Tottenham Hotspur beat Arsenal on Sunday in the Premier League meaning all the good work done by Mikel Arteta during the past couple of weeks has gone down the drain.
The Gunners went down 2-1 despite taking the lead in the match and after the game, Mikel Arteta clearly had a tough time in trying to come out and defend his players – despite most of them churning out an average performance.
Most pundits have lauded the work that the new manager has done since taking over from Unai Emery but according to Paul Merson, Arsenal have some basic problems which not even the best of managers can solve.
He told Sky Sports: “Last week against Leicester was the first time I’ve watched Arsenal play in the last few years where I got excited and thought: “Wow… I can see what they’re trying to do here. There’s a plan here, an actual plan. They’re trying to spring traps, playing as a team, there’s a tempo.”
“For the first time, it felt like you could see what they were trying to do, not the “you have a shot, we have a shot” mentality, where sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.
“But against Spurs, I don’t care if you’ve got Pep Guardiola sitting on Jose Mourinho’s lap, on top of Sir Alex Ferguson’s lap, on top of Arsene Wenger’s lap and all four of them are one manager: if you’ve got a defender who can’t pass the ball five yards to another defender, you are in trouble.
“When the manager puts on a training session and you’re doing five-yard passes to start off with, everybody is moaning: “What the hell are we doing this for? Who can’t pass the ball five yards?” But that is why. It’s concentration, so you can keep on doing it without even thinking about it, like you’re brushing your teeth in the morning.
“It’s just a really, really poor pass. But that’s Arsenal, they have that ability to shoot themselves in the foot. He could play that in his sleep, he didn’t even have to turn around.
“But this raises another question, and I don’t know why footballers do this. All Kolasinac has to do is dink that down the line, but if he sticks it down the line and a defender comes across and clears for a throw in, that doesn’t count as a completed pass in the stats. Footballers are so obsessed with pass percentages.
“Defenders want 88, 89, 90 per cent pass completion, but they’re all five-yard passes to each other! Who cares? Honestly?
“There are so many stats now, and players are scared of them, so try to play the easy ball! If that ball reaches David Luiz, what is he going to do with it? I’ll tell you: he’ll roll it back to the goalkeeper, the goalkeeper will get closed down, and he will clear it up to halfway, which is where Arsenal were to begin with! It’s just common sense. These are international players!
“All these players should care about is keeping clean sheets: that should be like scoring a hat-trick for a defender. You want defenders who think that way.”
Arsenal’s defenders have been a huge liability all throughout this season and even Mikel Arteta is well aware of that by now. Some rumours have claimed that the manager will look to recruit some new talents in defence during the upcoming transfer window while others think Arteta will make do of what he has at his disposal since the Gunners will be working on a shoestring budget during the summer.