As the players depart for the international sojourn, we have an early break from the club matches. Not particularly ideal considering we are only into the third week of competition. Perhaps the bigger impact of the break is our form as the team seemed to be building up nicely and becoming more and more as a unit. Going into the break immediately after our first win of the season is not what the doctored ordered but it should at least relieve some pressure off the shoulders of the players and manager.
That game against Liverpool saw us finally got going in the offensive part of the game. However, since the start of the season, we have already got going in the defensive side of things. We’ve only played 3 games and it would an over reaction to claim that we’ve solved all our defensive problems. Today, with the help of the numbers from WhoScored, I’m going to try to have a look at how we done on the defensive side of the game.
We’ve conceded the fewest shots per game of all the teams in the Premier League. Which is no big surprise anyway as we generally monopolised the ball possession and as such the opposing team often have little or no chance to attack us. It also means that we are marking the spaces well and positioning ourselves better across the field. Players don’t generally take shots when the path is blocked by the opposing teams.
One part which we cannot deny is the better organisation when defending and so far, we’ve not seen our team being overly exposed. In the past few seasons, we have been susceptible to counter attacks, especially down the middle of our defence. It also helps that Thomas Vermaelen has limit the number of times he chooses to bomb forward. The organisation means clever positioning and that is reflected by the fact that we’re among the best in interceptions. A trait that cannot be undervalued as it also is the start of counter attacks when opposing teams are not in their defensive shape yet.
As I’m sure everyone is aware, defending is not just the job for defenders alone. In today’s game, where full backs and centre backs joins in the attack during open play, midfielders and even forwards have to play their role in protecting our defence. Tackles needs to be done in our half of the pitch as well as in the opposing half of the pitch. Sunderland may have a higher number than us but they have played one game less, so effectively we have produced the highest number of tackles per game so far. An indication that this team is prepared to give as good as we got. That they are prepared to do the so called “dirtier side” of the game if required.
Yet, in our case, it isn’t dirty in the case that we’re trying to break the opposition’s leg. Even though we’re the highest tackles in the league per game, we are only in the lower half when it comes to fouls conceded per game. Comparison with Manchester City who have conceded the least fouls per game but with a ratio of 2.6 fouls per tackle per game. Despite producing more tackles per game, we have a ratio of 2.7 fouls per tackle per game. What it does say is that our done in a coordinated and calculated fashion and not in times of desperation because we’re exposed.
Then we come to the more specific side of things. The pie above shows the area or side which we conceded the most shots from and also the specific area where the shots are coming from. Despite the reassurance of Mikel Arteta holding firm in the middle, most of the shots are coming through the middle. Although that is no real surprise, considering that players seldom do try to take shots if they are not centrally positioned in front of goal. With Santi Cazorla usually playing much further forward, the onus is on Abou Diaby to give Arteta the help he needs.
Further to that, it shows that we give no joy to opposition down the flanks. Kieran Gibbs and Carl Jenkinson have both received plenty of praise for their work thus far this season and rightly so. Often the opinions are varied but in this instance the numbers back them up. They have both been solid and have kept opposing wingers at bay. Of course, they don’t do the job alone and is often backed by the players in front of them. Lukas Podolski does a lot of defensive work and that has made our left side very secured. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain gave us the same on the right against Liverpool too.
The pie on the right shows that we hold a pretty good line as almost all of the shots are coming either from outside of the box or within the 18 yards area. This means that we don’t get outplayed or opposition isn’t able to a way through that is closer to goal. We are ensuring that no opposition player gets past us or behind us. I’m not sure that’s the best way to describe it but it’s the best I got.
So there, a look at the defensive side of things that we’ve done so far. It’s still only 3 games and it doesn’t mean that we can do this all season. That remains to be seen. But the signs are positive and hopefully they can do it for the entire season.
The Bouldy effect? Maybe.