28
Apr
09

Everyone Agrees – Defense Wins Championships

This week Vidic has said it, Cesc said it, Adebayor is saying it 24/7 on ESPN’s annoying automatic video load crapola, I’ve said it countless times, and it’s probably the  most over used and least understood phrase in all of sports: “defense wins championships.” But it’s true.

There have been quite a few comments in the blog and elsewhere about the state of Arsenal’s defense of late and much has been made of Silvestre and Gibbs at the back and the prospect of Arsenal facing United with such a “depleted” squad, but I just want to point out a few things.

Gibbs is not better than Clichy, I’m not even going to try to make that argument. Gibbs is slightly faster than Clichy and Gibb’s attacking ability is far superior (he already has 2 assists this season) but where he lacks is in experience defending. So, yes, I am a bit nervous about Gibbs facing Ronaldo, Tevez, Rooney, and Bobblekopf.

Silvestre is… well… batshit crazy. His defensive style is best described as desperate: he doesn’t just get a foot stuck in and clear the ball, it’s always, and I mean ALWAYS, some kind of acrobatic, falling down, desperation clearance. I like a player who plays “110%” like that and normally I would forgive him and let him play his own style. Except there’s the batshit crazy part. The part where, for some ungodly reason, he feels it’s ok to backpass the ball and give up a free kick to United. For a defender with his vast experience, at the level he’s played at, to make such mental errors is unthinkable. I would think his body would break down, not his mind, but it just seems like he’s not in the game, or maybe he doesn’t remember how to play football having had his mind erased by Sir Alex Ferguson’s technicians in the Old Trafford dollhouse.

But I want you all to take heart: Arsenal beat United 2-1 back in November. Granted, Arsenal we’re up for that game and United were in a bit of a slump at that point — having let Hull City get up their noses a bit when United eked out a 4-3 win which they followed by a 1-1 draw to Celtic. In fact, United might look at that period and see that as on of their low points of the season. So, you could blame that.

But, while United might look at that as a low period, for Arsenal there is no doubt that the month of November was nearly catastrophic — this was a team coming off a devastating 4-4 draw to Spuds, not to mention the 2-1 loss to Stoke, followed by the 0-0 draw at home to Fener. The dressing room was a disaster, any belief that team had in their own ability was being trampled by infighting between Gallas and half the team.

But worse than the state of Arsenal’s dressing room was the state of the injury room. Arsenal went into that match missing Adebayor through injury, van Persie through insanity, and Toure through “injury.” The state of the squad was so bad that Arsenal fielded Bendtner up front with Diaby, Cesc with Denilson in the middle, and paired William Gallas with Silvestre at the back. If I told you that Wenger was going to field that lineup tomorrow, you’d shit yourself. And the funny thing is that that team damn near did shit themselves: Denilson could have been called for a penalty, Silvestre had the back pass, and Clichy had a hand ball, any of which could have spelled disaster.

So, under those circumstances, for them to come out and get a 2-1 win, even if at home and even if United were a bit down, is pretty amazing. Arsenal fans the world over should look at that day and remember that on our day, no matter who we field and no matter how we line up it just takes a moment or two of brilliance to get a win. Brilliance which Samir Nasri provided on that day and which I expect will be provided by at least one player tomorrow.

As for the defense, this is not just a league game at home in November. This is a game against the defending champions and our last chance for any silverware this season. Man U are going to be up for this game and there are going to be multiple serious challenges of our defense tomorrow. So, as much as I’d like to bring them along slowly, there’s no chance of that and it’s time for Djourou and Gibbs to show the world what they got. What sent Eboue from mediocre defender to “great” defender were his performances against Ronaldo and there is no doubt that SAF will be sending the entire Man U attack in to batter and deep fry Arsenal’s two young defenders. This is their chance to shine.

I think they have the talent to do it and I think Wenger will get the tactics right to help support them the best he can. But if they cannot do it, we all need to have realistic expectations and not get too down on them: Gibbs is only 19, Djourou is only 22, and both have a lot to learn before we can jump on them or abandon them and start calling for their heads. If we lose badly, then so be it, they have done an amazing job and defied all expectations to get us this far. If we win, or get a famous pulsating draw like everyone expects, well… then…

Well, there’s only an upside then, isn’t there?


5 Responses to “Everyone Agrees – Defense Wins Championships”


  1. 1 WC
    April 28, 2009 at 8:23 am

    I certainly have no concerns about us scoring but I do have a huge concern about conceding. As you’ve said and the dictum goes “Defense wins championships” and I think Man Utd’s run of 10 clean sheets is testament to their reputation in Europe and their lead in the league. I think we have the quality to break them down at some point but I hope our defense can keep a cool head and contain the Troll and the metrosexual. Gibbs faces one of the best players in the world on Wed. and he’ll have to relish the challenge. If he manages to contain Ronaldo he’d instantly shoot up to Cashley Cole status in terms of nation wide recognition. As long as we don’t concede, there is always an opportunity to score even if it’s not deserved or aaginst the run of play. A draw is certainly not a terrible result at OT but I think we need to nick a goal to build pressure on them because as we’ve seen in the Spuds game on the weekend, if you don’t take advantage of your advantage, the Red Devils can rip you a new one. they showed that they can be scored on and there’s vulnerabilities but we need to find them and exploit them.

  2. 2 Travis The Septopus
    April 28, 2009 at 9:48 am

    I really wish i could get off tomorrow to see the match.

  3. 3 CaribKid
    April 28, 2009 at 10:15 am

    @Tim,

    I don’t think any sane Arsenal fan could get down on Gibbs or Djourou. Gibbs is only 19, to be thrust into the line of fire with basically only Reserve experience and 4 CC appearances, he has performed heroically. Also, let’s not forget that Djourou put in some solid performances with Gallas earlier on in the season and was in a large part responsible for stooping the leakage at the back. Like all youngsters, they need to play regularly in order to have consistent form, and they do not necessarily get that under Arsene’s squad selection and rotation policies.

    As for Silvestre, it’s not just the stupid passes he makes, but the brain freezes he has when deciding whether to attack a ball or let it bounce in the penalty area. His brain seems to be fried from too many English winters or the medication he’s taking for his many injuries. He is a disaster waiting to happen, and hopefully he will not be needed for this contest.

    Win or lose, it should be an interesting tie, and it should give us, and hopefully Arsene, a better gauge of our quality squad depth.

  4. 4 gunnertilldeath
    April 28, 2009 at 6:26 pm

    amazing post.. i love your ending..
    go gunners!!

  5. 5 Tim
    April 29, 2009 at 6:36 am

    thanks gunnertilldeath!


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