Speaking ahead of the game against Newcastle United, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said that the team’s defensive display against Stoke was the exception rather than the norm. Travelling to the Britannia, Arsenal had one of their worst defensive displays this season; conceding within 20 seconds of kickoff, and going into the break with a 3-0 deficit. Even though we managed to score twice in the second half, a red card for young centre back Calum Chambers destroyed any hopes that we had for salvaging a point.
But the manager said that it was only a blip on the overall campaign, and pointed to the three clean sheets Arsenal had managed before that game and also the strong defensive display against Galatasaray as evidence.
I think we defended well in Galatasaray. Before that game we had three clean sheets in a row but that is the modern game – it is always the last game that is judged definitively on the quality of the team.
The last one was Galatasaray, before it was Stoke. Yes, we did not defend well at Stoke but I feel that at Galatasaray we defended well.
We came back at five o’clock in the morning on Wednesday and we just have to recover at the moment. Our sessions are recovery, recovery because we played as well two more Champions League games.
We have played eight Champions League games since the start of the season and we are exposed to demands physically that allow us to work less than we would like to. But of course we work on our weak points.
We want to play top level games and over the years we have learnt to cope with that and we don’t want to complain. I have played my 180th Champions League game, that means we can cope with that and Arsenal has learnt to cope with that.
The defensive displays do not look like improving significantly anytime soon; Wenger confirmed that both Laurent Koscielny and Nacho Monreal will be unavailable for tomorrow’s game due to injury. This, along with Calum Chambers’ suspension, will mean that Per Mertesacker will be partnered with yet another player this season.
Defensively I have 24 hours to think about [my options] and I will find a solution for tomorrow. We have to play somebody with almost no experience or somebody who is not used to playing in the position.
So tomorrow looks to be yet another tense, nervous affair, as all Arsenal games are. Whoever Wenger picks to play in central defence has a massive task ahead of him; at the Emirates in front of those many expectant fans you simply cannot afford to make mistakes especially when we need a win so badly.