Arsenal FC: Why Signing Speedy Defenders Won't Solve Arsenal's Defensive Woes

Robin SAnalyst IMay 26, 2011

BLACKBURN, ENGLAND - MARCH 19:  Blackpool manager Ian Holloway speaks with Christopher Samba of Blackburn after the Barclays Premier League match between Blackburn Rovers and Blackpool at Ewood Park on March 19, 2011 in Blackburn, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Michael Regan/Getty Images

I've read a number of blogs suggesting Christopher Samba wouldn't solve Arsenal's defensive fragility. It must be said that's a poor statement to make.

Samba, as we all know, is a tall, strong centre back whose gigantic figure is a worthy addition to any side.

A centre back is not expected to be great on the ball, and one can't expect Nemanja Vidic—the best defender in the Premier League—to play scintillating cross-field balls.

If Vidic can be the best defender in the Premiership without making eye-catching through balls and improbable lob passes, why are players like Samba undervalued?

I am not saying Samba is as good as Vidic. He's nowhere near the Manchester United captain. And I don't think I can name a defender who is as good as Vidic at the moment. Maybe one in the Bundesliga.

Arsenal's defensive frailty has been well documented, and it's no secret that Arsene Wenger is after proven Premier League defenders to shore up his defence this summer in a bid to pull the curtains down on the six-year trophyless spell.

Samba is one of the defenders linked with the Gunners, and I believe this transfer is very much on, not least because he's well within Arsenal's transfer budget. And clearly a player at his peak and a born leader.

The criticism, though, is at his lack of pace, and how Arsenal would struggle as a result of this if he came to the Emirates.

Arsenal pride themselves on playing a high line of defence and strangle oppositions by narrowing the field of play.

While that's a very good tactic to keep hold of possession, you have to have quality players to make it work. You can have all the best defenders on your squad but if the coaching is flawed then you simply can't expect the defensive line to be cohesive.

That's exactly the problem at Arsenal. When you watch the Arsenal in action you would wonder whether they even take up coaching lessons. It's naive defending and the high line of defence is breached at will.

The most recent game at the Craven Cottage is a perfect example of what I am trying to convey. The goal scored by David Villa at the Emirates is another example of that.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic's show at the Emirates last season gives your more insight. At the White Hart Lane this season, it was Aaron Lennon who breached the high line of defence.

That's plenty to understand what the real problem is. Some of the aforementioned goals are virtually impossible to stop, no matter how good the defenders are, because the problem is with the system itself and not with players.

Sometimes players make a mess of the high line. It just takes the lack of concentration from one player to distort the straight line. And even more easy to break the offside trap if the opposition has speedy forwards.

The question that has to be asked is why is Wenger sticking to such a risky defensive strategy when he could play it safe. If the opposition has wingers like Gareth Bale and Lennon and forwards like Villa and Darren Bent, it's a self-destructive strategy to deploy a high line of defence.

The problem with Wenger is he hardly analyses the strengths and weaknesses of the opposition, and usually sticks to his plans rather than being adaptive and circumspect.

Now the entire blame is on the defenders for Arsenal's poor defensive record when it's clearly not. A simple high ball over the top of Arsenal's defence causes scramble. Most teams adopt that policy and it has been highly successful.

I don't know how new defenders (better) would stop that from happening unless they could fly and head the ball out.

Arsenal midfielders don't harry the counterparts and as a result it's easy to play a high ball over or through ball between the Gunners' defence. It's partly down to Wenger's flawed system.

In short, no matter how fast the defenders are, unless Arsenal's midfielders mark their counterparts, it's impossible to stop the opposition from playing defence-splitting through balls and high balls.

As a result, defensive reinforcements, no matter how fast, wouldn't help much. It will definitely make a difference but not the way many are expecting.

Coming back to Samba, Arsenal should sign him. He's definitely an improvement on Johan Djourou and Laurent Koscielny, though Koscielny is a different genre of player.

Samba's height and aerial strength would make defending set pieces a lot easier. He would also get away with fouls in the box because of his size (well not always but more often than Koscienly).

He can compliment Thomas Vermaelen and provide the brute force that Arsenal badly need.

You don't need two ball playing centre backs at the back. While Vermaelen is comfortable on the ball and has tremendous passing range, the other defender should preferably be a more agricultural one to compliment the finesse of his cultured partner.

That's how Manchester United and Chelsea operate. The same with AC Milan.

If you honestly say Arsenal's offside trap works, then I will stop it here. If not, Arsenal's defensive line needs to be pushed a bit deeper before signing "established" centre backs.


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