Lacazette and Wenger promise improvements from Arsenal’s defense

Alex Lacazette scored with his second touch of the game, his first ever Arsenal shot, and put the Gunners ahead in the 2nd minute on Friday against Leicester. But the Frenchman’s hard work was undone moments later when the Foxes equalized through a deft corner routine. That Leicester goal meant that Lacazette’s first touch was a kickoff, his second touch a goal, and his third touch another kickoff.

Speaking after the match, Lacazette said  “It was a rollercoaster ride but it went well. We let in some goals we could have avoided but we’ll work to ensure we don’t concede any more like that during the season.”

Obviously, winning the match by scoring four goals is brilliant but Arsenal won’t want to make a habit of two-goal comebacks after conceding three. This was a sentiment echoed by Wenger in his post-match presser. When asked, “Are your defensive concerns manifested by the performance today?” which is a nonsense question, really, Wenger managed to peer through the impenetrable and retrieve this answer:

If you were the manager on the bench 3-2 down with 20 minutes to go and you win 4-3 you’re more happy than concerned, you know? And I feel that the goals we conceded we can work together to get rid of that because one was a corner, one was a ball we lost in the build-up, and the third was a corner. So, we conceded two goals on corners. We were quite good last year on corners and overall I believe that with a bit of work we can get that out of the system.

Wenger is right that two of the three goals Arsenal conceded were off corners but all three goals were generated by sloppy buildup play from the Gunners. For the first goal, Leicester won the corner after they pressured Özil with the ball in his own final third and he kicked the ball off a Leicester player for the corner; the second goal was directly from a Xhaka pass to no one; and the third goal was off a corner which was won after Bellerin coughed up the ball and Mahrez eventually took a shot.

Arsenal had 70% of the possession in the match but struggled at times to break the Leicester press. Lacazette also won 3/4 tackles in the match, proving that he’s more than happy to put in the defensive work necessary to help his team win the game. Wenger now has work to do both in terms of ball retention and marking on corners.

Qq

32 Comments on Lacazette and Wenger promise improvements from Arsenal’s defense

  1. “Struggled at times”….What team does not?
    27 shots is not struggling. 4 goals is not struggling.
    Leicester played with almost their entire team parked in their half.
    Who would not struggle to score 5+ goals?
    Get Kos, Mustafi and Per back and the D will settle.
    Still need a holding mid before window closes.

    • “Struggled at times”….What team does not?

      It means when Leicester bothered to press we lost possession leading to scoring opportunities or goals. Plenty of teams manage to negate that tactic, we cant in most cases. I don’t know how you find that hard to see/understand.

      “27 shots is not struggling. 4 goals is not
      struggling.”

      If we need 27 shots to score 4 goals we’ll struggle to win games.

      “Leicester played with almost their entire team parked in their half”

      75% of teams park the bus at the Emirates and a lot get results doing so. The onus is on us to figure out a way to get around that.

      “Who would not struggle to score 5+ goals?”

      Man U just got 4 vs West Ham without losing control of the game or being sloppy

      “Get Kos, Mustafi and Per back and the D will settle.”

      We had them last term but still conceided the most goals out of the top teams. We need a better defensive scheme imo. Or vastly superior one on one defenders.

      “Still need a holding mid before window closes.”

      Agree on this

  2. No, 27 shots and 4 goals is not struggling-period!
    70% possession is not struggling.
    The two times Arsenal gave it up- Mesut and Xhaka led to goals, could happen to any team. Teams do turn the ball over many times and it does not neccessarily lead to a goal.
    I saw Ox break the press numerous times.
    Vardy’s goals were well taken. The cross and corner were inch perfect!
    A lot of results means?
    Check the last 11 games before this one, and see if the goals against numbers are lower- they are.

    • Needing a high number of chances to score goals is inefficient. Last term, teams starved us of chances and we couldnt score enough to win games, thats why our goals tally dried up and we started losing our way midway through the season.

      Of course teams turn the ball over many times in a game (thats how games playout)but coughing up the ball in dangerous areas under minimal pressure is not a hallmark of a good team.

