Defensive errors at fault for Arsenal's shambolic Brentford loss
By Jahid Islam
Hello readers of We Love You Arsenal. I’m Jahid (@MadAboutMari on Twitter) and this week’s piece is set to reflect on the defensive shitshow we all witnessed against Brentford, where we conceded two silly, amateurish goals. I was full of hope for our defense this season, especially with the addition of Ben White, but was left absolutely fuming this Friday. Our right-back, Calum Chambers, was especially frustrating, and neither of our centre-backs covered themselves in any sort of glory. I’m sorry in advance for my multiple rants. Cheers. My piece last week on Ben White played up the potential of a Gabriel-White defensive duo. I highlighted the strengths of both players, such as White’s brilliant on-the-ball ability and Gabriel’s heading acumen. However, I also pointed out two key issues with Ben White’s style of play; his tendency to overcommit to the tackle/block, and his frankly woeful heading ability. Both of these issues can be weeded out in due time, but this weekend, they directly led to a goal-scoring opportunity for Bryan Mbuemo, as well as a goal from a long throw-in. With little talent to cover for those mistakes, the defense fell apart. Let’s start with the first goal we conceded. White’s inability to head the crossed ball from Mbuemo, followed by Chambers’ poor clearance and subsequent woeful closing-down, lead to Sergi Canos scoring Brentford’s first ever Premier League goal. Those are rookie errors that you’d expect from a Sunday league side. It was frankly embarrassing to watch that go in, but at least there was the excuse of a sublime finish from Canos to beat Leno at his near post. Fair play. We lost the ball at the back, and they capitalized. You’d expect that from an high-pressing side such as Brentford, but somehow Arsenal's backline was unable to anticipate. That leads me on to my other gripe. Surely Mikel could’ve started a more mobile right-back than Calum Chambers? One who could at least handle the press and be able to cover Ben White whenever he stepped out with the ball? The first names that spring to mind are Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Nuno Tavares. Granted, Tavares made an appearance late on and isn’t actually a right-back, but both AMN and Tavares possess a speed and physicality seemingly lacking with Chambers. I feel as if that would’ve made them better choices to start against a high-pace, high pressing side such as the Bees.
In an ideal world, we’d sign a proper out-and-out right-back before the transfer window slams shut. But the market’s not saturated with talent in that position, and our club’s become notorious for ignoring the needs of the squad until it’s too late. We’d therefore have to act swiftly, in an ‘un-Arsenal like’ way, and cough up a pretty fee to pry a promising young player away from their club this late in the window. The blame for not addressing our shortcomings all across the pitch falls on whoever’s in charge of player signings, but the international tournaments couldn’t have helped. White’s signing had to take place after the Euros, and he couldn’t train with the squad for a prolonged period of time. Errors in his game will hopefully be addressed as the 23-year-old develops, but there’s little-to-no point in continuing to partner him with a CB in Pablo Mari who seems to be coated in game-rust. I talked about Gabriel being a good partner for White, and I’m on my knees begging for the Brazilian to regain fitness, but we need a competent 3rd choice centre-back in case fitness is an issue and I can’t help but think Saliba would’ve done better than Mari. But that’s enormously speculative, and hindsight’s 2020 and whatnot. Moving on. The second goal we conceded was an utter disgrace. Jamie Carragher remarked “It’s just Arsenal”, which I couldn’t even be pissed off about, because I knew he was spitting facts. Defensive blunder after defensive blunder, season after season. A long throw-in, for God’s sake. At the near-post, Mari failed to clear the ball coming in, which subsequently bounced just over the slow-to-react White. A leaping Norgaard made a run at the far post, trouncing Tierney and heading in Brentford’s second. It's a silly goal to concede, but Arsenal have a habit of making the inexcusable seem run-of-the-mill. I sincerely hope these defensive issues can be sorted out asap. With Chelsea and City up next in our fixture list, points from any of our first three games look unlikely. This season already looks to be exceedingly difficult, unless we make some key signings, and we’ve only faced a newly-promoted Brentford side. A right-back, centre-back, attacking midfielder, and forward are essential to transform our season around. The clock’s ticking for the people in charge of signings at the Emirates. I’ve been an angrier-than-normal Jahid for We Love You Arsenal. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you soon for more bad puns and interesting takes. Hopefully a less aggro piece next week, unless we get slapped 6-0 by Chelsea, and the wrong player gets sent off for a blatant handball. Fingers and toes crossed that doesn’t happen. Bye!