With Arsenal currently sitting sixth in the Premier League table, seven points behind rivals Tottenham, there is surely plenty of blame being passed around the Emirates as to why the club has struggled in the league. Some have turned to condemn Granit Xhaka, the player with the third-most completed passes in the British top tier (64% of these passes being forward). While others have put the brunt of the blame on striker Alexandre Lacazette, the club’s high scorer on the season.
Nevertheless, when taking a deeper look into the statistics, Arsenal’s defense has, without a doubt, been the weak link in the team. The Gunners have managed to allow 36 goals during league play, the same number as Newcastle and Brighton and Hove Albion, and more than any other club inside the top seven in the table.
Manager Arsene Wenger did in fact upgrade his offensive firepower when he brought in Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in January, but he did not fully address his squad’s defense needs. However, whether a superior defender, particularly in the center back position, was realistically available or not can be debated.
As the entire defense and goalkeeper positions have come under fire as of late, there are two players in particular that have not played as well as they have in recent years. Center back Laurent Koscielny and keeper Petr Cech have both enjoyed fantastic careers in arguably the best league in the world. In fact, the duo have been near the pinnacle at their positions among their peers for multiple years.
In saying this, both Koscielny and Cech have particularly endured tough seasons during the 2017/18 campaign. Koscielny has seen a decline in almost every single important statistic compared to his stellar 2016/17 season. As shown below, his tackles, interceptions, clearances, and perhaps most importantly, the successful duels with Premier League strikers, are all down for the France international.
Laurent Koscielny’s per game statistics during league play
Perhaps the most obvious reason behind this statistical reduction is the fact that the defender is now 32. This is an age in which many players tend to begin their decline as a professional athlete. Koscielny is in no terms a bad defender; however, it does not appear that he is the top player that he once was.
The same can be said for 35-year-old goalkeeper Petr Cech. Formally a world-class shot-stopper with Chelsea, Cech has seen his statistics decline over the last year or so as well. An argument can certainly be made that Cech has not been given much help by his defender; however, the keeper’s reactions have appeared to be slower than usual at times this season.
Petr Cech’s per game statistics during league play
Other defenders such as Shkodran Mustafi and Hector Bellerin have also been scrutinized at times as well, and rightfully so, but their particular numbers have not declined as much compared to Koscielny and Cech. With the aforementioned aging duo not getting any younger, Wenger needs to address these two positions in the summer transfer market. Juve’s Daniele Rugani and Atletico Madrid’s Jan Oblak would potentially be wonderful summer additions should Arsenal pursue the highly-rated duo.