Revealed: The Reason For Arsenal’s Shambolic Defence

By on March 5, 2013

As we continue to dissect the painful defeat to Tottenham at White Hart Lane, some interesting news has come to light that may explain the inexplicable defending that was on show on Sunday (and several on other occasions this season).

If we go back to August, you may recall that our defence began the season looking rock solid. In fact, we kept three consecutive clean sheets and only conceded two goals in our first five Premier League games. It was like we were under George Graham in the early 90’s again!

Fast-forward 6 months and the defence is barely recognisable to the one that kept out Stoke, Sunderland and Liverpool during the first three games of the season. While we may only have conceded 32 league goals – just one more than run-away league leaders Man Utd – these figures don’t quite tell the whole story.

Our defence has been embarrassing at times in recent months and the biggest worry is the number of basic individual mistakes. Sunday’s game typified this with Monreal, Mertesacker and Vermaelen all making schoolboy errors for the two goals.

While many fans, myself included at times, blame the players for not being good enough or blame the lack of protection from midfield, BBC journalist David Ornstein suggested another theory for the demise of our defence.

Ornstein was speaking on Radio 5 Live on Monday night when he claimed that our impressive start was largely down to Steve Bould running defensive drills during training sessions when he worked on positional play, marking and all the other stuff that goes into having a well oiled defensive unit.

However, he also claimed that boss Arsene Wenger put a stop to Bould’s sessions after only a few games of the season, choosing to return to his more traditional methods involving ball-work and passing, and the defence has been on a slow decline ever since.

I seem to recall rumours suggesting something similar to this back in early December when reports claimed Bould had fallen out with Wenger over not being given enough time to work with the defence.

If true, it does go a long way to explaining not only our excellent early season form at the back but also why we look such a shambles now. The boss is known for being a control freak and not wanting to relinquish control and it’s been suggested this was one of the reasons he stopped Bould’s defensive training sessions. Which is quite remarkable if true and Arsene needs to seriously have a look at himself if he can’t do whats best for the team because of his own ego.

Personally, I don’t think the players are the major problem here. Whatever we think of him, Per Mertesacker has won nearly 100 caps for Germany. He’s NOT a bad defender. He’s either being played in a system that’s unsuited to him, being badly coached, or both. Thomas Vermaelen was superb when he first joined the club but he now looks a shadow of that player. He looks like he’s never played centre-back in his life at times. But again, he IS NOT a bad defender, he’s just completely lost his way due to poor coaching and poor team set up around him.

For this, we have to look at Arsene Wenger and ask why he doesn’t pay more attention to the defensive side of the game. Answers on a postcard please….

Do you believe Wenger stopped Bould’s defensive training sessions? Is this why our defence is so bad?  


  1. Brian N

    March 5, 2013 at 10:32 pm

    You have just hit the nail right on the head with you last comment. i.e. Per Mertersaker has not got 100 caps playing for Germany for being useless same goes for Vermaelen I agree bad coaching also not playing the system as started for the 2012/13 season. why not try again we have nothing to loose now

    • Damien

      March 6, 2013 at 12:06 am

      Mertersaker has 100 caps because he is all there is would u want a Fijian with 100 caps

    • Toks

      March 6, 2013 at 8:47 pm

      This whole defence thing is quite ridiculous really. I’m pretty sure no one was aware that Arsenal had the 2nd best goals conceded record in the leagues before Sunday’s derby (behind Man City). They were 4th afterwards. Doesn’t quite fit the narrative so the press wouldn’t feed you all that.

  2. naked goon

    March 5, 2013 at 11:11 pm

    and for the same reasons Chesney’s improvement rate has slowed down and he is starting to look shaky when the first shot comes in. lack of confidence in the defence i ask? wouldn’t be surprised.

  3. Mike Gunner

    March 5, 2013 at 11:37 pm

    No point talking. I am waiting for Mto thrash the gunners 5-0 to show the gulf in class. Wenger thinks there is not much difference between Arsenal and the leading teams.
    He thinks tip tap soccer will prevail but frankly the last 7 years have shown this type of soccer is easy to counter and still the fm is convinced his way is the way.
    I can’t wait for BM to unleash a five goal salvo with the gunners unable to score.

