Arseblog has a good post about Arsenal's defensive problems which have resulted in a disturbingly upward spike in goals conceded from 2009 onwards. Much of this has to do with the quality of defenders imported over the seasons and the constant chopping and changing line ups.
We have to keep the context of Arsene Wenger defining their brand weighted heavily on the attacking side with exciting, fluid, skillful football. It certainly changed the way the Premiership was perceived around the globe and it brought the club new legions of fans. When Steve Bould was hired in 2012, the club had as a summer ritual sold its top players but this time Wenger prepared for the vacancies by inducting Santi Cazorla, Lukas Podolski, and Olivier Giroud, hoping to tamp down on the growing apprehension over goalscoring and again emphasize the attacking end of business.
What happened was the defense under Bould took centrestage keeping three clean sheets, looking rock solid against set pieces, and avoiding the mistakes that had plagued them the previous season. We can argue that it was achieve against sides not known for their scoring prowess (not looking at you Luis Suarez). It was the attack under question and immediately the "who will replace RVP bandwagon?" got noisy. Bould on the other hand was getting plaudits from fans and pundits for turning things around at the same time Wenger was fending flak for leaving the attack in untested hands. There was palpable relief then when Podolksi and Cazorla came up with the goods against Liverpool.
Wenger may not have had a dust up with Bould but there might have been equally clear messages conveyed as to Arsenal's brand and the brains behind that trademark with no room for revisionism. There are reports that the manager might have disapproved of Bould's extra training sessions. Under Wenger, the defense is a calculated gamble, useful inasmuch to showcase the attack. One of the earliest signs of a return to business was the Soton match as Arsenal cruising to a 6-0 win, gave up a ridiculously soft goal. Bould was put in place. He looks put in place. With his arms folded tight across his chest in a defensive gesture.
What gets overlooked this season and Arseblog links to Gary Lineker's excellent breakdown of Arsenal's defensive inconsistencies and blindspots against Spurs, is we have not produced the quality of passing and clinical finishes in the final third.
The video actually provides ample evidence that we could have punished Spurs equally effectively for their high line flirtations but did not. This defense while certainly not the best gets blamed for switching off when the attack does so regularly in crucial matches. Wenger keeps harping about defensive lapses when it should be his feet being held to the fire for not keeping his side of the bargain. We had only two shots at goal despite having 60% of the ball control. Hugo Lloris was tested seriously only once and showed his amazing speed and reflexes to snuff that out. Arsenal's goalscoring has come from different sources but the question that dogs the defense applies equally to the attack. Where are they when we need one?
Here are more stats. We have managed only four points out of a possible 21 amongst higher ranked opposition. This season we have never managed to score more than a goal against them with the five we poured in against Spurs at the Emirates as the only exception. We cannot remain competitive if this trend continues and a trend is a milder way of saying this problem is becoming structural.