Arsenal focus on defence as Wenger plans new campaign

Aug 8, 2014
Bill Mann

Gunners must eliminate Jekyll and Hyde defending, starting with Community Shield against Man City

Arsenal must play off against Besiktas in the Champions League qualifying round after being drawn against the Turkish side at the draw in Nyon today.

The first leg takes place on 19 August in Turkey, and although it will be a tough encounter for the Gunners, Arsene Wenger will be pleased to be playing the second leg at home.

Speaking before the draw he said: "I think the second game at home for us is important if possible... It will be difficult. We have to prepare well. Last season we had to go to Fenerbahce, who had won the Turkish league, after a defeat against Aston Villa at home. We were lucky we got a good response. It is a difficult step for us."

Meanwhile as Arsenal prepare to face Manchester City in Sunday's Community Shield clash at Wembley, Wenger has spoken of the need this season for his defence to tighten up. Last season the Gunners were thrashed 6-3 by the Sky Blues, while they also leaked five to Liverpool and had six put past them by Chelsea (on what was Wenger's 1000th match in charge of Arsenal).

"I was concerned and shocked by the number of goals that we conceded," said Wenger. "Of course we were Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde defensively. We had 18 clean sheets but when we did not keep a clean sheet we let them score. I think it was down to confidence. Overall we were quite sound defensively but we have a good opportunity to improve that."

The Manchester City game was a particular shock, coming as it did in December when Arsenal were riding high at the top of the table and there was even talk at the Emirates of their first title success in a decade. Looking back on the thrashing, Wenger says there were reasons for the result.

"Honestly [the defeat] was not so much damaging because we finished with ten men and when we looked at the game again we had six or seven chances to score. I took a gamble at ten against 11 like I always do to have a chance to come back, but when you look at the chances we missed, that was not a damaging [result]. For us what was damaging was the two games at Liverpool and at Chelsea."

Arsenal will be without their trio of World Cup winning stars for Sunday's clash against City – as they will be for the opening league match of the season on Saturday week against Crystal Palace - with Per Mertesacker, Lukas Podolski and Mesut Ozil not yet back at training after helping Germany to glory in Brazil last month. "It's not ideal but the final of the World Cup was on the 13th of July, and when they go back to Germany they lose a few days for celebration," explained Wenger. "You have a choice: you can get them back very quickly and lose them in October, or you can give them a needed rest and build them up again... it is also difficult mentally to come back and be sharp and hungry straight away again." 

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