    • Mike is not a Gunner

      March 6, 2013 at 7:14 pm

      You cant wait for Arsenal to get thrashed by Bayern? Why dont you go fuck off and support another club then you parasite?!

    • wardy

      March 7, 2013 at 5:53 pm

      No real fan would ever want their team to loose in such a fashion…….
      What a moronic thing to suggest. How can you even justify such thoughts? You may (like me) think that we are somewhat of a spent force and that as a club we cant move forward until we have a see change from the board down, but at no point would a REAL fan want to see his team loose just to prove a point. Its pathetic!

  4. Patrick Ssekatawa

    March 6, 2013 at 12:00 am

    This MUST NOT be a rumour, but a fact. Ornstein is a reputable journalist who surely wouldn’t want to tarnish his name by being slanderous. He’s absolutely right. Wenger is one manager who loves to make a one-man-show. He has become highly irritable that if one sang the praises of one of his coaching staff the way it was with Bould in August, he would develop a terrible illfeeling!

    Second, Stewart Robson, said the same of Wenger, and he seemed to have had concrete information. The truth of the matter is, Wenger lost it a long, long, long time ago and he should surely either resign at the end of the season, or be sacked. Period!

    He’s unbelievably poor tactically. In fact he is wretched! Playing a high defensive line against a lightning-quick Spurs team was some of the worst game plan I’ve seen in my life!

    Insisting on playing Ramsey, who lost the ball and failed to chase down the opponent and instead jogged as if he was warming up to come on only to see his team concede was horrific

    Failing to buy a genuine defensive midfielder and insisting on playing Arteta was another sin Wenger committed. Moussa Sissoko was picked up by Newcastle almost for free, one whose power, defensive instincts and drive we clearly lack. Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa too, who would transform into an impregnable right back with Sagna ageing, one with the quality to compete with our center-backs, as well as play in midfield like he did against us at the Emirates.

    Poor, poor, poor, hapless lacklustre Wenger. You have ruined our team and destroyed the good name you had built in our hearts. To hell with you!!!

    • John Gee

      March 6, 2013 at 10:17 am

      As comments go, this has to be among the worst. Badly misinformed, badly inaccurate and utterly pointless. How on earth you can quote Stewart Robson I do not know. The man is so anti Arsene Wenger because he would not give him a job is farcical. The man should not be allowed anywhere near the Club. Remember his coaching record ? Wycombe, somewhere in Russia and then nobody. Says it all.You refer to Sissoko and Yanga-Mbiwa neither of whom is anywhere near good enough for Arsenal. Get real.

      • Mes

        March 6, 2013 at 2:19 pm

        You are a clown John, why on earth would Robson want to just come up with stupid comments for and destabilize the club if he’s a supporter himself! Szczesny even came out a while ago and said Wenger is “like God” at the club and untouchable, so get your facts right. I do believe that Wenger demoted Bould with the defence too and it’s clear to see that. Wenger’s response to Bould being congratulated by the media and pundits in the beginning of the season in a pre-match conference summed it all up – jealousy.
        In 06 on our way to the CL final we had Martin Keown working with Wenger to help at the time an already great defence, why can’t he let Bould do the same now to an even worse defence, instead of just letting him rot on the bench like Arshavin?
        Why why why buy a clinical striker (Podolski) and play him on the left wing? Why didn’t he buy a defensive midfielder when everyone let alone himself knew that was the key position in this team and chose to rely on Arteta and Diaby as if they have Theo’s legs. Wenger has lost it completely, playing a high line against a deadly quick Spurs with Mertesacker in your back four summed it up. But then to take off your most committed player in Jenkinson who was having an excellent game and replace him with Rosicky then moving Ramsey who was on a yellow card to right back, was terrible decision making and an another endless sign that Wenger is a poor tactician.
        P.s. I don’t hate Wenger but I woke up to reality and can clearly see the ongoing week in week out problems we’ve been dealing with for the last 8 seasons. The quicker Wenger leaves the better for this club, it pains me Wenger has become so shallow at times and looks lost, because he isn’t the man he use to be anymore, but the truth is he brings it to himself.

