When it comes to the art of defending in football, it’s fair to see the quality required to perform at the very top has gone from something like scribbling with a crayon to painting a Monet.
Back in the day it was all about just clearing the ball, putting your head (or other body parts) in the way to block shots and just making sure the ball hit row Z every time. Now, though, managers spend a lot of time and money making sure their defenders aren’t just good at clearing the ball when they need to, but also experts at reading the game and are with the ball at their feet.
It’s fair to say that hasn’t been the case much at the Emirates in recent years, even if Mikel Arteta’s side only conceded 39 goals last season, with only champions Man City and fourth-placed Chelsea conceding fewer all season.
But there hasn’t really been a defensive masterclass from any Arsenal side since Arsene Wenger left the club, and even the £50m signing of Ben White couldn’t help matters after his poor debut showing in the 2-0 away defeat to Brentford last weekend.
But two former Arsenal defenders, one more legendary than the other, have been speaking to the Betway Insider about the art of defending and how it has changed significantly since their playing days, and it’s fair to say the likes of Ben White and Hector Bellerin could learn a thing or two from them.
Mikael Silvestre, who made 43 appearances for the Gunners between 2008 and 2010, put it bluntly by saying: “If you switch off, you’re done. You can’t rest like strikers and midfielders can.”
While Nigel Winterburn, who won three league titles at Arsenal between 1987 and 2000, hinted at how the evolution of defending may have changed: “When I played, you had to be an outstanding defender or you wouldn’t get into one of the top four teams.
“Now you don’t have to be as good defensively, but if you don’t have that quality on the ball then you probably wouldn’t get into a top team.
“I think the whole ethos of the game, particularly how quick it is, has changed.
“I think if we were to go out and walk through some of the training sessions that George [Graham] put on for our back four with a modern player, they might look at you in disbelief.
“There was a lot more discipline involved compared to now.”