Despite Arsenal only conceding one goal so far this season, Tony Adams thinks Arsene Wenger still has work to do on his defence if the Gunners are to start winning silverware again.
There’s no doubt that our former captain is well positioned to recognise the importance of building a side on solid foundations. In 1991, under George Graham’s guidance, he was part of a defence that conceded only 18 goals on the way to the title, while under Wenger in 1999 the famous back four/five was only breached 17 times.
Identifying a shift away from a more conservative style – hardly difficult seeing as we let in 49 goals in the Premier League last term – Adams hinted that even after chatting with Arsene Wenger he was unconvinced by the Frenchman’s willingness to change his emphasis on the attack.
“They don’t defend as a team now,” Adams told the Evening Standard ahead of this evening’s Champions League game with Montpellier.
“The problem for me in the last seven years is the defensive vulnerabilities as a team — the goalkeeper, the back four, even the central midfield players, the mentality of the team. I don’t think they are a team that are set up to do what Chelsea did last year in the Champions League and I don’t think Arsene wants to.
“I don’t want to put these current players down because they are fantastic. But we used to train constantly with [manager] George [Graham]. We worked at it. We went out there and did it every minute, morning and afternoon. It used to drive us insane but on a Saturday you would know it inside out.
“Year in, year out the team with the best defence win the league and we saw the team with the best defence win the Champions League, so it makes you wonder why a lot of teams aren’t focusing more on defending.
“It’s a European thing. I have said it to Arsene — ‘your full-backs are playing like wingers’. Teams were exploiting it at the Emirates and it was a massive flaw. Arsene would say, ‘I know’. I think he recognises that’s a problem. Whether he does anything about it . . .”
In fairness to Tony – a man who the boss labelled ‘a doctor of defence’ when he arrived at the club – watching the current crop concede sloppy goals must be like a dagger to the heart. That he speaks with such passion on the matter is a sure fire sign he is not mischief making, but just eager for his (they will always be his) side to get back to winning ways.
There’s little doubt that he will take encouragement from Steve Bould’s influence in recent months. That being said, while Wenger is cautiously optimistic about the influence of Adams’ former teammate, the boss has also made clear that the decision not to return to a ‘shut up shop’ philosophy will consequently see goals conceded.
“He’s doing his job very well. I believe it’s a bit early to speak about our defensive record, because we’ve played only four games,” Wenger told Arsenal.com earlier this week.
“Don’t forget that the basis of our team is a very offensive philosophy. So sometimes, if we concede goals in the future, it will not be Steve Bould’s fault. It will only be a consequence of the way we see football.”
A balance certainly needs to be found. Finding it though is easier said then done.