Previous
AS Roma
CSKA Moscow
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Bayern Munich
Manchester City
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Ajax Amsterdam
Paris Saint-Germain
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Barcelona
Apoel Nicosia
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Chelsea
Schalke 04
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
NK Maribor
Sporting Lisbon
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Athletic Bilbao
Shakhtar Donetsk
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
FC Porto
BATE Borisov
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Blackburn Rovers
Derby County
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Nottingham Forest
Fulham
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Fleetwood Town
Barnsley
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Montreal Impact
New York Red Bulls
12:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Bayamon FC
America
12:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Municipal
Real Espana
2:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Huachipato
U. Católica
9:00 PM GMT
Leg 1
Game Details
Universitario de Sucre
César Vallejo
10:00 PM GMT
Leg 1
Game Details
River Plate
Godoy Cruz de Mendoza
12:15 AM GMT
Leg 2Aggregate: 1 - 0
Game Details
Libertad
Barcelona
12:15 AM GMT
Leg 2Aggregate: 0 - 1
Game Details
San Lorenzo
Defensa y Justicia
10:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Nueva Chicago
Boca Unidos
6:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Huracán
Crucero del Norte
10:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Aldosivi
Douglas Haig
11:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Guarini A. Franco
Ferro Carril Oeste
12:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Independiente Rivadavia
All Boys
12:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Patronato
Atlético Tucumán
12:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Sarmiento de Junín
Santamarina
12:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Gimnasia y Esgrima de Jujuy
Instituto de Córdoba
12:30 AM GMT
Game Details
At. San Luis
Correcaminos
12:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Irapuato
Altamira
12:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Oaxaca
Lobos BUAP
12:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Chiapas
Veracruz
2:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Queretaro
U.A.N.L
2:00 AM GMT
Game Details
U. de G.
Atlas
2:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Cruzeiro
Atletico Paranaense
10:30 PM GMT
Game Details
EC Vitória
Fluminense FC
10:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Figueirense FC
Criciúma
12:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Sport
Internacional
12:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Botafogo
Bahia
1:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Coritiba FBC
São Paulo
1:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Palmeiras
Flamengo
1:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Alianza Lima
Inti Gas Deportes
12:00 AM GMT
Game Details
12 de Octubre
Nacional
9:00 PM GMT
Game Details
FC Seoul
Western Sydney Wanderers
0
0
FT
Leg 1
Game Details
Bay United
Mamelodi Sundowns
Postp
Game Details
Chippa United
Orlando Pirates
Postp
Game Details
Free State Stars
Moroka Swallows
Postp
Game Details
Mpumalanga Black Aces
Ajax Cape Town
Postp
Game Details
Silver Stars
Pretoria Univ
Postp
Game Details
SuperSport United
Bloem Celtic
Postp
Game Details
Alajuelense
Belen
2:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Patriotas F.C.
La Equidad
8:00 PM GMT
Leg 2Aggregate: 0 - 0
Game Details
Atlético Junior
Llaneros
11:00 PM GMT
Leg 2Aggregate: 1 - 1
Game Details
Boyacá Chicó FC
Once Caldas
12:30 AM GMT
Leg 2Aggregate: 1 - 2
Game Details
Deportes Tolima
Independiente Medellín
12:30 AM GMT
Leg 2Aggregate: 1 - 0
Game Details
Independiente Santa Fe
Cucuta
12:45 AM GMT
Leg 2Aggregate: 2 - 1
Game Details
Next

Danny Welbeck will be worth the wait

Arsenal 5 hours ago
Read

Danny Welbeck will be worth the wait

Arsenal 5 hours ago
Read

Media slam Arsenal 'soft centre'

Arsenal 9 hours ago
Read
Sep 23, 2009

Case for the defence

With players at the peak of fitness and apparently expertly drilled, early-season encounters are supposed to be cagey affairs. That theory, however, may have been destroyed by results such as Everton 1 Arsenal 6, Bolton 2 Liverpool 3 and Manchester City 4 Arsenal 2. Not to mention the most recent: West Ham 2 Liverpool 3 and Manchester United 4 Manchester City 3. It means that, at this embryonic stage of the campaign, the Premier League is providing an average of almost three goals per game.

