Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Squillaci: Wenger’s philosophy meant Arsenal were too open

Former Gunner Sebastien Squillaci says that the way Arsene Wenger set up his teams to attack contributed to how many goals the team conceded.

The 35 year old is currently enjoying an Indian summer to his career at Bastia, having left Arsenal in 2013.

He arrived from Sevilla in 2010 but things, by his own admission, did not go well for him at the club. He barely played in his last two seasons, and he’s now shone a little bit of light on the defensive issues that the club still experience to this day.

Speaking to The Ligue 1 Show on beIN Sports, he said, “It’s true a lot was expected from me when I arrived. But it’s always been difficult for central defenders at Arsenal.

“You can see that from before my time and after my time. The style of play was a bit like Spain’s. It was very open, and often we found ourselves defending in the middle one on one with the opposition attackers. It was never easy. It was very attacking. But that was the club’s philosophy.

“I talked about it with coach Wenger. He told me, ‘I know it’s difficult, but I want us to play like this, I want the attacking players to have more freedom and less defensive work’.”

Some might find it easy to dismiss the comments as bitter from a player who didn’t succeed in his time at the club, but it’s interesting to hear a player talk about how difficult it was under Wenger at that time.

The Frenchman, capped 21 times by his country, has noticed a change in recent times.

“I think it’s changed in the last year,” he said. “I’ve seen matches where Arsenal have had ten men in their own half.

“That didn’t exist at my time. When I see the defensive work Giroud does… the midfielders too, I think Arsenal defend a lot more these days. And I think that’s a good thing because to win games at the highest level, to win in the Champions League, you need that.”

And he looks back on his time in North London with some regret, it being the only club where things really didn’t work for him.

“I arrived at Arsenal without a proper pre-season because my move from Sevilla happened quickly. Arsenal brought me as a third centre-back, there was an injury straight away, and I had a run of 15 or 20 games straight away.

“Despite everything, the first two of three months didn’t go too badly, then in December I wasn’t good at all, I didn’t perform well and I took a bit of a hit.

“There was a lot of intensity, arriving in England from Spain, the game’s not the same. It’s very demanding in England. My performances dipped. That’s the way things go.

“I fought all the same, I gave everything, but there were high expectations and, like I say, Arsenal conceded goals before I came, they conceded goals after I left, and they’ll concede in the future.

“I feel the criticism was a bit exaggerated, but that’s the way it is. I wasn’t good enough overall. It’s a shame, but that’s part of a career. I’d never experienced that before, I’d always been a first choice player at other clubs.”

All in all it’s a very frank, honest account of his time at the club, and the difficulties of being a defender under Arsene Wenger.

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Dr. Gooner

Fits with everything we think we know about Arsene’s Arsenal then and now. Happy to hear he is doing well at Bastia.


Then. Not now.


So what is it we don’t know about wenger. Tell me what has changed within the last 10 + Years please?


Nice one seb

Third Plebeian

I agree. It’s an incredibly honest and circumspect interview. When do you hear players admit they weren’t good enough, or played terribly? I feel bad that he felt bad about the over-the-top criticism. Sometimes we forget that footballers are human.

Third Plebeian

[I mean, except for John Terry, of course. He’s a reptile.]

Julio Baptista's humble alter ego

Don’t insult reptiles


A winning reptile with a winning mentality. fascinating species.

He's the soup

We should field attacking players like Campbell who track back so well. That would make sense.

Scott P

I really hope that we keep Campbell this summer. With the Ox and Walcott misfiring and at least one of them likely to leave, we will need strength in numbers on the wings. We need to buy a top quality wide player anyway, but losing 3 of our current squad who can play there would be too much, especially since Campbell has shown so much promise.

Our current wide options: Walcott (should be sold), Ox (struggling), Campbell, Ramsey (not really a wide man), Iwobi, Welbeck, Alexis. Pretty thin, even if there’s some decent quality there.


