A new start, a new season but for some, the same defensive woes. Arsenal fans were left pondering whether Arsene Wenger would finally make the signings they wanted after yet another season of disappointment in a non-existent title race. A new centre-back was top of the wish list, as well as a prolific, goal-scoring striker.
Wenger wasn’t alone though and there were equally high expectations for a number of the Premier League’s top managers. All eyes were on Jurgen Klopp to see what he would muster in his first summer in charge of Liverpool. The German boss is yet to have a full season at Anfield and there were extremely high levels of excitement and anticipation to see what players Klopp could attract to Merseyside. Chelsea’s new boss, Antonio Conte, was renowned for his strong, defensive set-up at Juventus and his arrival at Stamford Bridge brought along hope that the Blues would strengthen at the back and bounce back from one of the worst title defenses in history.
Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola had a fair task on his hands to rebuild the defence. Captain Vincent Kompany has been bombarded with injuries in recent years and the aging centre-back will need to be replaced. Joe Hart’s poor performances of late are also a cause for concern but overall, Guardiola simply needed to sharpen up the City defence.
But with the new season already underway, which club seems to have failed the most in their attempts to sure up their defence?
Liverpool kick-started the season with a brilliant victory against Arsene Wenger’s Gunners side at the Emirates but it was a game littered with defensive errors and inconsistency on both parts. The young Arsenal centre-back pairing of Callum Chambers and Rob Holding were frighteningly exposed. Liverpool were 4-1 up in the second half, as the Reds’ attacking four broke down the home defence with ease. Chambers and Holding, who have had little time together as a centre-back pairing, were often caught out of position and Arsenal looked seriously short of experience in the back four.
A quick turnaround saw Liverpool’s defence collapse as Arsenal came back to challenge and the Reds just managed to hold on to win 4-3. Liverpool’s left-back position, which has undergone huge criticism throughout the summer, has yet to be addressed and with Alberto Moreno dropped to the bench, James Milner didn’t do much to suggest he was a better option. Nathaniel Clyne, who was usually consistent, has made a few mistakes recently and Ragnar Klavan and Dejan Lovren were caught out on too many occasions at centre-bacl.
Whilst Liverpool fans can feel more assured of their defence, due to a number of injured players yet to return, there’s not much positivity surrounding Arsenal. Laurent Koscielny’s return will bring back some confidence but the Gunners still look very exposed. Their midfield doesn’t offer much protection either and Arsene Wenger’s side could struggle to keep out teams like Manchester United and Manchester City, who’s midfield are powerful, ball-carriers.
Manchester City and Chelsea seem to have strengthened their squads throughout the summer and the additions of John Stones and Ilkay Gundogan under Pep Guardiola will add some much needed guild to the City defence. If Stones can perform to the level he did at the start of last season for Everton, City will have captured a good, young centre-back. They still have a few tweaks to make and their defence isn’t one of the strongest but with Fernando and Fernandinho providing consistent protection in midfield, they should do well this season.
Antonio Conte has already employed his defensive strategy and Chelsea look a much more organised unit compared to last season. They have experienced centre-backs and a world-class keeper so they should have enough in the squad to push for a title challenge.
All-in-all, there’s progression and scope for improvement at Liverpool but little sign of potential for Arsenal, whilst Manchester City and Chelsea seem to have mustered together a reasonably good defence. Manchester United and Tottenham boast two of the best defences in the league so it could be Klopp and Wenger’s sides who fall behind in the race for a European spot. Arsenal will need to improve fast and if Wenger wants to avoid further criticism, he’ll need to bring in another signing before the transfer window is out. Hopefully with Liverpool’s returning players, Mamadou Sakho, Joel Matip and Emre Can, the Reds will strengthen at the back but only time will tell just how much Klopp has improved the squad this summer.