A draw against Crystal Palace may have stretched Arsenal’s unbeaten run to six games in all competitions, but boss Mikel Arteta will have plenty of concerns. Chief among them is the performance of his first-choice centre-back pairing.
Ben White was signed from Brighton for £50million in the summer transfer window, following the £27m addition of Gabriel in September 2020.
Despite that hefty outlay though, the duo were left badly exposed by Palace’s trio of strikers, Christian Benteke, Odsonne Edouard and Jordan Ayew.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had put them ahead, but Ayew robbed Thomas Partey of the ball before Benteke drilled in an equaliser.
Gabriel had allowed Benteke to carry the ball into the Gunners box before cutting inside and putting the ball beyond Ramsdale.
13 minutes later, White also allowed Edouard to drive forward before he fired in to put Palace ahead.
Their indecision and passiveness in the face of the Palace attackers was heavily criticised by former Manchester United defender Gary Neville.
“I think Gabriel on the first goal and Ben White on the second have got to do better. You’ve got to stop Benteke coming on his right foot. So many times you see defenders do this,” he told Sky Sports.
“Benteke is going to get a shot away, there’s no doubt about that, but make him have a shot from a worse position. Make him have a shot on his weaker foot and he doesn’t do that.
“Ben White drops off and drops off and drops off and you can’t drop off like that. I think both centre-backs will look at those goals and think: ‘We’ve got to try and engage outside of the box’.
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“The defender has got to dictate to the forward which foot the striker is going to shoot with and they don’t, both of them.
“They allow the striker to do what they what without impacting the shot and that isn’t good defending.”
The poor showing from White and Gabriel suggests that Arsenal still have not solved their long-running issues in defence.
That is despite having spent £77m on their first-choice pairing alone, with Pablo Mari also having been bought within the last two years.
It is also further evidence of a critical mistake that Arteta made in the summer window, when he allowed William Saliba to join Marseille on loan.
Saliba is still yet to make his first-team debut for the Gunners and has been out of favour ever since Arteta took over.
But the Frenchman is impressing for Marseille, who are currently third in Ligue 1, with one of the best defensive records in the table.
The draw with Palace only highlights how far Arsenal still have to go before Arteta can finally show that he has solved his side’s defensive problems.
Published at Wed, 20 Oct 2021 04:20:00 +0000