      Yes, Ox had good dribbles to break the press but it’s not going to work all the time. He has lost possession trying to do that a couple of times and we’ve conceided directly from that. Opening day v West Ham springs to mind.

      Lets be honest, the last 11 games were against teams who had nothing to play for. We do this all the time to make the top 4.

      • You keep talking about offensive inefficiency. To paraphrase the inimitable Inigo Montoya, “I do not think that term means what you think it means.” Last year, league wide goal conversion rate was 10.8%. High goalscorers Tottenham converted 12.9% of their shots. Barca converted 17.8% of their shots. 4/27 is 14.8%. That’s plenty efficient and if we maintained that efficiency for an entire season I’d be more than happy.

        • All those teams won nothing (league/CL), so I dont know what your point is to be honest. Had they scored at a higher rate (which is my basic premise) they would have won the league, same goes for barca.

          Btw, that 10.8% is brought down by terrible teams like Sunderland and Middlesborough. A better comparison is with teams around our level

          • So you’re saying that Barca and Spurs are not at our level? Since they both finished above us in their respective league positions, perhaps you’re right. They are teams we should aspire to. The league wide conversion rate was to give you a frame of reference, something I’m now explicitly pointing out since you failed to grasp that initially. I understand that poor offensive teams decrease that number and that good offensive teams increase it. As a reference, it shows we were above the mean.

            And if you cared to research team all shot conversion rates over several leagues and seasons, data which are widely available on the internet, you could only come to the conclusion that 15% is pretty damned good. I’ve done that so I know that already but you don’t have to take my word for it. Research it yourself. If you do and don’t come to the same conclusion, I can only conclude that you have a set narrative that you want to express and you’re not going to let little things like actual facts get in the way of your conclusion.

            And if you care to dig a little deeper and get more granular in your analysis and look at expected goals or shot quality, be my guest. That type of analysis may actually reveal that given the quality of the shots we created, we actually “should” have scored significantly more than four goals. If you find that, I’ll happily concede the argument. But I’m too lazy to find that right now so I’m happy using easily obtainable gross goal conversion rates. And by that metric, we were not inefficient.

      • Spurs,Man,City,Man utd and Chelsea Don’t seem like teams with nothing to play for. So at least make your statements true.

        • @Teesong

          Chelsea had a conversion rate of 20.1%. Real Madrid had 20.3%. I wonder why you didnt bring them up?

          If anyone can’t grap simple stats and how they impact outcomes over a league campaign it’s you.

          @Gunnerjoe

          Spurs beat us (they were going for the title), Man City we drew (had given up on title and top four was safe), Man U we beat (had focussed on Europa by then). The rest of our wins were against average teams in the league.

          So our last 11 league game run means little to me. As I said before we do this all the time to try make the top four.

          • At this point, not only are you being willfully obtuse, which normally I wouldn’t reply to, but you’re just plain wrong, which I can’t abide. From whoscored.com, Real Madrid last season in La Liga had 107 goals from 663 shots, which is 16.1%. Chelsea in the league last season had 83 from 580 shots, 14.3%. I understand statistics. You sir, have amply demonstrated that not only are you willfully ignorant, you’re unable to to perform a simple task like googling basic information or doing simple maths.

  3. to Ghost Gooner / re Aaron…
    1. Every time Leicester ‘bothered’ to press we lost possession.(?) Every time we lost possession it lead to scoring opportunities or goals.(?)
    Just read that again – hyperbolic? Did Leicester only press 3 times (+ missed opps)? With such a remarkable ratio, why didn’t they do it more?

    2. “I don’t know how you find that hard to see/understand.”
    >>Seems a little aggressive, no? Are you implying that Aaron is blind and/or stupid? Is it because the radical opinion is put forward that most teams struggle AT TIMES with the press? Is this a ‘rational and calm discussion’ – it’s true that for all I know you 2 guys have history. If so, I’ll get out of the way… (not yet though;-)

    3. “If we need 27 shots to score 4 goals we’ll struggle to win games.”
    >>Wow – have another look at that logic twist! Here, let’s twist it again just for kicks (same game, different outcome)… If Arsenal get 27 shots and 4 goals per game, what are our chances this season? Tim?