Wenger will not be buying a wide player. He’s got decent options and will keep places in his squad for those misfiring players. Walcott might go if anyone would take him (probably not), Wenger will give the Ox at least another year. Ramsey in the middle doesn’t work because he’s basically Arsenal’s Van der Vaart (goals yes, running yes, injuries yes, effective defending no) so no wingers needed in Wenger’s mind I think. Best we can hope for is a striker, centre back (probably not though) and some semi decent replacement for Flamrosteta…

Scott P

Well, what both of us think and what Wenger things will obviously be two different things.


Good idea but, haven’t you noticed what has happened to Campbell since he came on and started tracking back and showing more promise in 1 season than Theo/Ox have shown in the last god knows how many years. wenger treats him like **** now.


i would agree to a point but must add that our style of play really changed when we had fabregas in central midfield. up to then we always had a midfield pairing that could both tackle well and put in a defensive shift from viera,petit, edu, parlour gilberto, van bronkhorst etc we always had a pair that could defend well from the middle. we were always attacking but i think when fabregas came in we lost a little defensively but gained a bit more in attack.

Wizard of OZ(il)

Elneny looks like that bunch so I hope he will get his spot on the pitch regularly.


Wenger adjusted that by going 4-2-3-1 and putting Fab in CAM to accentuate his strengths and diminish his defensive responsibilities.

But Squill is bang on.


The 4-2-3-1 was initially a 4-4-1-1 used to get the most out of Hleb. Hleb was behind the striker, Fab and Flam were the base.


Good points. I would add that an additional issue, one that Elneny does not have, is that of moving the ball on quickly. Ozil is the only one who has enough skill and vision to take his time if he needs to, and his changes of direction and dribbling are underrated.
Ramsey keeps the ball too long, coquelin (much better passer than acknowledged) is also prone to taking an extra touch. Elneny keeps it very simple and keeps it moving even if it is going to be passed right back to him. A proper midfielder.

Stewart Robson's therapist

There’s still no excuse for giving corners away under no pressure to speak of, as he used to do.


Doesn’t excuse the fact that he was terrible for us. Remember the 80th minute own goal against 10 men Wigan? We could’ve gone top of the league that night


Where does it excuse anything? Did you even read the article?

” I wasn’t good enough overall.”

His own words.


That’s right, he admits he was poor, but we’re still poor defensively, especially with set-pieces. The players change, the weaknesses don’t. All that seems to have happened is that our attack has got feebler. We used to regularly put six or seven past teams like Everton (Moyes’s Everton, that is, who were very defensive unlike the Martinez version), whereas now we practically never score more than three. This despite the money we’ve spent on Oezil and Sanchez. We’ve got the worst goal difference in the top four and that’s a new thing. Anyone one else see the articles about Bayern… Read more »


Isn’t this now acknowledged as a bit of a myth, that Wenger does not do tactics? He prefers to let people have that impression. If you generally listen to him, you will find that he has consistently followed a principle of not letting on too much. Maybe its the preparation that’s poor, not the lack of it, that is the problem. I just feel, given that people’s working capacity diminishes as they get older and looking at how Alex Ferguson used to regularly refresh “his team” (his backroom staff), that Wenger’s biggest weakness might not be idealism, a desire for… Read more »

Arseology - Reloaded

Of course Wenger is a master tactician – made Andy fookin’ Carrol look like Ibrahimovich in his prime. No one else managed to do that.


I agree with the last bit.
But why would it be considered a myth that he doesn’t do tactics when our last game had Carroll scoring a hattrick and attacking us aerially when even the pundits before the game mentioned that WH would do that, and Wenger himself acknowledges headers has been our weakness all season (nay, past decade), yet he wasn’t expecting them to target that (and worse yet, didn’t even adjust to that)?


