Arsenal’s defense has been suspect for about a decade now, but in the quest to solve the issue, they’ve already achieved the hardest part.
In case you’ve somehow missed the overarching narrative of the past decade, Arsenal‘s defense continues to struggle. While Mikel Arteta has implemented a new defensive philosophy that is inspiring and full of hope, it isn’t all the way there yet and, as we saw against Spurs, the capacity for a collapse is still alive and well.
This traces its origins all the way back to the Wenger days, when we were consistently understaffed and relying on the likes of Koscielny and Mertesacker because we didn’t have anyone else.
It’s no secret that we need to rebuild at the back and William Saliba is a big part of that. But the biggest part of it is already done—getting a commanding, reliable keeper to hold it all together at the back.
Think about it, a lot of the current defensive “success” is thanks in large part to the combined efforts of Bernd Leno and Emiliano Martinez, who have saved us from many a more unfortunate result.
If you go back to the olden days, as in about ten years ago, that wasn’t always the case. Between Almunia, David Ospina, and Petr Cech, consistency was never something we could count on at the back. And combined with a subpar and flimsy defense, we were never able to reach the heights.
The closest keeper we had was Wojciech Szczesny, but he was unfairly ousted because he was stuck behind a defense that was as sturdy as wet paper towels.
Bernd Leno got the same treatment. Or at least, he almost did. He was stuck behind some awful defensive lines and it left him with a terrible clean sheet record that was unfairly attributed to him, rather than to the defense who actually deserved it.
Now though, with even an average defense, Leno and Martinez are getting the credit they deserve, saving us points, and proving that with the right defense, this half-sturdy wall could grow into something truly remarkable.
Getting a great keeper, though, that was the hard part. There are tons of defenders out there, but truly elite keepers? Not many. Bernd Leno is one of the best out there and Emiliano Martinez’s stock is going up and up with each performance. Bank on the future of that and build out from there.