With Arsenal’s loss at home to London rivals Chelsea, leaving the club and manager demoralized, questions must be asked about what went wrong in defence.
Post-match Arsene Wenger conceded:
“We gave the game away. They had three shots on target and scored two goals, from soft set pieces. Defensively we were just not at the level you have to be in a game like that, which is where we were punished today. For the rest, we have shown quality and spirit but we have to show more personality and authority on the goals we conceded.”
Whilst squandered chances at one end point might to a lack of confidence and or lack of cohesion going forward, “giving the game away” through individual error is something Gunners’ fans might have thought were a thing of the past.
Under new assistant manager Steve Bould, the Arsenal back line has undoubtedly improved on last season’s poor start but, as it stands, the North Londoners have only put two more points on the board than this time last term.
With three international centre-halves fit and ‘on-form’, Arsene Wenger opted to ‘rest’ Per Mertesacker – a decision which, one way or another, cost them points on Saturday.
Both of Chelsea’s goals were a result of free kicks, given away on the edge of the area by Arsenal captain Thomas Vermaelen. The fouls were the result of poor judgement from the skipper whose rash challenges, somewhat needlessly, gave Chelsea a golden opportunity to fire balls into the box.
The subsequent defending of set-pieces resembled the Arsenal of recent seasons – the ‘defending’ for the Blues’ first goal was disorganized as Laurent Koscielny played a game of tag with Fernando Torres who, far too easily, found just enough space to wrap his foot around the incoming cross.
The second goal came just as Arsenal had started to look dangerous – a decent spell of pressure had seen them equalized through Gervinho just before half-time and, with the sides level, Chelsea were on the back foot.
Enter, once again, Thomas Vermaelen, and, what is now becoming his ‘typical’ clumsy foul. Another free kick on the edge of the area and another ball for the Gunner’s defence to deal with, which they didn’t.
Whilst a goalkeeping error from Vito Mannone set them back against champions Manchester City, no one could blame the goalkeeper who was caught flat-footed by a deflection off Laurent Koscielny’s boot, from a Juan Mata free kick.
Whilst Koscielny would be an easy scapegoat, one has to judge Thomas Vermaelen more than his defensive partner – as the captain serious doubts are raised when you hap-hazardly give opponents opportunities to score.
The Belgian gave away a penalty in the Champion’s League game against Montpellier, meaning the Gunner’s had to come from behind against a team that would have otherwise not presented much of a threat.
Vermaelen will have to curb his enthusiasm if he intends to atone for Saturday’s indiscretions.