Under Arsene Wenger, defence has never been the best form of attack. Of course, he was lucky enough to inherit a solid back four when he first took over, but since then he has struggled to give Arsenal defensive solidity, despite all the trophies won.
Those shortcomings can be overlooked when the silverware is being collected, but when there seems little chance of adding to the club's list of honours, that ineptitude becomes higher profile.
Steve Bould, if he's allowed, surely knows how to fix what's wrong. Hector Bellerin is young, but he shouldn't be going to ground in the 6-yard box unless he has no other choice. The result: Stoke's opener. Okay, Calum Chambers missed a header too, but that can't be coached out him. It was a technical error. Bellerin's decision to go to ground was a mental error. That's not to deny Bellerin's huge potential. With the right coaching, he can learn a lot from his mistakes and go on to become a legend at the club. That's what I'm predicting, although it's a bit premature to expect that much form an obviously talented and extremely fast youngster.
Meanwhile, Mertesacker's inability to track runners is even more of a cause if concern. If he lacks the pace to do it himself, he needs to assign his man to someone else. His failure to do so was costly, resulting in another goal conceded against Stoke. Tracking runners is fundamental to defending: surely Bould knows that too.
Finally, Martinez's luck in goal has finally run out. Credit must go to the concentration of the players in front of him prior to the Stoke debacle. It's too early to decide how good Martinez will be, but he has shown promise. This defeat won't be bad for his long-term development, despite how catastrophic it's been for Arsenal's remote title chances.
Perhaps that's why Wenger allegedly says Arsenal can win the title in 2017. It looks unlikely that this side can do it before then, unfortunately, despite Sanchez's ability to score or hit the post out of nothing.
'Nothing' is the operative word, as Arsenal are set for more barren years, trophy-wise. Hopefully, Champions League qualification will still be assured, keeping the bean counters happy.
Yet it could be so much better. Back-to-basic defending plus Sanchez could be the answer. Let's see if that can be introduced before the transfer window opens and more expensive solutions (which Arsenal will only flirt with, like Mats Hummels) present themselves.
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