A little under a year ago, Charlie Nicholas laid his neck on the line, claiming Arsenal had a “poor defence” – but fast forward a year and things have changed at the Emirates.
The Gunners have conceded a mere 28 goals this season, bettered only by Manchester City, Chelsea and Aston Villa.
Compare that with 48 last season, the second most of any side in the top 10, with only Burnley conceding more – and Arsenal are finally starting to shake off that ‘spineless’ stereotype that has been assigned to them in years gone by.
Defensive additions have almost certainly helped.
Gabriel has been assured for the Gunners but has only registered three appearances since the turn of the year, whilst Pablo Mari has added some steel to the Arsenal rearguard.
Arsenal’s new found solidity can’t be assigned to one man – and in fact the stand out performer in their back line has probably been Kieran Tierney – who’s played at left back.
The success for Arsenal goes deeper than just the back line.
Bernd Leno has been inspired this season and looks a man reborn under Mikel Arteta, whilst the defensive screen in front of the back four have also played their part.
This defensive screen, and the aggressive nature of their game is something which is reflected in their stats.
Arsenal have the fewest fouls per game in the league, which would indicate that the Gunners soft underbelly still exists – but when you delve deeper, you can see there’s method behind the madness.
Arteta’s side attempted the least tackles of any side in the Premier League, showing that they’re happy to sit in and allow sides to break them down, with the Spaniard emulating his master, Pep Guardiola, in utilising the double pivot in midfield.
Interestingly, Arsenal have only conceded three goals from set pieces this season as opposed to 15 last season.
It shows great progression and is perhaps down to an increase in leadership at the back and removal of players like Sokratis and Shkodran Mustafi – who Arteta clearly didn’t like the look of.