CARRA: ARSENAL EUROPE'S BEST DEFENCE | HENRY: THERE IS A WEAKNESS

Jamie Carragher described Arsenal as the best team in Europe defensively on Monday Night Football, saying it gives them a "great chance" in the Premier League title race, but Thierry Henry warned of a weakness when defending their own box.

Arsenal sit third in the table behind Liverpool and Manchester City but boast an unrivalled defensive record this season, with the fewest goals conceded and most clean sheets in the division.

Mikel Arteta's side also rank top in terms of expected goals against, shots on target faced and opposition touches in the opposition box.

Their expected goal difference, meanwhile, a key performance indicator in which the title-winning team usually sits top of the pile, also has them ahead of their rivals in first place.

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Carragher feels their defensive improvement has given them an edge which boosts their title hopes.

"At times at the start of the season, I doubted whether Arsenal could win the league because of the lack of goals," Carragher said on Monday Night Football, speaking before their 6-0 win over Sheffield United.

"Yes, they have started scoring goals now, but another solution is to be better defensively.

"When I watch Arsenal, I think they are not just the best team defensively in the league, but in Europe too.

"Manchester City have been the best team defensively and won the league. Arsenal are that team now and they have got a great chance of winning the title."

According to Carragher, their defensive excellence stems from their ability to pin opponents in their own half and prevent them from getting near the Arsenal goal.

"You can't play through this Arsenal team when they have got you in their half," he added, referencing the first period of the 4-1 win over Newcastle, during which Arsenal won possession in the final third more times in one half (11) than any other side all season.

"It's almost like a full-court press, 'we're playing a game, 11-vs-11, in this half of the pitch'.

"Arsenal right now are better than anybody, not just in the Premier League but possibly in Europe, at defending that way."

Henry: We suffer when defending our box

Arsenal legend Thierry Henry, Carragher and David Jones' guest on Monday Night Football, agreed with Carragher's assessment of his former side but warned of a weakness when defending crosses.

"One of the things you need to do as a coach is see the team that you have," he said.

"Mikel Arteta wants to play high and I think Arsenal are at their best when they are like that.

"Players like Saliba, like Gabriel - an outstanding partnership - benefit from the way Arsenal play.

"But like a lot of teams that play high, they are not used to defending their box at times, or defending crosses. I see at times that we can be a tiny bit suspect when we have to do that."

Henry looked at examples from games against West Ham, Nottingham Forest and Liverpool, when Arsenal's opponents were able to score from balls into the box from wide positions.

"Every time we are in those situations, we don't often defend the ball well," he said.

"Full credit for not being in those positions. That is why a lot of teams don't get a lot of shots.

"But when we have to defend our box, we suffer at times."

'Away games will test Arsenal's defence'

Henry and Carragher also looked at Arsenal's remaining Premier League fixtures, a list which includes difficult away games against Manchester City, Brighton, Wolves, Tottenham and Manchester United.

"Those teams will push Arsenal back to the edge of their own box. So, if that's a weakness for them, we will see it in those games."

Henry pointed out that their fixture list could become even trickier if they progress in the Champions League.

"Remember, if you go deep in the Champions League, you have to add those games as well," he said.

"Can you deal with that? I know Manchester City and Liverpool are equipped to do that."

Henry added: "But when I look at [these fixtures], I think it's going to be tough away from home.

"I get more scared because, in between all our goals and playing well, Porto stopped us having a shot on target away from home, a team that was well-drilled and well-positioned.

"Those other teams might now see that and go, 'give them the ball, let's stay compact'. They also have speed on the counter."

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2024-03-04T20:12:45Z dg43tfdfdgfd