Emery will instil defensive solidity, says Bellerin

From left: Petr Cech, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Mesut Ozil and Hector Bellerin model Arsenal’s third kit under Singapore’s central business district skyline. The Gunners face French champions Paris Saint-Germain tonight at the Nationa
From left: Petr Cech, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Mesut Ozil and Hector Bellerin model Arsenal’s third kit under Singapore’s central business district skyline. The Gunners face French champions Paris Saint-Germain tonight at the National Stadium.PHOTO COURTESY OF ARSENAL FC

Last season, Arsenal finished sixth and missed out on Champions League qualification, despite scoring the joint-third highest number of goals (74) in the English Premier League last term.

One key factor for their failure was their leaky defence - the Gunners conceded the most goals (51) among the top seven clubs last season.

And this is one statistic Arsenal want to improve on under new manager Unai Emery, says right-back Hector Bellerin.

The 46-year-old Spaniard is known to ensure his teams are defensively sound while being attack-minded at the same time.

During his time with Sevilla, Emery led them to three consecutive Europa League titles from 2014-2016 and the statistics were impressive.

The LaLiga club conceded 10 goals from the knockout stages in their first triumph in 2014, nine in 2015 and only eight in 2016, proving the team's defensive prowess under Emery.

In an interview with The Straits Times yesterday at the team's third kit launch at the Esplanade, Bellerin said he believes the new boss will improve the rearguard in his bid to lead the Gunners back to their glory days.

A NEW BEGINNING

The important thing at the start is to allow everyone to get in sync with the new coaches and staff. If we do that, everything is going to work and we can challenge for very big things in the future.

HECTOR BELLERIN, Arsenal defender, on the path ahead for the Gunners and new manager Unai Emery.

The 23-year-old Spaniard said: "At all the teams that he's (Unai) been at, it's all about being very competitive and really tight at the back.

"Strikers must also help to defend, and that can help us a lot because defending is not just for the back four and the goalkeeper. It starts from the striker and, hopefully, we can get this solidity and we can compete like his teams have always done."

Bellerin also stressed the importance of giving the team time to adjust to Emery's style.

"The important thing at the start is to allow everyone to get in sync with the new coaches and staff," he said.

"If we do that, everything is going to work and we can challenge for very big things in the future.

"Arsenal are a great club and we need to put the club where we deserve to be. It's a new era and it's up to us to make it happen."

Emery has wasted no time in beefing up the defence with the signings of German goalkeeper Bernd Leno and experienced defenders in Sokratis Papastathopoulos, 30, and Stephan Lichtsteiner, 34.

The 1.86m Papastathopoulos, who joined Arsenal from Bundesliga club Borussia Dortmund for an undisclosed fee, is confident his arrival will shore up the backline.

He said: "It is important for us that we don't concede a lot of goals and to improve as a team in defence.

"I feel it's the right moment for me to enter the EPL. For defenders, 30 is the best age, we have enough games and experience and we know exactly what will happen and what we can do."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 28, 2018, with the headline 'Emery will instil defensive solidity, says Bellerin'. Print Edition | Subscribe