I can no longer reach for excuses, it is a hard and simple fact that we have not defended well enough as a unit for a long time, and it has cost us points time and time and time again. Our shambolic and sloppy defending cost us another three points today against a poor Blackburn side. Amazingly we could still have won the game despite conceding four, we created the lion's share of the chances and dominated the game. However as we have learnt in recent years if you cannot defend a lead, one will throw away points left, right and centre.
There was a large element of misfortune present in today's defeat but if we had defended properly then this would not have any impact on the result, we would have won comfortably by a country mile. There was the obviously offside goal, the Walcott penalty et cetera. However to focus on these would be foolish, the focus should be on Santos' positioning for Blackburn's first, on Song's non tackle for Blackburn's fourth and all our terrible terrible defending. Offensively we created enough chances to have scored ten goals, in fact if Blackburn had defended as we had then we may have scored 20 goals. The basic point is we were absolutely bloody awful defensively yet again and the manager knows this:
"You cannot say you are not worried when you see the performance we put in today. It’s just not defensively solid enough. At the moment we do not have the capability to focus defensively for 90 minutes to win games. It is important you do not give cheap goals away like we did.”
I am struggling to express myself with the use of copious expletives. We have been defending like rank amateurs, like a pub side at times, for years, this is no new trend, we have been leaking too many goals, we have slackly let numerous leads slip. It is the manager's job to organise our side offensively and defensively, and it is clear that he has not done the defensive part of his job for a long time. This is not acceptable and it cannot go on.
So what are the reasons for this defensive incompetence? They are multiple and complex in my opinion. It is partly down to personnel, certain players have not performed well enough, Djourou and Squillaci are two obvious examples. Sagna's injury was obviously key today, the lack of a decent back up right back was evident and exposed for all to see. It is far more of a collective organisational problem than an individual one in my eyes. Non league sides with far poorer individuals could have gone to Old Trafford and put up a better defensive showing, our defensive woes are largely down to our lack of structure, organisation and the way in which we are set up to defend tactically as a unit.
It is blatantly obvious that things are not right on the training ground, we need better management of our defensive game on the training field. Tactically we also are set up like amateurs. This was summed up by the substitution of Francis Coquelin at Old Trafford, by far our best defensive midfielder, this typified the naive and overtly stupid approach Arsene has to setting the side up defensively.
I do not like the way we play our 4-3-3 system, it simply doesn't work with the players we have within it. The full backs get very little support from the midfield and we have too many forwards who do not contribute enough defensively as well. Add to this the fact that we are all over the shop from set pieces, our offside trap is about as cunning as a Baldrick plan, man marking that is often non existent and our inability to attack the ball in defensive areas, then you have a recipe for the pure unmitigated defensive disasters that we have witnessed in recent weeks.
Realistically we will be lucky to get near the top four this year, our current form is that of a side fighting relegation. There are some mitigating circumstances, it will take the new players time to gel and it will take time to rebuild our fragile confidence. The most important thing is that defending is made our No1 priority on the training pitch, we must spend hours drilling ourselves becoming a disciplined grinding defensive machine. Tactics need to be changed too, we need to revert to a 4-4-2 formation fast, errors must be acknowledged, every player on the pitch must take more defensive responsibility. We need to sort this mess out fast otherwise we will sink.