Arsenal currently sit top of the Premier League table, five points clear of their closest challengers Manchester City, but as a former coach there, Mikel Arteta knows just how ruthless Pep Guardiola’s side can be when they’re hunting down a title and the Arsenal boss has made a plea to his players in order to remain at the top come May.
During Arsenal’s most recent game against Sporting in the Europa League, the Gunners conceded from yet another corner, which isn’t something new in 2023, with the likes of Manchester United & Bournemouth also getting the better of the Arsenal defence from a set-piece.
Before the World Cup Arsenal had conceded only two goals from corners in all competitions this season, in contrast compare that to after the World Cup where Mikel Arteta’s men have conceded four goals from corners.
Arsenal have only kept five clean sheets since the turn of the year across all competitions.
The clean sheets are drying up and although Arsenal are currently still managing to win matches, it’s going to be hard for them to win their first Premier League title in 19 years while conceding two goals every game.
Mikel Arteta called for his players to tighten up defensively after the draw in Portugal yesterday. The Gunners took the lead in the tie through William Saliba, but that didn’t last long with Goncalo Inacio drawing he home side level from a corner.
Mikel Arteta post-match yesterday…
“The game had different phases because we gave too many simple balls away in our own half and gave them the capacity to exploit transition moments, which they are good at. In other moments, we had total control of the game and we lost a little bit of threat today, especially with the four players we are missing in our frontline.
There were some positives because we showed a lot of resilience to get back in the game, but we need to defend our box much better and be better on Sunday against Fulham.”
Attacks win games, defences win titles and it couldn’t be more true in Arsenal’s case right now. Although the Gunners conceded two goals against Manchester United & Bournemouth recently, they still managed to get all three points from both games due the attack bailing them out. However the Mikel Arteta is more than aware that isn’t sustainable if his side want to be champions come May.
The defensive issues were also a problem that former Manchester United defender Gary Neville mentioned when discussing the battle ahead. Speaking on the Gary Neville Podcast after Arsenal’s victory over Bournemouth, he said:
“I thought City had a more difficult game against Newcastle. They were more likely to drop points in my mind, if anybody – I didn’t think either team would, to be fair. So, City did their job and then you expect Arsenal to go and comfortably win.
The fact that they’ve won in that way gives them that extra spirit and extra momentum, because it is a game you’d expect them to win 2-0 or 3-0 just because Bournemouth are second from bottom. But they made it really difficult for themselves. They’ve got a real momentum, they’ve got a spirit building, the fans are with them. I would say to them they’ve got to stop conceding goals.
It sounds like a really simple thing to say but when you concede goals on a run-in, it’s really tough and they’ve conceded two against Bournemouth, they’ve conceded against Brentford, they’ve conceded against Manchester United, Aston Villa, City. They’ve conceded quite a few goals – I think 11 in the last eight games. So, they just need to manage that a little bit because they’ve got 12 games to go now. City still aren’t playing at their fluent best. We’ve got a hell of a title race.”
It remains to be seen whether the defensive records will be the key difference between the two teams battling it out at the top of the table, but if Arsenal can tighten up at the back and stop conceding from corners then there’s no doubt it will give the club a very good chance of lifting their first Premier League trophy since the 2003/04 season.