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Last Updated: Saturday, 15 May, 2004, 15:51 GMT 16:51 UK
Case for the defence

By Mark Lawrenson
BBC Sport football expert

Former Arsenal captain Tony Adams and current Arsenal centre-back Sol Campbell
Adams and Campbell: Defenders from different eras
A characteristic of Arsenal's title-winning exploits past and present has been a solid defence.

So it is inevitable that comparisons between the Gunners' old rearguard and Arsene Wenger's new generation of defenders will be made.

But we are looking at two teams from two completely different footballing eras, so it would be unfair to praise one more than the other.

What can be said is that the Arsenal back four of Tony Adams, Nigel Winterburn, Lee Dixon and either Steve Bould or Martin Keown was certainly more defence-minded.

However, that is no surprise since they came together under the watchful eye of former Arsenal boss George Graham.

As a four, they were better defenders, good in the tackle and worked well as a unit.

Lauren, Cole, Campbell and Toure represent a seachange in the game

Yet the current Arsenal backline - Lauren, Kolo Toure, Sol Campbell and Ashley Cole - offer something completely different.

To all intents and purposes, Cole and Lauren are midfielders.

I think they represent a seachange in the game, rather than an improvement in that area.

The game was a bit more about defending in the Adams era, and nowadays the onus is very much on teams going forward.

If you look at the current Arsenal line-up, I would hazard a guess that Cole and Lauren spend more time in the opposition half than they do in their own.

Toure has been the find of the season. He is a great athlete and is comfortable on the ball.

He provides the perfect foil for Campbell, who is very strong and likes to attack the ball. Campbell is a great defender, while Toure is the better footballer.

Arsenal's old back four were also good footballers but were not given the opportunity to express themselves in the same way that Wenger's team do.

At present, full-backs are the most important players in the game.

But that is a sign of the times and no-one can take away the fact the Arsenal have produced some of the most breathtaking football witnessed in recent years.

And while the emphasis has been on attack, the new Gunners defence have done more than their fair share to help Arsenal reach new heights.






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