@Kafka, Oh, Wenger CAN do tactics; we’ve seen him do them very successfully – ‘Unfortunately it worked,’ I remember him saying on beating United in the FA Cup final – but having to resort to them goes painfully against his philosophy so he mostly relies on ‘our quality’ and leaves the players do their own thing. Unfortunately these days ‘our quality’ often isn’t enough against the more tactically clued-in teams who are set up to frustrate us, so the players simply crumble in bewilderment. More and more this season – and who can blame them since it’s been going on… Read more »

John C

“We used regularly put six or seven past teams like Everton”

Absolutely, stat of the week is that Ronaldo has single handedly scored more champions league goals since September 2013 than the entire Arsenal squad in the same time!



I think that stat is likely true for every other English team in that time period, too. Although we have played more games than any of them, so I guess it’s especially bad for us.


There are a billion nights when ‘we should have gone top’…


I wish arsene wins the title next season looking at the pressure surrounding him and legends like wrighty saying he will probably leave next season a manager who has given his all for our club (he might not have been his best in the past few years , but I will always hope )

P.s. Where there is hope there is always a chance for heartbreak (nothing new considering we are arsenal fans :P)


No one wants Wenger to leave on a low. Trouble is, since he wouldn’t leave on a high, leaving on a low is the only alternative. He should have retired after winning the FA Cup with his reputation almost in tact. If he’d done that, we’d all have happily pretended that the only problem with his management was shortage of money and he’d been an unselfish genius who’d performed miracles through the years of the worst of the stadium of debt. The truth, of course, was unfortunately otherwise, as was becoming increasingly obvious from the way managers with far less… Read more »


He’s clearly mentioned that this is a thing of the past and in his opinion Arsene’s Arsenal are not guilty of this in recent times. I don’t think it is fair to take something that was clearly applicable to Arsenal a couple of seasons ago and look at Arsenal under that light now.

John C

And Southampton, Liverpool, Man U, Bayern, Barcelona, Sheffield Wednesday, and Olympiacos who have all scored 3 or more against us this season!


Wow, that’s some assortment!!


And we were led to believe that the high scoring maulings we received two years ago were fixed. Arsenal under Wenger will always be brilliant and brittle


I’m not denying any of our current defensive frailties. What I was trying to say is Squillaci’s comments seem to be about the Arsenal squad he played in and not the current. Although we’ve not been doing well defensively this season, it’s unfair to say that our defensive abilities haven’t improved since the time Squillaci played. We’ve had periods where our defensive solidity have won us games when our attack wasn’t firing. When Bould was introduced as coach, we had significantly improved defensively. We’ve been poor off late, but I find it annoying that we’re quick to point fingers to… Read more »


Wow, I think someone has been drinking the Kool Aid. I see what you’re trying to say but the buck has to stop with him. I’m not sure which side of the fence I sit when it comes to #wengerout. However, something which is clear is that his decision making and tactics have been somewhat off (Andy Carroll last weekend being the perfect example). Keeping faith with some players over Campbell is just crazy. Especially as Campbell can put in a solid defensive shift too. I wish we didn’t point the finger at Wenger but the sad truth is that… Read more »


That is a fair assessment. I guess from (the votes on my comments and) how different my comments are from several others, it is evident I’m way too partial towards Arsene here. Ah well, it is what is it.. We can all only hope that Wenger does prove his doubters wrong and comes good with the faith that others are still showing in him. PS: I’m more of a lurker and don’t comment here very often. Unfortunately the first time I write a detailed comment here, they weren’t received very well. But I’m glad this was such a civilized discussion… Read more »


I cannot believe there are people who have this opinion after witnessing our form this year.

glory hunter

Clearly Arsene in disguise, a bad disguise at that!!!


Please read my reply to blogs.


It’s clearly in the past Keith, look how outstanding out defence is now and has been for years eh.

The Ice Man Cometh...

I don’t think it’s enough anymore for attacking players to go and play unless you’re Ronaldo or Messi… The best attacking players have no problems putting in a shift, just look at how good Alexis was last season, a lot of what he was lauded for was his defensive desire. We didn’t see any of that on Saturday… players fault or manager instruction?


