Is Arsenal’s defence good enough for title challenge?

By Avenell Dave

I saw some great stats posted by @Gingers4Limpar earlier in the week.

Lukasz Fabianski has conceded a goal every 126 minutes in the Premier League this season while Manuel Almunia's record was a goal every 77 minutes.

To be fair to Almunia, mind you, their stats are identical overall, with Manuel shipping 7 goals in 7 games and Lukasz 10 goals in 10 games, meaning they're both averaging a goal conceded every 90 minutes.

But in the Premier League, at the same time last season, after 13 games, Arsenal had conceded 17 goals and after 13 games this season, we've conceded 12.

That suggests that the defence has improved in the past year, even if that still works out at almost a goal a game which is way too many to win the title.

With Thomas Vermaelen injured, we’re left with a rookie, a newcomer and a defender returning from injury and there has been speculation that we would sign a new centre back in January, particularly with Gary Cahill being touted by Bolton Wanderers.

The fact is that Sebastien Squillaci and Johan Djourou have on the whole done very well this season, particularly the Swiss who has eased himself back to match sharpness and is looking as good as he ever has.

Laurent Koscielny also looks good on the whole even though his two clumsy red cards have limited his appearances – and perhaps he would not have played as much at this stage had Vermaelen not been injured.

But is the defence really doing that well? Graham McNorthbank and I don’t think so.

With the exception of the Newcastle aberration, Fabianski has done well but there are still question marks over him.

But while the centre-backs have done well, for me, it is the full backs who cause the greatest concern.

Gael Clichy and Bacary Sagna neither attack enough to stifle opponents from pushing forward - and both are usually woeful when it comes to crossing the ball, and it probably says more about England's woeful defending than Sagna's skills that he created France's second goal last night.

Neither of them cuts out anything like the volume of crosses that Lee Dixon or Nigel Winterburn could prevent, and that is a key source of goals scored against us.

Kieran Gibbs may be a better player than Clichy but he still needs to learn to defend and as for a quality right back, we don't have one at the club as good as those we've had in the past.

In the days of George Graham, the full backs were the fittest players at the club, chipping in with goals and a range of crosses, while also having the awareness and stamina to prevent opponents from getting the ball into the box.

If ever in doubt, the ball was hacked out of play rather than the determination to play their way out of trouble that has caused Clichy to concede vital possession more than once this campaign.

A lot is thought of Kyle Bartley and when he returns he is far more likely to get opportunities than signing another £10m stopper.

Let’s be honest, the key to our success this season won’t be on keeping a huge number of clean sheets – we will have to outscore teams, particularly with Alex Song going forward rather than focusing on his job covering the back four.

Two days until the Scum arrive for a football lesson, Addicts – and we need to be super sharp to make sure we shut them up.