Arsenal’s struggles in recent years, both domestically and in Europe, have been attributed to a number of different reasons.
Arsene Wenger had perhaps outstayed his welcome as manager and allowed things to turn sour with some fans. Unai Emery’s reign tailed off before it even got going, and two defeats in the first two games since the restart leaves Mikel Arteta with a big challenge ahead of him.
Five goals conceded in games against Manchester City and Brighton may be slightly inflated given the former are the Premier League’s most potent attacking force.
Nevertheless, Arsenal’s defensive fragilities have been as much of a constant this season as they have been in previous failed campaigns under different managers.
With 41 goals conceded in 30 league matches this season, Arteta’s side have little hope of qualifying for the Champions League.
The performance of David Luiz against Manchester City last Wednesday has been well documented, but Arsenal’s defensive woes go far beyond the Brazilian’s failing to something much more concerning.
As a team, Arsenal rank 18th in the league for defensive actions attempted per match with 135.77. However, they drop to 19th for successful defensive actions per match with 91.23.
In the graphic below, we can see the small volume of defensive actions by Arsenal’s backline and, therefore, the minimal effort exerted to prevent the opposition from attacking.
With the white points representing defensive actions, the above shows how Arsenal’s defenders tend to engage with dangerous situations closer to their goal than other teams.
That type of risk-taking highlights why the Gunners are perceived as unstable in defence this season and explains why they have conceded so many goals.
The consequence of having a defence that tends to engage less with the opposition before they advance into danger areas is clear. When you continually allow the opposition to get close to your goal, they are more likely to have a good opportunity in front of goal.