    4. “75% of teams park the bus at the Emirates…”
    >> This is a stats-based blog, right?

    5. “The onus is on us to figure out a way to get around that.”
    >> We did. We won. The 4 was us. You know that, right?

    6. “Who would not struggle to score 5+ goals?”
    “Man U just got 4 vs West Ham…”
    >> No elucidation required.

    7. “We had them last term but still conceided the most goals out of the top teams.”
    >>Some might say this seems a rather conceited way of getting an extra ‘i’ there. Not me. I concede the team needs work defensively. But, did we really have Kos, Mustafi and Per last term? Would we have been better if we had? In a big-game match with all options available, would you choose Monreal as the middle CB?

    8. “Still need a holding mid before window closes.”
    “Agree on this”
    >>Nup, disagree.

  4. These kinds of games makes me think back to a comment from one the 80s Edmonton Oilers dynasty players (can’t remember which) along the lines of “it does not matter if they score 5 or 6 goals, we’ll score more”. They wont the Stanley Cup 4 times in a row with the most devastating offence around. Unfortunately, I don’t think we can rely on this approach with Arsenal. What happended to one of the lowest conceding defences of a couple of seasons ago?

    • Yeah Petri, I think Wenger’s on record years ago saying something very much along those lines. Whatever the case, there’s no doubt he subscribes to that philosophy. He believes in it not only as the best way for his team to approach the game, but also for his club and (rightly or wrongly) for the game of football in general (partly because of his belief in responsibility to the wider audience). This position is one of the fundamental reasons that he’s in diametric opposition to the short-term specialist, twice-sacked ex-chelsea manager. Wenger believes this attitude is best for the long-term success of a club and its identity. Many disagree. Fair enough. But most would agree that more often than not, it makes for interesting games. This is one of the reasons that Arsenal games are popular with the neutrals.

    • That was one of the most insane offensive teams in the history of North American major league sports. Paul Coffey who was defender, scored more goals than most forwards on other teams. Mark Messier and Jari Kurri would have destroyed opposition defenses without that # 99 guy. And Grant Fuhr despite some high GA figures some seasons, stood on his head many a night during those glory years. If Arsenal had that kind of firepower today we would win the league with a +25 GD regardless of how many we let in!

      • meant to say, EVEN without that #99 guy. And when you had Wayne Gretzky on top of everything else? How could you not win the league multiple times? In one of the brief moments of childhood wisdom I possessed at the time, I would tell my friends REMEMBER THIS, hockey may never see this again or at least not for another 100 years. Okay, so that was my Dad but I took it to heart and told anyone who would listen.

        • That’s what I told people when Arsenal won the league unbeaten.
          It took 115 years to repeat that feat. And Thierry Henry on top of Bergkamp, Vieira, Pires and Ljungberg?

          We were spoiled. And still we didn’t dominate – that’s how good Ferguson’s Utd were.

  5. Am I the only one who thought Cech also had a big hand in our shipping three goals? Lots of talk about our terrible defending, but it seemed to me that his position was poor on the first and last Leicester goals, and when he streaked out to dispossess Vardy in the second half he was very lucky that Vardy’s first touch was so weak. I know he was playing behind a makeshift line but I have yet to be convinced Petr is our best choice right now for ‘keeper.

    • it is a problem. hopefully, it was just cech being a big uncomfortable with the makeshift defense and trying to help out a bit too much. likewise, i’m hoping the coaching staff can give cech a proper debrief on his performance and encourage him to let the field players make tackles and he focus on controlling the defense and making saves.

      btw, i don’t blame cech for the vardy volley. the quality of the cross was inch-perfect; no one is saving that one. however, the set plays, he clearly made mistakes, namely not dealing well with okazaki obstacle. deja vu, i recall the ’07-’08 season where lehmann made a mistake in the first game against fulham. arsenal still won that game but lehmann made another mistake in the third game against blackburn that caused arsenal to draw. after that game, lehmann was subsequently dropped for almunia. it sure would be nice to have szczesny now.

  6. I think Cech is still more of an asset than a liability but the latter does seem to be balancing out the former to an increasing degree.

