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Page last updated at 14:12 GMT, Monday, 8 February 2010

How Arsenal's poor defending cost them dear at Chelsea

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger will be furious about the way his side gave away goals in their 2-0 defeat by Chelsea on Sunday as they both came from basic defensive errors.

During my time at Arsenal I am not saying that we, as a back four, did not get coached - we had been coached earlier and we knew each other well - but basically Wenger just let us get on with it.

Yet I am not sure who works with the defenders now. There is something really wrong with their organisation because, if they cannot defend breakaways - and they haven't done so at all recently - then surely they should be doing something about it.

Defending breakaways is not that hard. We looked at it on Match of the Day last week with Alan Hansen after Arsenal were caught out in the same way in their defeat by Manchester United. If the opposition has one up front then you have to have two men back and in the right position.

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When the break that led to Chelsea's second goal starts, Arsenal have got four on four, including Frank Lampard, who is the man on the ball.

Arsenal actually had another player tracking back, so it was about to become five on four, but they still managed to mess things up.

One run from Nicolas Anelka across the front of the back four completely takes out two of the defenders. Thomas Vermaelen and Gael Clichy both go with the runner when they should know what to do. When they are facing a break they should never ever cross but just stay in their position, run back towards their own goal and pass players on.

That is something that should come naturally to a defender. Yes, it is a good run from Anelka but it is not that good a run. He is running right across Vermaelen, who can see him.

It is schoolboy stuff to deal with that. All Clichy has to say to Vermaelen is "you take him" and then Clichy stays out on the left and picks up Didier Drogba.

But, for some reason, they did not do that. So one run just frees up Drogba and then, when he cuts inside on his left foot, Clichy goes out to block his shot and behind him Vermaelen has over-compensated, creating space and allowing Drogba a free shot. It was disastrous defending.

I could have scored that goal with my left foot and that is saying something. You cannot give a striker like Drogba that sort of opportunity.

So it is frustrating and it makes me angry watching it as a former defender because it came after so many good things had been happening.

Wenger definitely got a reaction from them after the United defeat and it was a much better performance effort-wise.

They also restricted Chelsea to just three shots on target in the whole game which is a bonus but ultimately we are always going back to the same thing - their poor defending and disorganisation at the back.

It was the same story for the corner that Chelsea scored their first goal from. Some of the things that went on there were comical.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger
Defensive mistakes again cost Arsene Wenger's side dear at Chelsea

Clichy is on the back post and goes walking across to the near post where Samir Nasri is standing to tell him something.

They were short in the area where John Terry gets the flick on, but instead of Clichy sprinting over and telling Nasri to get out and mark, he has had a discussion with him and they are still talking about it when the ball comes in.

Terry heads it on, Alex Song has lost Drogba, who is two yards out and smashes it into an open goal at the back post. It was a catalogue of errors.

Coming off the United result, Wenger will be pleased with the change of his players' mental attitude and they did respond in certain parts of their game.

But I don't care how well you pass the ball if you give goals like that away. We know they are bad at dealing with counter-attacks but if you cannot defend corners, when you can practice that on the training pitch and give your players designated jobs, then you are going to get free players arriving in the box. Nobody knows who is picking them up and everything else breaks down from there.

Ultimately, if they defend like that then they will not win anything. They gave Chelsea a two-goal start and the game was all but over after 22 minutes.

In Chelsea, they were playing one of the top teams, and top teams do not give you that much. You have got to make sure that you are tight at one end and you nick something at the other when you are away from home and they did neither of those things at Stamford Bridge.

Arsenal had nearly 60% of possession and plenty of pressure - they had twice as many corners as Chelsea - there is never any question about their ability to pass the ball either, but they did not actually create an awful lot. Chelsea were comfortable for most of the game.

They have played for the majority of season without a recognised striker but they are still the second-highest scorers in the Premier League so they must be doing something right but when the ball comes into the box from wide areas they have got no focal point.

Both teams' record against the rest of the top four tells its own story. While Chelsea have played four and won four, Arsenal have lost four out of five games - that is simply not title-winning form and that is why they cannot win the league.

Lee Dixon was talking to BBC Sport's Chris Bevan.



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see also
Chelsea 2-0 Arsenal
07 Feb 10 |  Premier League
Sunday's football as it happened
07 Feb 10 |  Football
Sunday's football photos
07 Feb 10 |  Football
Lee Dixon's tactical view
14 Dec 09 |  Premier League
Lee Dixon's tactical view
05 Oct 09 |  Premier League
Lee Dixon's tactical view
22 Dec 08 |  Premier League


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