If Arsenal want to have a good end to the season and at least challenge for the final Champions League spot, then keeping things tight at the back will be key.
Mikel Arteta’s side have a tricky run-in, with games against Manchester City, Liverpool, Tottenham and Leicester City to come, so they will be tested defensively against some of the Premier League’s best forwards.
The Gunners have conceded 51 league goals in each of the last two seasons and have shipped 36 in 28 games so far in the current campaign.
Things have started to look up since Arteta took over, however. During Unai Emery’s 20 matches in charge in all competitions this season, Arsenal conceded 29 goals at an average of 1.45 per game. But in Arteta’s first 15, they let in 12 at a rate of just 0.8 per game.
That is a significant improvement, although the expected goals against tally during Arteta’s 15 games actually sits at 19.9, which suggests the defensive issues that have plagued Arsenal in recent years are far from behind them.
And it was clear during the 3-2 friendly defeat by Brentford last week, when all three Bees goals came from horrible lapses of concentration, that Arteta has yet to eradicate the problem.
Whether that can be done fully without bringing in better defenders is doubtful, but you would hope that the Spaniard has had long enough with his squad that genuine signs of progress can be seen between now and the end of the season.