    BTW, so disappointed that Mou’s MU spanked WHU to the tune of 4-0. I also was a Geordie this morning to no avail.

  7. Ughh… we have a long, long way to go in improving our play against set pieces.

    Leicester Goal #1 In which Sleeping Beauty gets pantsed

    Ozil jogs out even though it is obvious that there are two Leicester players who are going to take a short corner. Albrighton plays a quick 1-2 with Fuchs, Ozil has to honor Fuchs but when Fuchs plays it on to Albrighton Ozil only runs fast enough to keep Albrighton in front of him and then actually pulls up when it is clear Albrighton is about to cross it. Consequently Ozil is in no position to attempt to attempt a block or even hurry the cross. This is incredibly painful because we constantly get killed when we allow uncontested crosses into the box. Albrighton had 1.5 dribbles a game last year in the Prem, but he is no Eden Hazard and Ozil should have closed him down. Fail.

    With all the time in the world Albrighton hits a beautiful curving ball in. Kola and Bellerin are slow to recognize the flight of the ball and instead of backtracking to play it, turn and watch it sail over their heads. Only when it is behind them do they start running. They are way too late to get a play on the ball. This is clearly a designed play because Leceister have sent two players to the far inside corner of the six yard box, Mahrez to screen and Harry Maguire to head it back into play. Of course we are too inept to recognize this play so that tactical flourish was unnecessary, but had Bellerin been awake he might have been screened out anyway. Cech misjudges the flight of the ball, coming out halfway toward the top of the six yard box, then stopping and running toward Maguire. He too is a day late and a dollar short and is easily bypassed by Maguire’s looping header. Xhaka stays awake, but he is going toward the goal mouth to cover a cross to Ndidi and Morgan; on the positive side Xhaka recognizes the play in time to leap for the ball. Unfortunately his momentum was carrying him the other way and all he can do is jump into Okazaki and make him work for it. Kola, who, had he followed Okazaki in would have been in perfect position to make Okazaki eat turf, is in dreamland and sadly remained rooted in his spot at the top of the six yard box. Honorable mention goes to a sleepy Monreal who can count himself lucky that the header didn’t go to Ndidi and Morgan since he only began tracking them when they were alone at near end of the goal mouth. Welbz barely moves. Maybe he was paying closer attention to Vardy.

    Who is most at fault? Maybe Ozil, though as he comes out he looks back over his shoulder as if he’s expecting a second person to come out and cover Albrighton. Certainly Cech made a hash of it. If anyone should be able to judge a ball’s flight it should be him. Xhaka is probalby the least blameworthy even though he is the one who got beat.

    Leicester Goal #3 Okazaki took three Arsenal players out of the play by himself.

    First Okazaki bodies up against Elneny, who doesn’t seem to understand what’s going on. Elneny lets Okazaki lean into him and pushes back to hold his position near far post. This effectively excludes Elneny from the play when Okazaki changes direction and sprints toward top of 6 yard box. Cech for some reason stands a closer to far post rather than the middle of the goal mouth. As the ball is kicked Okazaki steps toward the near post pulling Elneny with him, completely screening Cech behind two players. Then Okazaki takes a step outward and jumps toward the top of the 6 yard box, he doesn’t get ball, that’s Vardy’s job, instead he takes out Monreal who, having been warned to watch Vardy by Welbeck, has rushed forward and made a desperate leap toward the ball.

    Who is to blame?
    Elneny who should have controlled his man > Cech who should have stepped forward to block Okazaki and not allow himself to be screened > Monreal who should have started marking Vardy a step sooner.

