““Attack wins you games, defence wins you titles.””
– Sir Alex Ferguson
The above quote from the greatest football manager of all time, Sir Alex Ferguson, led Manchester United to an unprecedented two decades of success.
It was an era where United were near unbeatable at domestic level, culminating in 13 Premier League titles and five FA Cups. There were even two Champions League successes thrown in for good measure.
That philosophy also served Arsene Wenger well during the early years of his Arsenal tenure. Sure, there was stability and a rock solidness to the Gunners’ midfield and backline, but ascending to the top of the mountain was all about being the best team going forward.
But those heady days in north London seem an awfully long way away right now. Mikel Arteta’s current incumbents operate at a significantly lower level and for the Gunners manager, sadly, his priorities have laid elsewhere.
When the Spaniard walked into the Emirates Stadium, he was tasked with shoring up a very leaky backline – and for all the criticism levelled at him since arriving in north London, he’s done exactly that.
Arsenal conceded just 39 goals in the Premier League last season, with only champions City and top-four finishers Chelsea conceding fewer.
To put that achievement into perspective, six teams have actually managed to win the Premier League title despite conceding 39 or more – yet Arteta’s side could only muster a pretty poor eighth place finish.
So, with such an impressive defensive record, it’s pretty obvious where their problems lie and we’d certainly expect a disciple of ‘the greatest manager ever’ (Pep Guardiola, for those who aren’t aware) to be able to pinpoint exactly where Arsenal need to improve.
That doesn’t seem to the case, though.
Instead, Arsenal are rumoured to be pursuing a deal for Brighton defender Ben White – with reports suggesting the Gunners won’t be deterred by his whopping £40m-£50m price tag .
Now, we get that Arteta has followed many of Guardiola’s coaching principles successfully, but there’s one thing he should have learned not to do from the former Barcelona boss’ managerial handbook. Spend large amounts of money on defenders when your that’s the least of your problems.
To make things worse, Arsenal aren’t as financially privileged as City, meaning when Arteta blows that sort of money on a player who really doesn’t add much to his side, he’ll likely be unable to add to areas of his squad that should be much higher up on his list of priorities.
On paper the Gunners’ attacking options are hardly threadbare and given the right service you’d fancy the likes of Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to score plenty of goals. Admittedly, the latter hasn’t been in great form of late, but you’d expect him to come good again in the future and with maybe one more quality addition, they could suddenly look a threat again.
Their major problem has been creativity. Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka performed well last season given their tender age, but Arsenal need much more if they’re to challenge for a place in the top four.
The loan signing of Martin Odegaard turned out to be pretty underwhelming, but the Gunners seemed to be on the right track when they were linked with a move for Emi Buendia. Only they decided not to match Aston Villa’s £30m+ bid, presumably because they’re saving up to strengthen on a defender that, well, they could cope without.
The Gunners’ tally of 55 Premier League goals last season was quite frankly woeful for a team hoping to secure Champions League football, and again to add a bit of perspective to that tally, Blackpool were relegated after scoring the same amount in 2010/11 – that’s how poor that is.
Granted the departure of David Luiz means the club should look to bring in another body to bolster their defensive options, but a £50m-rated centre back is the last thing Arsenal need to spend their money on right now. White is a good player, yes, but is a signing that could set the club back years if he arrives.