      • Patrick Ssekatawa

        March 6, 2013 at 6:14 pm

        So what if he’s anti-Wenger? must all people be pro-Wenger? You must get out of idealism and get REAL yourself. Robson is anti-Wenger because he doesn’t think he is not doing the right things at Arsenal, and I agree with him.

        He accused Wenger of being a dictator. Isn’t that right? He accused Wenger of failure to motivate his players. Was he wrong? He accused Wenger of being a very poor tactician. Isnt that right?

        Come on Mr, stop being unreasonable. How do you say Sissoko and Yanga-Mbiwa ‘are nowhere near good enough for Arsenal’? You either don’t know what you are talking about or you are one of those still under Wenger’s deceptions that ‘We could not find quality players who can improve our team’!

        Now tell me, who would you have? Diaby who’s good enough to play three games a season, or Sissoko who plays the entire season injury-free? So you mean Squillaci is good enough for Arsenal and Yanga-Mbiwa is not? You are terrible, JOHN GEE, aren’t you?

  5. LOL

    March 6, 2013 at 12:18 am

    lol Damian comparing a center back with 100 caps for Germany to one from Fiji is ridiculous and incomparable for obvious reason. Think of something else negative to say, what you said was moronic.

  6. davi

    March 6, 2013 at 1:16 am

    “Per Mertesacker has won nearly 100 caps for Germany. He’s NOT a bad defender. He’s either being played in a system that’s unsuited to him”
    Spot on.

    “Thomas Vermaelen was superb when he first joined the club but he now looks a shadow of that player.”
    Partly disagree – the signs were always there that he’s not a brilliant defender. He got into the PL team of the season on the basis of the goals he scored, not his defending. That said, he did look good at the start of the season for the same reason that Mertesacker did – we were playing a system that didn’t lean too heavily on our defenders so they all had jobs that they were comfortable with. The midfield was strong and disciplined (in the early games, teams were barely getting any of the ball at all and counter attacks were being destroyed with ease) and even wingers like Gervinho and Podolski did a fantastic job of tracking back and protecting their fullbacks. Overall our defence was playing deeper and the players looked more comfortable.

    The missing part of the equation is that our DEFENCE looked very strong at the start of the season, but the attack didn’t so much. I wasn’t particularly worried in truth because Theo wasn’t playing and 3 the players of the 4 main attacking positions were brand new signings so it’s understandable that they didn’t immediately click. Had we persisted with this playing style I’m quite sure we’d be doing better now – in the cups as well.
    Beyond just the defence, we don’t have bad players, we have a bad playing system. Having the defence drop a bit deeper and getting the attackers to protect them more effectively would do wonders for the side overall. All the other top sides do it, and we used to do it when we were successful.

    Btw, I don’t put it down to Wenger being a “control freak” or egotistical. I see little evidence for that and I don’t think there’s any real evidence of a fall-out with Steve Bould. Rather I think he was worried that we weren’t scoring enough goals early on and decided we should switch back to this more risky style that does bring more goals. I think it was reactionary and a poor decision, but to read more into it than that is more than a little unfair IMO.

    • Mes

      March 6, 2013 at 2:42 pm

      Spot on until you started talking about Bould and Wenger at the end. The reason why we couldn’t score early on is because we didn’t have any understanding, with a whole new attacking system, and instead of Wenger continuously allowing Bould to work with the defence his first thing was to remove him of defensive duties. Typical, sore losing Wenger.
      How on earth can we have a natural born rock of a defender and a TRUE ARSENAL man as our assistant manager and still look like a championship team, disgraceful from Wenger!

      • davi

        March 6, 2013 at 4:24 pm

        I think our comments matched up perfectly except that you believe the reason we stopped the more defensive style is because Wenger is a “sore loser”. We agree that the attack was a bit weak early on, and so Wenger decided to make changes to correct it and we agree that it was reactionary and a poor decision, but the difference between us is that I’m not willing to attack Wenger personally over it because I see no real reason to. He got it wrong and I hope he sees that now and does something to correct his mistakes.

