Home is(n’t) Where the Heart is for Arsenal: Analysis
The Arsenal defence has come under major scrutiny in recent times as their defensive record at home has become alarmingly subpar.
In away matches, when the Gunners’ defence faces up to the most threatening attacks, they stand tall and fight for three points. However, a trend that is showing few signs of slowing down is the lack of solidity and concentration in the defensive ranks in games played on home soil.
There are many factors to consider when examining the reasons behind Arsenal’s collapse at Emirates Stadium. These include a lack of concentration in early stages, set-piece difficulties and a more expansive play style at home compared to solidity away.
Falling Behind Early in Home Games and Unwanted Records
In the current calendar year of 2023, Arsenal have conceded within the first minute of Premier League games three times. The only side in the competition’s history to ever do so and there are still four months left of the year.
The glaring consistency within this statistic is the fact that all three goals were conceded in home games and were all avoidable.
The first occurred in March in the now famous 3-2 win over Bournemouth, when Arsenal came back from 2-0 down to win it late on with a spectacular Reiss Nelson goal. Yet, the tense nature of that match could have been avoided if Arsenal closed down the cross that led to Philip Billing scoring early on.
Then came Aaron Ramsdale’s disaster pass straight into Carlos Alcaraz in April. This came in a game Arsenal would eventually claw back to 3-3 but it resulted in two crucial points being dropped in their quest for the Premier League title.
The most recent was in last Saturday’s 2-2 draw to London rivals Fulham. Bukayo Saka’s misplaced pass in the first minute allowed Andreas Pereira to score.
This unwanted record is holding Arsenal back and the foundation for every outstanding title challenger is a rock-solid home defence. When questioned about conceding so early into the match against Fulham Arteta said: “Errors are part of football and it’s where you make them and how the opponent takes them, it’s the difference”.
Set Piece Failings
Arsenal’s record when defending set-pieces was up there with the best in the league in the first half of last season, but has since become increasingly poor.
In the first 18 games of last season Arsenal conceded just ONE set-piece goal, the best in the league. But the record in the 23 league games since then has increased to a massive nine goals conceded from set pieces. Out of those ten goals conceded, eight were scored in home matches, which reinforces the fact about Arsenal’s failings in home matches.
More Expansive Play Style in Home Matches.
At Emirates Stadium, Arsenal generally play a fluid formation with Oleksandr Zinchenko inverting into midfield whilst Ben White pushes on to support Bukayo Saka on the right-hand side.
This allows Arsenal to commit players into the final third to finish off attacking plays and outnumber the opposition defence. A risk of playing in this progressive manner means that you leave yourself short at the back and Arsenal give up chances to teams in transition.
This was seen in the opening game of the season when Arsenal handed Nottingham Forest momentum by leaving themselves short at a corner at 2-0 up.
In their last 21 home league matches, Arsenal have kept only four clean sheets and this is due to the style of play at home. However, if you give up chances – such as the one to Pereira – you face an uphill battle in every home game to gain three points.
If Arsenal want to achieve their lofty ambitions in the league this season then they need to find a way to limit opposition chances either early on in games or in transitions.