Arsenal’s FA Cup fourth-round tie with Manchester United at the Emirates Stadium on Friday was always going to be difficult. It turned out too difficult for the Gunners, who suffered a 3-1 defeat to exit the competition. In truth, United exposed Arsenal defensive vulnerabilities with some superb counter-attacking football.
Deadly on the counter-attack
In reality, Manchester United underperformed this season prior to the hiring of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as temporary boss. Former boss Jose Mourinho’s cautious tactics stifled the immense attacking talent at the Manchester club.
However, the likes of Romelu Lukaku, Jesse Lingard and of course former Gunners Alexis Sanchez all played a key role in United’s win at the Emirates. All three goals came through devastating counter-attacks, the sort that most teams would struggle to deal with. United have some highly talented forward players and in Arsenal, they came up against an unconvincing defence.
Arsenal lost two centre-backs
As Arsenal are not vulnerable at the back enough without the Gunners losing Sokratis and Laurent Koscielny to injury during the game. The Greek star picked up an injury in the first half and was replaced by Shkodran Mustafi, while Koscielny received a nasty injury when Lukaku stood on his neck/face. It did seem accidental from the former Everton star, but I doubt it took away any of the pain Koscielny felt in the incident.
It remains to be seen how bad the injuries are. Neither seems to be too bad. However, Arsenal can ill-afford any more defensive injuries with Rob Holding and Hector Bellerin already on the long-term injury list at the north London club.
Emery needs to improve defensive options
Arsenal have had defensive issues for a long time. If the Gunners are to return to the Champions League, with the Gunners odds of 7/2 to finish in the top four this season, they need to start to improve defensively.
I feel like I have been repeating myself for months about the Arsenal’s defence issues. However, everybody can see that Arsenal cannot defend, no matter what defenders play in a back three or back four.
I am sure that boss Unai Emery sees the same weaknesses like everybody else. It looks unlikely that the Spaniard will strengthen his defensive options in the January transfer window with a midfielder seemingly the clubs main transfer focus.
However, if Arsenal are going to become successful then Emery has to sort out the team’s defensive problems next summer by simply recruiting better quality defenders, if and that’s a big if, he is given a decent transfer kitty to strengthen his squad.
Should defensive recruitment be Arsenal’s main transfer priority?