I had a topic in mind and was going to start writing today’s post when a new tweet flashed on my tweetdeck. It was Arseblog and his Friday’s post has already been up. The headlines tells me that I’ve got the same content in mind as what he wrote. I’m sure you read every single one of his post. If not, you’re just strange. At this point, if you don’t like redundancy and don’t want to waste your Friday pouring over what is likely to be the same discussion, I would understand you clicking the ‘x’ on this window.
Post Marseille, there’s been a consistent remark in every single one of the player’s interview. It’s clean sheet. Thomas Vermaelen, Theo Walcott, Wojciech Szczesny and Carl Jenkinson have all said the same thing. So far this season, we’ve had 6 clean sheets in all competitions out of the 18 matches that we’ve played. That’s a 33.33% success ratio in keeping out the opposition.
Not the most remarkable of defences, especially if you considered the 3 goals we conceded at Blackburn/Chelsea and the 8 we let in at Manchester United. Even less so when you considered that we played with numerous partnerships at the heart of that defence. Laurent Koscielny, Thomas Vermaelen, Johan Djourou, Per Mertesacker, Sebastien Squillaci, Ignasi Miquel and Alex Song have all played in that position thus far.
The sheer number of personnel being slotted to play there is hardly helping the cause. Everyone and anyone who has an inkling of football knowledge (some like me, in fantasy mode, more than others) will tell you that to create an impenetrable defence requires stability. The job is made much easier with a set of players who are in tune with each other’s game.
It’s no easy task. The great defence that Arsenal had before can attest to that. It’s a mean feat to achieve what the famous defence that George Graham created. We know that we are to depend our lives on the defending that the likes of Tony Adams, Steve Bould, Martin Keown, Lee Dixon and Nigel Winterburn did, we’ll be forever safe and sound. Yet, these players will tell you, that it took a lot of training and time to be able to do what they did, day in day out.
I’m sure the current set of players are being coached and trained to do likewise. Perhaps not in the same manner (no strings attached across the back four), but definitely with the same end target in time. To ensure that the team do not leak goals. They know that as long as they don’t concede, then there’s a chance for the rest of the team to go up front and score at the right end to win a game.
It’ll be a major headache for Arsene Wenger this coming weekend. It may be the only game before the next international break but it’s a problem for him nonetheless. Luckily for us, it’s the good kind of headache. Trying to choose which centre backs to play against West Brom. It’s been so long that I can’t remember the last time we had such luxury of doing that.
Vermaelen is considered the best of the lot and rightly so. The return of the Belgian can only help us in our quest for victory. The bigger question arises on who is selected to partner him. Djourou looks to have missed out on the final contention and it should be a straight fight between Koscielny and Mertesacker. The former, feels that he’s in the best form of his life.
Both have different attributes. Koscielny is the more tenacious type who’s very good at choosing the moment to make a tackle. His stat from his last season with Lorient never fails to amaze me (zero tackle lost). Meanwhile, Mertesacker is more of a sweeper. Composedly reading the game and sticking out his long legs when required. Koscielny has proved his worth over the course of the time he’s been with us. While Mertesacker is unlikely to be happy to find out that he relinquish the captaincy at Werder Bremen to sit on the bench. You’d hardly want to be Wenger’s place now.
However, with Koscielny rested in midweek and Mertesacker being consistently played since his last minute signing from Bremen, chances are that we’ll see the same pairing that played in the only home defeat of our season so far. I doubt that the choice for Saturday could be an indication who the first choice is. We’ll just have to see how this pan out.
All that being said, it’s not just the responsibility of the back four when it comes to defending. It’s also the duty of the players in front of them. With every player doing their bit and helping out with the defending, the team is bound to get stronger. Undeniably, most of that responsibility falls on the shoulder of the defensive midfielder.
The improvement in defending since that thrashing at Old Trafford has also come with playing Song further up field in midfield rather than defence. At the moment, he’s peerless within this current squad. Wenger doesn’t get enough credit for transforming Song into the player that he is today. Lest we all forget that fateful Fulham day, we can never be grateful what Song has become.
His awareness and reading of the game has improved. Not least his control on the ball too. You will find that more often than not, Song is there to cover when one of his team mates are exposed. It’s an understatement to say that having Song injury free and not suspended will be crucial to what we are trying to achieve this season. Credit much also go to Mikel Arteta and the role that he plays. Not the quickest of players but he has never been found wanting when Song needed help.
It will be another interesting game for us tomorrow. I for one, am very much looking forward to it. Enjoy the rest of your Friday.