Per Mertesacker has stressed the importance of defensive solidity from the midfield which should take initial precedence over their attacking play.
The Gunners impressive 12 match unbeaten streak came to an end on Tuesday night, falling to Borussia Dortmund 2-1 at Emirates, and both goals could have been prevented with more concentration from Arsenal’s midfield. Ramsey’s over confidence led to him being dispossessed just outside of his own box, while an over-attacking mindset led to Dortmund’s late counter where they are lethal.
Wenger ripped into his side after the fixture (which happened to be on the Frenchman’s birthday) and felt they lacked maturity and naivety for throwing away what could have been a crucial, valuable point had they managed a draw.
Mertesacker has seconded his bosses thoughts and feels the Gunners need to express more discipline especially when it comes to the midfielder’s defensive side of their game, consequently heightening the teams inability to keep regular clean sheets this season.
The German and his teammates are set to face struggling Crystal Palace this weekend and will look to get back to winning ways after their midweek blip. The centreback has expressed the need to defend first, then express themselves creatively and “work their magic”.
He told Skysports:
We know we are on a good run in the Premier League, but it needs more than just playing with full freedom and vision.
We need to defend first.
Then we can switch the rest on. You have seen what can happen after that. We have players who can play so quickly together.
Tomas Rosicky came in and fitted into everything as well as Mesut Ozil or Jack Wilshere. When those three combined together, you could feel some magic in the air, a real chemistry.
Arsenal have conceded a number of unnecessary goals in recent times that often provide nervy portions of matches. One player we certainly missed on Tuesday was Mathieu Flamini who adds more steel to the midfield. Arteta did have an excellent game, but it appears the more defensive disciplined Flamini focuses firstly on defending before heading up the pitch as Mertesacker suggested.
The Gunners do look exciting going forward, and this will continue with so many creative players in the mix, but one extra element of their game I would like to see Arsenal polish is the ability to keep a clean sheet. Wenger has developed their style of play over the past year to sit back a little and invite some pressure, consequently opening up more space ahead and becoming lethal on the counter. This has worked well, especially as the Gunners simply score more goals than the other team, but we have seen very little clean sheets this season and it will greatly help us if we can start to find the perfect balance between defending and attacking.
Still, a lot of positives to be said about Arsenal’s game. Time to pick themselves up after the disappointing loss against Dortmund and get back to winning ways this weekend.