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Arsenal Centre Backs

Arsenal chalked up their first away win of the season on Sunday at Cardiff, scoring three fine goals in the process in a hard fought victory. Hard fought, because despite a potent attacking force, the defence still couldn’t keep a clean sheet, conceding two goals against a side that hadn’t scored all season.

While the Cardiff game showed there are many defensive problems that hang over from last season, including a lack of defensively minded DM and shaky goalkeeper. But Unai Emery has brought in a collection of new defenders, and is still figuring out his strongest back five.

Particularly, there is some concern about the central area of the defence. The biggest problem facing the Arsenal defence is that there are so few recognised centre backs in the squad at this time. With Koscielny out injured, Mertesacker retiring and Chambers out on loan, Emery does not have much choice for his CB partnerships.

New System

One of the key changes that Emery has made to the defence is the increasing use of passing out from the back to create attacks. What’s important, therefore, is that whoever Emery settles on is comfortable with the ball at their feet.

Looking at the statistics, Mustafi and Sokratis have both played every minute of this season so far. In that time, they have both achieved a pass success rate of over 86%, both in the top five at the club. Mustafi has completed the ninth most passes of any centre back in the league this season.

The statistics show that while the Arsenal defence aim to play football with their feet, a noble endeavour, they simply pale into comparison against some of the other top defenders in the league. For example, Mustafi has completed 179 short passes in his 4 opening games. Vincent Kompany of Man City, despite playing higher up the pitch, has completed 187 passes in only 2 matches, with a pass completion of 93.9%.

Patience, Patience

This is not to say that Mustafi and co are the wrong players, simply that the system that Arsenal are trying to play, may be too advanced with the players that we have available. While Man City and Liverpool are signing dedicated ball-playing goalkeepers and defenders, Arsenal are using players that are still adapting to a radically new defensive system, which the statistics show may be the cause of our early season defensive woes.

It may take time to fit in with this new system, it may be that the introduction of Lucas Torreira into the first team, it may be that Bernd Leno will inject more calm into the defence. Either way, it is only a matter of time before a currently shaky defence shores up into a solid back line.