Is Premier League Defending Really that Bad?

Those who established the foundations of Serie A would be turning in their graves after watching the opening 10 games of the Premier League season. 

Defending would appear to be a dying art with 295 goals being scored already this season, averaging out at 2.97 goals per game, the highest that statistic has ever been since 1967/68. And for those of you who believe in omens, Manchester City won the title that year. 

Talking of the blue half of Manchester, they have already netted over half of the 60 goals they managed last campaign, although you could argue that is down to the acquisitions of the likes of Sergio Aguero who already has nine goals to his name with two braces and one hat-trick instead of lapse defending. 

But the real surprises this season have come in the games between the four Champions League teams, which have seen an incredible 29 goals scored in the four games. Scorelines such as Manchester United 8-2 Arsenal, Manchester United 1-6 Manchester City will go down in history. But are those results really down to slipping defensive quality?

With the first mauling delivered by United to the Gunners, defending clearly could be pinpointed for the defeat, but the personnel playing for Arsene Wenger that day were by no means his strongest XI with injuries and suspensions meaning the likes of Carl Jenkinson – playing League One football for Charlton last year – were thrust into the limelight. It would be a tough argument to suggest the same scoreline would have shocked all if Arsenal had been without their injury and suspension woes. 

The 6-1 Manchester derby is a result that some may see as the shift in power, the subsidence of the Red Devil’s stranglehold on the Premier League towards City, and it reared the argument of depleting defensive abilities throughout the league. But the dismissal of Jonny Evans was always going to leave United defensively stretched against the creative might of City, who boast arguably the best Premier League player at current in David Silva. That, doubled with the reconstruction taking place in the United backline with the introduction of Chris Smalling and Phil Jones (who despite their talent are lacking experience), mixed in with the injury woes of Vidic and Ferdinand, meant that the Red Devils were always going to ship more goals than the 37 last year – the tally currently stands at 12. 

Last weekend Arsenal defeated Chelsea at Stamford Bridge with another unexpected scoreline – 5-3 to the Gunners. Now, after reading my previous reasons for poor defending you may think this result is the result of purely lapsed defensive standards, seeing as neither side having significant absentees. Think again. 

Chelsea’s back four was Bosingwa (a man who last season was hung out to dry), John Terry (ailing with age and surrounded by controversy), Ivanovic (not a natural centre back) and Ashley Cole (out of form). And much like the saying ‘behind every man is a good woman’, behind every defence is a good keeper, and Petr Cech seems to be off colour with two near post goals flying past him. 

As for Arsenal, it was only a matter of time before they rediscovered the football that has seen them labelled the best footballing side in the league, and with Robin Van Persie firing in ten goals already this season, three of which at Stamford Bridge, their opposition will ship goals. Defensively, Per Mertesacker is struggling to adjust to the English game, resulting in him being at fault for two Chelsea goals, whilst Andre Santos looks more suited to midfield than defence, a point highlighted by his positioning for his goal. 

A point missed by many is that this rampant goal scoring isn’t a virus which has spread across the league, it has only contaminated the ‘elite’ of the league, with 14 of the 20 Premier League teams scoring under 15 goals thus far, with a goal average maxing out at 1.40: hardly a plethora of goals. 

So whilst the goal flurry of the top teams has been entertaining, and to some extent, based around slack defending, the trend will not be something to continue for the remainder of the campaign. Does anyone see the reverse fixtures of the Champions League teams bringing a further 29 goals? I thought not. Managers haven’t adopted a gun-hoe approach to coaching over the off-season, they haven’t received sun stroke from the late summer weather of October, it is simply a freak set of results, so Serie A and its official’s can sit in peace, without the horror of plentiful goals. 

Alex O’Loughlin   @AlexOLoughlin18

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *