Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Season Review: The Defence.

So, the great marks out of ten review begins. Avanti!

Jens, 7.

A 7 I hear you cry? Surely Jens has had a poor season, flapping about too often, his mind not always on the ball as he has no world-cup to keep sharp for. Well, rubbish, rubbish, rubbish. If Jens has had a poor season it's because he's far too often had a shambles of a defence in front of him. If a goalkeeper is, justifiably in this case, unsure of his defenders, mistakes happen. But even then, how many times has really been at fault this year? Some glaring errors are obviously notable; sometimes his penchant for streaming out of the goal does back fire - Sheff Utd away and Fulham home come to mind. But he is still capable of producing match-winning performances - Utd away, Reading at home - and we would have lost matches such as those against Chelsea if not for superb last minute saves. In short, he's still a keeper who win matches and he remains one of the best about.

Almunia, 6.

There's a phrase you can use for quite a few of our player this season: 'solid but not spectacular'. Unfortunately Manuel falls squarely into this category. He's done reasonably enough when called upon, even if I'm worried that alternating goalkeepers is not a strategy which breeds defensive stability. Arsene should have chosen one and stuck with them. The feeling I persistently get with Almunia is that he is a fairly reliable keeper, but not one that will win the team matches. I still think he could have kept out the first goal in the Carling Cup final. That's why I don't think he's no.1 material, and also why calls in some quarters to drop Jens earlier in the season were unfair. And with the signing of Fabianski, Manuel must surely be reviewing his situation.

Hoyte, 5.

Perhaps a little harsh, I must admit, but I struggle to think of what Justin really offered the team this year. Stability at the back? Perhaps, but only in contrast to Eboue. Justin has hardly set the world on fire, perhaps understandably given his position, and he's never really looked a defensive rock. He's come on a long way this season, but he needs to improve considerably to convince me of his abilities.

Eboue, 6.

He has been the better of the right backs this season, offering far more going forward, and contributing more to the team's general play. Yet the diving remains; the theatrics remain; he switches off defensively far too often. Eboue looks the greater prospect of out of our two right-backs, but it would be an area I would improve with signings.

Senderos, 5.

After ostensibly forcing his way into the first team last year with several strong performances in the Champions League run, Phillipe has had a torrid season. Aside from several more than reasonable performances in the Carling Cup, he's been unable to really break back into the team due to the signing of Gallas and a spate of injuries. He could well go in the summer, if not next season, if his luck doesn't change. Yet I still think Phil has the makings of a world class defender. I also think that Gallas and Senderos might be our strongest centre back partnership. If Arsene isn't going to use him, a tall centre-back with aerial dominance should be a priority, as our present inability to deal with set-pieces is embarrassing.

Kolo, 6.

We all love him don't we; everyone loves a trier and you know that you'll always get 100% from Kolo. But without a tall dominant player next to him, Kolo looked shaky on a number of occasions last year. Could it be that his position as a fans' favourite has muddied our perception of his defensive abilities? I think maybe. I know he'll certainly be looking to improve next season, as he's been at fault for a number of goals this year. Dropping him still seems almost inconceivable, however, which is not always a good thing.

Gallas, 6.

Hasn't performed to the level we've hoped, but has not been as bad as many people claim. Remains a better centre back than Kolo, and must be baffled by our inability to organise our defence after his time at Chelsea. As it is, if we don't win anything next season, he will leave. Must stop mouthing off in the press, even if his comments often have a strong kernel of truth to them. (not the bits about 'The Great William Gallas', by the way.)

Djourou, 6.

I continue to be impressed by Johann, even if he, again, can't head too well. Very comfortable with the ball at his feet and has an excellent sense of defensive timing. Will look to break into the first team a bit more next year.

Clichy, 7.

One of the real bright spots of last year was watching Gael emerge into a more than adequate replacement for 'he who shall not be named'. He can tackle, pass and get forward, even if his crossing is an area for improvement. In short, he is willing to work hard and he has the ability to go with it. I'm genuinely excited about the continuation of his development next year and he's convinced me that he's a potentially world-class left-back.

Traore, 5.

Very young and showed it, andt 17 it could really go either way. Currently better going forward than defensively, he may find his opportunities severely limited by Clichy.

Overall, 5.5.

Our defence was a constant source of weakness last year. It was unable to deal with set-pieces and aerial threats, it constantly looked poorly organised, and it seemed to be able to let teams score with their own shot on goal - quite the party trick. Organisation and steel is needed, as is a decision regarding whether Gallas and Kolo are compatible. Because even if we get a few goal-scoring midfielders in, their impact will be blunted if we continue to concede so cheaply.


Anonymous said...

think your overall scoring is a bit harsh. I mean, Lehman and Clichy got a 7, with Eboue, Gallas and Toure getting a 6 each, which most people would see as the first choice defense.

Anyway that aside, I think the defense is one of the youngest areas of the squad. Take out Gallas and they are all under 25.