  7. Arsenal Fan

    March 6, 2013 at 2:51 am

    Arsen Wengerv is a possession genius without doubt
    But Seve Bould was brought in to be a voice of reason and help to redress the balance that Yes Man Pat Rice wasn’t able to achieve with Wenger!
    The board has to come down on Arsen and tell him that his resume is in complete from a defensive standpoint and that is the main reason for Bould being the new constant at Wengers shoulder.
    Now yes Wenger can overrule Bould but he will answer for it after the fact if it is a glaring gaf that is more down to showing who’s boss than making the team better,in essence it’s a bit of an NFL strategy and heaven forbid that our American owner actually see and understand a soccer problem but owning a football team he should !
    All in all it’s the rite balance but the board may have to lay the law down to Wenger in the very near future!

  8. Ed

    March 6, 2013 at 3:02 am

    This is 100% true. Remember that press conference early in the season when Wenger was asked about the success of Steve Bould with the improved defense and Wenger replied with jealously and disdain “it’s not all him.”

    Newsflash Wenger it WAS all him!

    Result; Wenger in a fit of jealousy stops Boulds effective training sessions and reverts to the mess we now have.
    Another example of Wenger getting shot of talent in the team.
    For that jealous and damaging move Wenger should have been sacked immediately as it showed he cared more about his perceived image than he did about Arsenal.

    Time to go Wenger…

    • John Gee

      March 6, 2013 at 10:25 am

      Ed, you really must stop making up these stories. How do you know what goes on at the training ground? We all have opinions but I am sorry to say that yours is badly misinformed. I have seen Arsenal train on many occasions and can assure you that Steve Bould is in charge of much that goeson. Also remember how disgruntled the comment was when the season started with two blank sheets- AT BOTH ENDS!! Arsenal, despite your criticism, still have one of the best defensive records in the League, and yes, I know we concede poorly defended goals.

  9. ZambiaLand

    March 6, 2013 at 3:06 am

    After reading all the above comments.one thing i wud like to add is…..Manutd should hav won yesterday’s match 😛

  10. ZambiaLand

    March 6, 2013 at 3:26 am

    Go United.

  11. gooner-girl

    March 6, 2013 at 3:47 am

    It was a real pleasure to watch the Arsenal before that international break. One nil to the arsenal suits me fine and other Gooners are happy to sing about it, but wenger don’t like it so the boys musntnt do it anymore.

    It’s sad to see the stress and worry on these players faces, even Jack seems more tense and its as if theyre worried bout Wenger and even us – the crowd – before they begin to think about the opposition. I recall Fabregas saying bout being back at Barca that it was good to know what was expected of him, cos he didn’t know [when he was at Arsenal].. And he was our captain!

    Definitely something wrong with coaching, formation, selection, substitution too. These ain’t bad players but they’re not playing to their strengths and in turn are showing up wengerball to be a luxury we can no longer afford.

    • wardy

      March 7, 2013 at 6:13 pm

      the players are right to worry about the fans. some of them have been a total disgrace this season and last. (to be honest its been building for sometime. ever since Eboue recieved all that abuse, and its started to spread like wildfire)
      here comes some sacrilege. I have seen better behaved chelski fans.
      I hate going to the grove now and their is no way i will be taking my little nephew any more.

  12. ZambiaLand

    March 6, 2013 at 4:27 am

    but united should hav won yesterday@ gooner girl

  13. TOMA

    March 6, 2013 at 4:39 am

    I fully agree with everything you wrote, I even posted a ‘link’ to your article on my blog. I hope you don’t mind…?

  14. real gunner

    March 6, 2013 at 6:12 am

    plz suck kareoke and winger both
    lett the rich arabs come

  15. JSP2303

    March 6, 2013 at 12:10 pm

    Sorry but are these players too stupid to remember what Bould had them doing??? Are we saying the average memory span of a professional footballer is less than a goldfish???
    Let’s face it, Mertesacker is a central defender, regardless of how the team is set up around him, if he can’t do or remember how to do a central defenders job should he still be a professional footballer.
    Unfortunately Wenger has ended up with a team of gravy train riders, just look how Walcott has gone after the new contract. They can play when they want something but once they get it they don’t give a toss. That may be Wenger’s fault for not spotting this in the players he bought, but personally I blame 100% the goldfishes…..sorry I players!

