Historically, Wenger has often attempted to fix the problem of a leaky defence by adding players further up the field. In January of last season, when we were all clamouring for a central defender or a defensive midfielder to plug the gaps that were threatening our Champions League qualification, he signed Arshavin and was vindicated as our season recovered.
It is a romantic notion that everything can be solved by having the most destructive attack, and that campaign proved that impetus can be gained from such an approach, but when you’re looking to take the extra step and become champions once again, eventually the focus has to fall on the back line. I’ve collected a couple of interesting statistics about the sort of numbers we’re talking about:
- Our tally of 83 goals was our third highest in the Premiership era. The two seasons we bettered it (85 in 2002/3, 87 in 2004/5), our defence was not tight enough to capitalise, and we did not win the league. Every time we have claimed the crown, we have actually scored less than 80.
- Chelsea’s record of 32 goals against is the first time in seven years that a side has conceded 30 or more goals and gone on to win the title.
In most campaigns, you need to concede less than thirty to become champions, so our tally of 41 is far too high for us to have been realistic challengers, irrespective of our attacking strengths. Despite scoring 103 goals, Chelsea nearly didn’t win the league because of the 32 they conceded, proving that a watertight defence is critical in the long run. Sooner or later you have to win matches 1-0, and those are the games that make the difference.
The good news is that Wenger is aware of the problem, and will be making defence his priority in the summer:
“If you divide the season into two – going forward we have done very well but defensively we have been average. When you concede 40 goals you don’t win the championship and I want to rectify that.”
“My transfer policy this summer will be to keep our strengths going forward, add one player, and add more defensive strength to our team.”
The one player he is talking about is Chamakh (whose Wikipedia page amusingly has him listed as an Arsenal player already), so his words suggest that no other forward players will be arriving once the Moroccan’s deal is finalised.
That leaves the defence, and it is interesting to see him talk about the ‘strength‘ that needs to be added. Whether he is referencing quality or physical strength is unclear, but the re-signing of Sol Campbell proved that in the right player, both can be available. With Gallas and Silvestre leaving, at least one more central defender must come in, and that player has to be able to slot into the team as seamlessly as Vermaelen did last year. Tough ask, but that is what is required.
There will be many looking at the two departing central defenders and insisting that we need to replace both, but in reality one already has been replaced – Silvestre started last season as the fourth choice centre back (behind Gallas, Vermaelen and Djourou), but Campbell took that role in January. What we need is a direct Gallas replacement.
It is World Cup year, and Wenger likes to sign any players participating in the tournament before it starts (Rosicky was the one from four years ago), to avoid the inevitable price hike if they shine. For once, we may not have to wait until August for news. Let’s hope so.
Wednesday can only mean one thing
On to other things – it is Wednesday, so it is time for another Beautiful Groan podcast. On today’s show I have an exclusive interview with Cesc Fabregas*, who reveals just how many years he has secretly detested Sam Allardyce, I call the Spurs shop in an attempt to buy some matchday DVDs they probably don’t stock, another footballing annoyance is consigned to Room 101, the Fulham game is discussed and I take a look at the state of our goalkeeping situation.
*Cesc interviews are in no way spliced together from elsewhere. Oh no…
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