    • on the first goal, an argument you could make for ozil is that he absolutely can not get beaten off the dribble by albrighton. second, it’s dangerous to allow that ball to get played back to fuchs. third, it’s dangerous to allow the cross to be played in. those are his priorities in that order. if he allows the ball to be played in, it’s dangerous but it’s also predictable and easier for the defense to deal with than if he allowed the ball to be passed to fuchs who could do anything. still worse than the cross or the pass to fuchs is if ozil get’s beaten off the dribble. that collapses the defense and anything can happen at that point; think ox in china when he got put on his backside in the corner a few weeks ago. as for cech, he didn’t lose the flight of the ball. he never had the flight of the ball because he was focused on getting around okazaki.

      on the second set piece, back to okazaki, his role is to be an obstacle for cech to get around. okazaki knows where the ball is going to be played. if he makes it harder for cech to get to where the ball is going to be played, he’s done his job. after the first goal, arsenal decided to put a player on okazaki, first elneny, then kolasinac. the problem with that is now, instead of getting around one player, cech has to get around 2. okazaki can’t initiate physical contact with cech but he can shove and push all he wants with elneny, which makes a larger obstacle for cech to get around.

      as for cech “inexplicably” beginning at the back post instead of central, consider this. if you have to move through a crowded area (penalty box) and focus on something that’s in the air coming in (soccer ball) would you rather move forward where you can see things peripherally or move backwards where you can’t see anything? if cech starts at the back post and the ball get’s played to the back post, he’s already there (doesn’t have to move backwards). if the ball get’s played to the front post, he can move forward. that is sound technique exercised by most goal keepers. the problem with the play was, first, i prefer a body at the near post to help out. second, cech didn’t set his feet when the header came in. the goal cam shows cech clearly shuffling his feet when vardy heads the ball. if cech’s feet are set, that’s an easy catch.

      • RE Goal #1 Interesting. So you think it was a tactical decision not to contest the cross? Do you agree with it? On the surface that makes sense since we keep our shape. But set pieces have been a recurrent weakness for us and Albrighton is now at a much better angle so Cech has to honor a shot as well. I would have been happier if Ozil had gone harder for the block or tackle. If Albrighton had played it back to Fuchs, Ox and Monreal were in position to respond.

        For the second set piece, Kola is not involved. He is level with the far post just outside the top of the six yard box and never really enters the play.

        I get your point about goalkeepers wanting to come toward the ball. I don’t think Cech shuffling his feet is that big of a deal. Granted he was in the path of the eventual shot before he shuffled his feet to move to the center of the goal mouth, but had he not moved Vardy would have gone near post. Maybe if someone had been placed there he would have been able to defend it, but given how free Vardy was I doubt it. It was a bullet header and even if Cech’s feet had been set in the center of the goal mouth, I doubt he makes a play unless it is hit right at him. My real problem is that Cech didn’t place himself in a position to claim the ball at the top of the six yard box. He put himself a step from the back post completely behind Elneny and Okazaki and literally had no chance.

        I think that we are way too predictable in our zonal defending and that leaves our defense way too open to well choreographed set plays.

  8. With Sanchez in Paris being romanced by PSG, we should tell them how great he is and how he will take them over the line to win the CL, but the only way they get him is if they give us Draxler and Rabiot.

    Otherwise it they will have to massively outbid the UAE to overcome the appeal of staying in London and playing under Pep The Genius.

  9. Lukaku looks scary good in that United setup.

    And speaking of defence, United battered West Ham and kept a clean sheet. They will get sterner tests, of the kind that Vardy presents. But they look some team.

  10. letting in 3 goals is bad
    at 2-3 it’s game over for us at times
    it seems we are not yet prepared for the league
    united looked OK everywhere yesterday

  11. Utd looked scary good yesterday. A few thoughts-Matic was a great signing, frees up the rest of Utd midfield, really tightens things up for them. I wonder what went wrong for him last season. Interesting that Mou ends up with his “castoffs” but then also re-signs players. I wonder if Wenger left, which players he would attempt to re-sign at a new club?

    WHU looked dire. What’s the point of signing a player like Hernandez that thrived in a pressing system if you’re going to sit deep? Though I wanted to see WHU win, it gave me some satisfaction to see Arnautovic, a player I loathe, really struggle. He was bad. Also, they looked particularly weak in the middle. They’ve been linked with Carvalho, so maybe that won’t last.

    It’s not looking likely that we will sign a midfielder, despite the weekend’s evidence of how important it is to have players that can retain possession, even when pressed, and break up attacks. Increasingly nervous AW will press forward with the squad we have, even though it’s obvious we need, at the very least, some cover.

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