It will be interesting to see if we add to the defense this Summer, personally I think we should look to rotate a bit more and pick a back four to compete against the team we are playing against. If they have a big man up front we need a big CB to play. Djrouou and Senderos are our current options here. At home we should look for attacking options from our full backs.

Could we move to a three CB option and play Clichy and Eboue as wing backs with three in the middle of midfield and two up front?

The main point I would have is, look around you, the clubs above us have more than one option and one plan. They look at who they are playing and work out how they can win, how can they gain an advantage?

Anonymous said...

No way can you give Toure a 6 (the same as Gallas, Eboue and less than Djourou) and certainly no way can you leave him out of a potential best central defensive pairing. He's looked shaky on a few occasions (emphasis on few!) but otherwise has been a rock. The times he's looked shaky i would put purely down to the fact that he's had so many defensive partners and has played almost every game (50+) this season and was absolutely drained by the end.

Anonymous said...

I think we should convert Toure to a midfield holding position. I believe he has the enthusiasm to lift our midfield and still help our defense.

Anonymous said...

clichy could have got an 8 IMO. djourou did well but since he is not first choice its hard to give him a higher score than 6. Toure was below par for him and normally he would score a 8 or 9 but I think 6 is harsh. 7 would be fair - he has set himself high standards. you were kind to Lehmann too, but he did pull off some great saves I will agree with you, but he unsettles his own defence at corners with all his flapping about. if he could concentrate on set pieces he would still be a great keeper but Fabianksi might just take his place next year

Goonerboy said...

I did give Djourou a 6 Jimmy.

Anonymous said...

I think rotating the back four in order to find the best back four should be something AW should try this summer.
I think we could play a defence of 4 or 5.
1. Eboue, Kolo, Senderos, Clichy.
2. Hoyte, Kolo, Djourou, Gallas.
3. Eboue, Gallas, Djourou, Clichy.


4. Eboue,Gallas, Senderos (or Djourou), Clichy; and play Kolo as DM.
We may need to sign another right back such as Richard(City) to give more competition to Eboue, as I think Hoyte doesn't seem reliable at all.
I fought Clichy (8)was our best defender; he needs to improve his crossing (putting more power in his shooting to stop the ball raising too high).
Kolo (7), he hardly had any break last season, apart from the suspension after The Curling Cup. But he needs to cut down his constant panic.
Eboue(7), some improvment needed in defense, but he has been our best assist behind Fabregas, despite being just a defender.
Gallas (6), apart from excuse for being injured, he never looked to me like the Gallas of Chelsea I have seen last four years (Cska Moscow).
Hoyte (6), although technically poor, but strong discipline and always committed to the cause.
Djourou and Senderos (6), almost sidelined, not given enough chance to play. I still rate both players.
Lehman (7),he 's been unsetled by the questionable partnership of Kolo/Gallas.

Anonymous said...

Almunia (5),I don't rate him as a top keeper, because he's major weaknesses you cannot allow to any top keeper.
He is too soft. He lacks character; he is always on his line, specially on set pieces where defenders are the most vulnable. He is not a shot taker(last season CL 2 goals and Drogba first goal CC). He should just be a third choice keeper to allow him to improve.

Anonymous said...

Jens great shot-stopper at times, but I think that the opposition deliberately target him at corners etc, which leaves the defence trying to protect him when they should be focussing on the attackers. Should have a higher score it weren't for this major flaw in his personality which other teams can exploit.
Almunia okay has improved, but nothing special.
Clichy has been excellent this season considering he had a year out with a serious injury. He needs to improve his crossing but otherwise he is good going forward and solid defensively. If Tomas could remain injury free and they get a run going I can see a good partnership developing there. I definitely think he's the most improved at the back.
Gallas needs to put his performances where his mouth is. For all his talk I haven't seen much of him stepping up to the plate, taking charge and organising the defence on the field. Could and should do better.
Hoyte better than a 5 - he was hopeless at left back but has definitely shown signs of improvement in his proper position. Solid but unspectacular. He has also been called up to England under 21 squad so he must have done something right (he even scored a great goal against Charlton).
Toure - slightly off from his usual high standards but he deserves some slack. He's been affected by the constant disruptions to the defence, taking responsibility when Eboue and Jens go off on one. I also think that he and Gallas have not quite worked out their partnership. Toure has the seniority of being a key member of the Arsenal defence for the last few seasons, but Gallas is the more experienced defender. I just think they need time to work out that relationship and be clear about who does what and when.
Eboue needs more consistency - has been great and dire in equal measure. But when he's good he's great - ask Ronaldo (player of the season) who could not get past him.
Djourou - one for the future could improve his positioning and heading, but quick, strong and versatile.
Senderous has hit a bad patch, but he is good in the air and if he can get his confidence back he could be useful against some of the long ball merchants in the premiership.
Traore, still learning and will continue to make mistakes, but has great potential.
Overall they all have something to offer but just lack consistency and better organisation to make the sum of their parts equal to a greater whole.