Excelling at entertainment, however, the bare statistics suggest the top-flight clubs are faring rather less well at one vital part of the game: defending. History indicates that the division is often won by the team with the best record in the goals against column. Now, besides the league leaders Chelsea, only the Second City rivals Aston Villa and Birmingham are letting in less than one a game.

And that is an indictment of those expected to challenge: Arsenal, Liverpool and the two Manchester clubs. Chelsea established a record when only conceding 15 goals in the 2004-05 season, Jose Mourinho's first year at Stamford Bridge. As it stands, each of these four expensively-assembled rearguards will have been breached more often by Christmas.

Liverpool's defensive difficulties have attracted the most attention. Set-pieces have been a common denominator in the nine goals conceded, although it is simplistic to attribute all to Rafa Benitez's ever-controversial policy of zonal marking. It had nothing to do with the penalties scored by Aston Villa's Ashley Young and West Ham United's Alessandro Diamanti, or the award of either spot kick. Benoit Assou-Ekotto's first Tottenham goal was a rebound after Tom Huddlestone's free kick bounced off the wall while Tamir Cohen's effort for Bolton followed a punt by goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen from his own half.

Other strikes have brought Benitez's practices into question. Perhaps the most damning goals were the headers of Villa's Curtis Davies and the Hammers' Carlton Cole, both rising highest at the near post from corners. In each case, the man out-jumped was Jamie Carragher. Is that a case of systemic failure, therefore, or of an individual failing to perform his task? Given Benitez's unstinting belief in his methods, he would presumably argue the latter. As he is unlikely to revert to man-to-man marking at dead-ball situations, one solution may be to allocate the pivotal near-post zone to another, whether Martin Skrtel, Steven Gerrard or Dirk Kuyt.

Manchester City may also have a susceptibility to the aerial ball. Perhaps the most avoidable of the six goals they have conceded in their last two games were Darren Fletcher's headed brace. They were the sort of goals that illustrated why Mark Hughes wanted to sign John Terry. Others, however, show why Fabio Capello appears to distrust Micah Richards: the right back was partially culpable for United's first and fourth in the dramatic derby and lost Michael Owen deep into added time.

Set-piece goals are a recurring theme elsewhere, but Manchester United have become accustomed to spectacular strikes. They account for five of the six times Ben Foster has had to remove the ball from his net, with Robbie Blake, Andrei Arshavin, Jermain Defoe and Craig Bellamy (twice) staging a goal of the season contest with a difference. Brilliance has been accompanied by blundering, however: Rio Ferdinand's daft scoop preceded Bellamy's second on Sunday.

That was the third moment Foster may wish to forget. The goalkeeper was at fault for Gareth Barry's goal earlier in the same game and, according to Sir Alex Ferguson, culpable for Arshavin's howitzer.

Fallible keepers are not confined to Old Trafford. Arsenal's Manuel Almunia may have erred for Manchester City's opener, eventually debited to him, at Eastlands. Despite considerable competition, Arsenal appear to have made the most needless individual error in Abou Diaby's bemusing own goal at Old Trafford. Liverpool's Lucas Leiva provided a contender for that tag with his own aberration when he defeated his goalkeeper Jose Reina to give Villa the lead at Anfield.

One of the paradoxes of Arsenal's campaign is that they have conceded eight goals in five games while two of their defenders have been widely acclaimed. Thomas Vermaelen has made an immediate impact and looks an astute use of £10 million while many would argue that William Gallas has benefited from a switch to operate as the right-sided centre back.

Yet their defensive record, and in particular the 4-2 defeat at Manchester City, suggests that responsibility is not confined to the back four. City were allowed to advance with comparative ease, prospering because too flimsy a shield was erected in front of the defence. Arsene Wenger's is a team that, unlike some others, does not always defend from the front, while the significance of holding midfielders may also help explain why, minus Xabi Alonso, Liverpool have conceded more regularly.

Benitez's perfectionism is a reason to believe their defensive record will improve. The increasing familiarity of a new-look Manchester City back four should aid them while the rekindling of the established alliance of Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Edwin van der Sar is likely to benefit Manchester United. With less gruelling fixtures ahead of them, Arsenal, too, have the opportunity to keep clean sheets. But at the moment, video analysis may make for uncomfortable viewing for some of the most vaunted defences in the Premier League.

Comments

Use a Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook name, photo & other personal information you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment, and may be used on ESPN's media platforms. Learn more.