    • Mes

      March 6, 2013 at 3:06 pm

      It all comes down to management, practising defensive drills will make you better whilst learning from mistakes that you make. But like I said, playing a high line against a quick spurs team with Mertesacker at the back and Arteta as your DM will backfire on you, and if you can’t see that then you’re part of the problem too. Mancini sent an incredible attack to Wenger a couple of weeks ago “But I’m not Arsène Wenger. We’re different. I want to win. I think every player should be strong enough to take his responsibility and, like this, you can improve. You don’t improve if you have a manager saying ‘aah, don’t worry, you made a mistake but it doesn’t matter.'”

      Now ask yourself how many times has Wenger blasted his players for continuous errors???

  16. Tony Akers

    March 6, 2013 at 1:37 pm

    I think Wenger is completely to blame He should let Bould take over defensive duties and stay out of the way the trouble is he is obstinate and will not admit when he is wrong I blame the board of directors they should tell Wenger he is wrong but He is making them so much money they are getting greedy bastards it is about Time Wenger Resigned we have had enough of his shit he has completely lost the plot and it is time for someone rlse to take us forward sorry Arsene but please Fuck off Cheers Arsenal supporter for over 65 years.

  17. Mike Gunner

    March 6, 2013 at 1:41 pm

    Red faced was too distraught to talk to the media. What makes him him think he can in the cl like in the epl?let’s be frank. Itwas a 2nd bookable offence and Nani had to go. Maybe in the epl he would probably get a yc.
    Fb to 2003. The gunners were leading the epl . MU faced Blackburn. The MU gk brought down the Blackburn player. being the last player defender he shd have been off. Instead he was given a yc. To rub salt into the wound,he went on to save the spot kick. Need less to say RF went to win the epl.
    So what goes round comes round. I don’tcare whetehr rf is distraught or not or writhing on the ground with a leg injury.
    This is football.You win and lose and cannot be winning 100% of the time with the ref;s connivance.,of course.

  18. Meerkat

    March 6, 2013 at 7:18 pm

    You say – “where is the team that defended so well against Stoke & Sunderland at the beginning of the season….” What, do you mean the team that had clean sheets against Stoke and Sunderland prior to the Tottenham game you’re whining about? And with ten men against Sunderland too.

    Stop moaning, support the club, or stfu. Simples!

  19. Mood gooner

    March 6, 2013 at 9:52 pm


    • wardy

      March 7, 2013 at 6:06 pm

      Thats why we had so much success with Dien on board. he rarely took no for an answer (a real sales man type, something Wenger clearly isnt) and even when he did it lead to his leaving the club.

    • Larry

      March 8, 2013 at 1:22 am

      Very well said Mood gooner best comment I have read here. Only the blind and deluded fans still thinks Wenger is taking the club in the right direction, while you and I are the ones who can see that he has ruined our once great football club one selfish arrogant man who doesn’t even care what the fans think.

  20. wardy

    March 7, 2013 at 6:03 pm

    While i agree that our that we are somewhat porous at the back. However i would like to point out we couldnt score during that time leading i think to wenger abandon it all togther (a mistake i admit) This is because Wenger has backed himself into a croner to the point he doesnt have the sort of time to grind out such tactics untill the attackers figure out the best way to exploit there new found solidity at the back. What this does prove without a doubt is our defenders arent as bad (individualy) as everyone makes out.
    Why did wenger back track in the first place? its down to fact that despite the clean sheets we couldnt score to save our lives. Which lead to many critics to think wenger may well loose his job. He has got away with his failings because of brand of football we played. take that away and he is left without a leg to stand on. I’m in no way defending wenger just pointing out the facts…..

  21. chongo

    March 7, 2013 at 10:49 pm

    Man U here. I hate Arsenal fans. They give fans a bad name. They destroyed the confidence of their own players with their abuse and now they blame Wenger and promote nobodies. I dont understand why Wenger still takes this crap.

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