High Scoring Premier League Matches Are A Joy to Watch, But What About the Defending?

Saturday’s match between Chelsea and Arsenal was a joy to watch. Arsenal deservedly won the game thanks to one of the best performances I’ve seen from Theo Walcott in a Gunners shirt. But it was one of the most bizarre Premier League games I’ve watched in years. I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen two teams playing with such a high line. While defensive coaches might have shuddered at the tactics on display, the end result was a beautiful wide open game that could have easily ended 6-8 or a similarly devilish scoreline.

The cavalcade of goals going into the net this season has been wonderful to watch, but the level of defending in the Premier League is becoming atrocious. If you go down the list of teams in the Premier League, there have already been so many appalling defensive displays. A few examples include Manchester United getting beaten by Manchester City 6-1, QPR losing 4-0 at home on opening day against Bolton, Arsenal getting undone 8-2 by United, Wigan’s 3-1 home loss against Bolton, and QPR getting thrashed by Fulham 6-0. And there are plenty more where those came from.

I can only imagine what Italian tacticians (and journalists) such as Gabriele Marcotti must think about what they see on the pitches of England week-in week-out.

The poor defensive performances by Premier League sides may get overlooked by many in the 38-game season, but those type of frailties will get exposed in the Champions League where there is little room for error. We’ve already seen how Manchester City got ripped apart by Bayern Munich in Germany. Carlos Tevez’s antics papered over a lot of cracks in the back for City. But similar displays by any of the English teams in Europe will get severely punished.

So while the goal fests we’ve seen in the Premier League season so far have been eyeopening and exhilarating, I won’t be too sad if we see teams start to play a better balance between defending and attacking. After all, Chelsea and Arsenal’s defenses were playing with such a high line today that it almost looked like there was no defense at all at times. The back four for both of the London clubs lined up as if they were midfielders near the halfway line. All it took was an inch-perfect pass or a quick run past a defender, and the striker would find himself in a one-on-one opportunity against the goalkeeper. It was the sort of defending you’d expect to see on a high school pitch, not the hallowed grass of Stamford Bridge.

Having said that, I can’t place all the blame on the defending. Formations have played a large role too as managers such as Wenger, Ferguson and Villas-Boas have put out teams with a much more attacking mindset than in previous seasons. Maybe part of that is due to there being no Jose Mourinho and Rafa Benitez in the Premier League anymore, so clubs don’t feel like they have to play a chess match trying to outwit their opposing manager? Whatever the case, I’ll continue to enjoy the goals going into the back of the net while at the same time knowing that these type of matches can’t continue. Enjoy the goals while you can. We’re sure to get a lot of nil-nil games sometime soon to even things out.

5 thoughts on “High Scoring Premier League Matches Are A Joy to Watch, But What About the Defending?”

  1. Good article. In reference to the London derby today, where was Chelsea’s goalkeeping??? Cech got beat multiple times near post, and let by others that should have been saves, even by the lowest EPL standards.

  2. Cech did get beat and we did play a high line but where was El Nino (Torres)? Is he ever going to get involved in a game? We looked very unorganized at times and the high line made what would normally be just a bad pass turn into a goal scoring opportunity. AVB better get this blue mess in order!!!

  3. While I’m not a defensive tactics expert by any stretch, I have a hard time understanding what AVB is trying to accomplish with this high line. Chelsea have given up 15 goals in 10 EPL matches, the worst in the top 6, and equal to Norwich and Swansea. In fact, a dozen teams in the league have let in fewer goals. I don’t see how such a high line plays to Terry’s strengths. And Bosingwa is always AWOL on defense as it is. It seems like only yesterday (or was it two seasons ago?) that Chelsea scored a league record number of goals and had the best goals-against record in the division, with Drogba winning the Golden Boot and Cech winning the Golden Glove. Now, with three losses in ten matches, I can only imagine that Abramovich is sharpening his pencil and drawing up a short list of new manager candidates…

  4. On Thursday’s podcast, Jesse asked a question about David Luiz and Chelsea’s defense. I think that the longer Luiz is around John Terry, the worse he becomes. He went from a dynamic, energetic player to a dirty thug. He is becoming the perfect Chelsea player.

  5. In my opinion its entertaining to watch for sure but I’m thinking the reason is the amount of continental defenders we now have controling the ball and trying to play football from the back rather then your old style of defending at all costs and getting rid.

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