Arsenal's vice captain, Per Mertesacker, has told his club's official website that the club need to improve on their set pieces.
The Gunners have struggled to defend corners and free-kicks recently, and although the big German towers over most opponents, he believes things need to change if his team are to stand any chance against the best teams around.
“We have to go through the set-pieces and say what went wrong because last year we had quite a good record,” he told Arsenal Player.
“We need to improve on it this season because we’ve conceded from them already.
“It’s all about reminding ourselves how good we are in the air from set-pieces, but we have to get to the ball and stop opponents getting into dangerous areas. That’s what we need to improve. We had a good record throughout last season but we need to find that again quickly.
“[Attacking corners] is a part we have to improve as well. The deliveries, the timing, there’s a lot of detailed things we have to improve. A lot of it has to do with concentration, strictness and good deliveries and good timing.
“When we went through the situation we could see that not everyone was on the ball. We have to be able to score or avoid conceding goals. We have to make sure that we are ready and concentrating on every set play.”
Last season was a real problem for Arsenal, who scored from only one set piece all campaign. That stat is extraordinary considering that this used to be their main strength; during the years of club stalwarts Tony Adams, Steve Bould, Lee Dixon and Nigel Winterburn there was an unbelievable understanding, something that only comes with years of team development.
This could be the problem. Last season and this, Arsene Wenger’s side has very rarely had a settled back four which is something that has always harmed Arsenal’s title credentials.
Changing the system
Arsenal for a few seasons have operated a passive zonal marking system which has seen them become vulnerable at set pieces, they also have a relatively small side which doesn't help when it comes to defending corners.
It is only October and there is already a much needed inquest into Arsenal’s defending. Of the 14 goals conceded already this season 10 have been from set pieces, three goals from there own.
This shows a distinct lack of mental strength defensively and is something that needs to be dramatically adjusted, and fast. Last season was littered with the same problem; predictably naive defending which was capitalised on by the big sides and saw hammerings given away by Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City.
If Arsenal are to be taken seriously as contenders they must improve defensively, starting at Hull City this Saturday.
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