Watch Ronaldo in last two games vs Wolfsburg and Messi last night chasing back to cover Dani Alves, if those two do it then that leaves no excuse whatsoever for any player in our squad. Desire to win at all costs and determination not to lose in two of best players of all time in HD.

Rohith J

Sensible words. He admits he wasn’t good enough and also that there were problems in Wenger’s approach to defence. Fair play to him.

Big Rob

He was crap to be fair


It’s not really that black and white. Some players just fit in certain systems better. Some players seem crap, but then they make a move to another club or another league, and suddenly they’re an important figure in that team. It’s a bit strange, but it happens. Just look at the players that leave Madrid haha.


Arsenal kills hope.


Is “CLE” short for “Cleary not” a Gooner?



I hate the “Whos the bigger fan” bullshit. What i type here has no effect on the team. Ditto for you and everyone else.

Third Plebeian

Agree, CLE. It’s tiresome, for sure.

And besides, who in the world would argue differently about what this team does to our hopes! This year, especially, has been difficult because it felt like such a huge opportunity lost.

Ex-Priest Tobin

Can we put knee jerk posts accusing contributors of not being fans on the prohibition list along with personal attacks?


Honestly blogs, your point of view is stupid. Go support another club,
like Arsenal de Sarandi.


It’s a sad state of affairs that I am already apologising to my 6 month old son for the frustration, dismay and gut wrenching kick to the stones that is being a Gooner when he is older, mind you it could be worse, he could end up being a Sp*d like my Dad. I know I dodged a bullet there.


Saw ” squallChi ” score away at Bolton …suggested on here we should buy huth just before we bought Gabriel ! Would like to see bfg back in team especially agsinst wba’ and their striker Romedan’

Lord Bendtner

Who’s Squillaci?

Lord Bendtner

Jk and i do agree with his statements

Cyprus The immortal Gooner

Not the first one. I remember Adams mentioning a couple of times that he spoke with Wenger about the defence as well…

Arteta Fan

What an insightful article spelling out what we all know…attacking football puts pressure on defense and it’s players. It pays remember that someone saying “I wasn’t good enough” does not mean that they were “poor”. Wenger if he were in most other leagues would probably be a quite dominant coach. In the Premier league being so offenseive May not be the best choice to win the most titles. That is one of the reasons I love arsenal! It is easy to admire “total football”, it is another thing to actually support it.


Time for Wenger to go as no one with an sense does the same thing knowing it doesn’t work


Viera said same about Wenger. He just tells his player to go out and play beautiful football without any game plan (tactics). Hence Viera choice of Morinho over wenger as his best Coach. Our players always look like lost sheep whenever under pressure. I completely agree with Squillaci. Sadly, we are having same dish next season. Beautiful top top quality fooball.


Buy an average defender, play him in a system where you need the best 1v1 defenders in the world, what can go wrong?

Bank of friendship

Nothing will change until we get Wenger out.
Thirteen points behind Leicester is a disgrace.
Same for city,livrpool,man u;Chelsea.
Difference is they are trying to do something about it.
We will carry on the same next season under Wenger.


Wenger’s philosopy still ain’t working even after spending considerable money


Every word Sebastien said seems like real talk to me from what I have witnessed from wenger who to this day under orders from his mate stan in trying to bull and lie to us. Some of us swallow his bull and ask for more some can see it clearly for what it is. Sold a lie when we left Highbury and all true lovers of the club have been eased out and anybody who could possibly speak up have also been pushed out. Also no previous legends are allowed no where near the place. You have to give stan… Read more »

King Kolo

I’m not saying anyone on here is doing this but the quotes do go to show how much we can forget players are just human beings like most fans. Squillaci would have been given so much grief without any thought as to why he might be struggling. There is not a centre half who would not have struggled in that defence. I suspect they’d all have been world beaters behind Makelele and Esien or Petit and Vieira. The same applies to Gabriel now. He was part of one of the best defences in Spain at Villareal. His start at Arsenal… Read more »


Tim Stillman invited me late to the party.

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