless on their two goals but our defending overall was a shambles. In defence of the defence only one of the first-choice back six started but surely it is not beyond the wit of professional footballers (with a week to prepare – they weren’t hastily cobbled together) to be able to coordinate themselves and act as a unit.

With our away league fixtures now complete, the records show we’ve conceded the joint-highest number of goals away from home during Wenger’s 13 full seasons: 26, at an average of 1.36 goals per game (the same as in 1999/00). To their credit they have scored a reasonable 35 goals away, meaning the overall 28 points accrued isn’t that shameful, though it is eight and six less than ManUre and Chelsea.

But things get slightly more concerning when you include home goals conceded. There have been 15 of those bringing the total number of goals against to 41 – the third-worst under Wenger, and still with one game to play (Silvestre worse than Stepanovs, who’d have thought of it!).

Of course Wenger’s sides have emphasised attack rather than defence but the display yesterday wasn’t a result of over-enthusiasm but rather a simple lack of cohesion and solidity. The squad is completely unbalanced: we have five players that I would call instinctive, natural defenders in Vermaelen, Gallas, Sagna, Campbell and Silvestre and only one defensive midfielder in Song, two at a push if you include Eastmond.

Among a squad of 25-30 players those figures don’t add up. The balance has to be improved over the summer so the team is capable of visiting places like Blackburn (and Wigan and West Ham) even without its first-choice XI and not need to score three to come away with a win.

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