Premier League 2018/19: Arsenal's defensive fragility could be a big concern later in the season
Arsenal's offensive power is enviable. The Gunners are second joint highest goal scorers in the Premier League alongside Chelsea and behind Manchester City. However, it is their defence that has let them down this season.
Unai Emery's side recovered from a goal down to lead 2-1 against Crystal Palace thanks to goals by Granit Xhaka and Aubameyang, however, Arsenal were made to rue their defensive mistakes which led to another penalty scored against them and thus ending their 11-game winning streak.
If not for the penalties, Arsenal could have won the game. After the game, Sokratis was seen having a lengthy discussion with a dejected-looking Shkodran Mustafi, possibly highlighting areas the German made could have done better in defending.
The two goals scored by Crystal Palace took the number of goals Arsenal have conceded to 13 in nine games. Arsenal have now conceded the same number of goals as Crystal Palace and Brighton. The Gunners have also conceded more goals than any of the present top 5 sides in the Premier League.
Apparently, this is still a problem that needs to be worked upon.
On Sunday at Selhurst Park, Palace had 16 shots on goal over the course of the 90 minutes - their second-highest total in any Premier League game this season. This does not leave for impressive reading for the Gunners considering the team's objectives this season.
The result could have been worse had Crystal Palace taken their chances. The first of them that came the way of Andros Townsend and the second that came the way of Max Meyer.
As mentioned above, Unai Emery has improved the team's defensive organization, but a lot still needs to be done if Arsenal hopes to be considered a strong contender for the title this season. Even if that cannot be achieved, then a top-four finish should be a more realistic option.
Individual errors again masked Arsenal's draw at Crystal Palace. On Sunday, both of Palace goals came from individual errors. First, it was Bernd Leno, in goal, who failed to get proper distance on his punch from a corner kick, then Shkodran Mustafi inexplicably lunged in on Cheikhou Kouyate to concede the penalty.
The second was Xhaka who was playing as a makeshift left-back, he mistimed his tackle on Wilfried Zaha, who went to ground to win the penalty.
The way forward
Undoubtedly, Shkodran Mustafi is a decent defender and on his day, he does almost everything right. One of the eye-catching performances in Arsenal colours was the memorable 3- 0 thrashing of Chelsea at the Emirates in the 2016-17 season. He pinned down former Chelsea's striker Diego Costa, who looked frustrated as the game wore on.
On the other hand, he is too consistent in making mistakes during games and he has not particularly covered himself in glory with his decision making at times.
He looks much comfortable with the likes of club captain Laurent Koscielny as well as Greek defender Mavropanos
The imminent return of these defenders should give Arsenal more stability at the back and more options as well.
Laurent Koscielny, though error-prone, at times is a far better option than the German and should partner the impressive Rob Holding.
Greek defender Sokratis should also be allowed to partner Rob Holding to inspire Mustafi to up his game. Hopefully, this defensive fragility would soon a thing of the past.