I enjoyed the goal fest that was the Arsenal versus Leicester game last friday. From an entertainment point of view the game delivered, but I didn’t think it was a good game. The wingbacks, despite providing offensive cover, left large stretches of territory unguarded behind them that Leicester exploited. That’s not to say Bellerin and Ox didn’t defend, because I vividly remember Kolasanic running up to mark Mahrez on the left to stop him from advancing with the ball.
It didn’t stop there as I saw Mahrez being pushed back a few feet in what reminded me of a Greek army pushing through another army. This all occurred within the first fifteen minutes. A few minutes later Kolasanic again ran up to Mahrez on the left in an attempt to win back the ball. It was a great display of a player staying with his market and using his strength to win back territory. I believe one of the Arsenal Player commentators called him a “Neanderthal” which gives connotations that’s he’s all brawn. I get the feeling this isn’t the case. It does show that a center back had to constantly cover his wingback who was higher up the pitch.
Bellerin on the other hand traded in his defensive responsibilities for more offensive ones. He was ever present on the right touchline providing crosses and another lane for his teammates to use. This allows him to stretch the Leicester defense to open up gaps and capture the attention of other markets that can release his teammates move around in the box. We all know Bellerin is important to the Arsenal attack. His lack of defense at times needs to be covered by a center back or has to pull one of either Xhaka or El Neny to cover the spacing he left behind. This doesn’t mean I think Ox had a bad game. I quite enjoy his drives into the final third with and without the ball. It just would be reassuring if it didn’t come at the expense of defensive responsibility.
To further discuss the Arsenal defense I have to mention the second goal of the match that Okazaki scored. It continues to highlight how vulnerable Arsenal still are at set pieces. The three center backs were caught looking elsewhere and not one covered the right post where Okazaki ended up heading in. It might just be me but a team with a better defensive shape doesn’t partake in matches ending 4-3. It’s just the start of the season you say. I know. I know. Yet, how many seasons has this been an issue that hasn’t been addressed? The two games against Bayern Munich continue to haunt me.
Here’s to Arsenal having a better season than the last one and winning another FA Cup. Later.