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David Luiz concedes a penalty late on at Watford after a clumsy challenge on Roberto Pereyra

Long gone are the days when the likes of Tony Adams, Martin Keown or Sol Campbell were manning the Arsenal defence.

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These days that responsibility rests on the shoulders of Sokratis and David Luiz – mere mortals in comparison to those defensive Spartans.

Few would disagree that they are currently the weakest centre half pairing out of any of the top six clubs in the Premier League.

David Luiz concedes a penalty late on at Watford after a clumsy challenge on Roberto Pereyra

David Luiz concedes a penalty late on at Watford after a clumsy challenge on Roberto Pereyra

Arsenal players look dejected after conceding a second goal against Aston Villa

Arsenal players look dejected after conceding a second goal against Aston Villa

Arsenal players look dejected after conceding a second goal against Aston Villa 

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Sokratis is a throwback defender who looks out of touch with the modern game in England while Luiz can barely be considered a centre back at all.

Gary Neville pulled no punches in his assessment of the pair last week after the two cost Arsenal victory at Watford.

‘Every time you watch Sokratis play, or Luiz, they just regularly make mistakes,’ he said. ‘The best players have concentration and focus, and they don’t have that.’

Unai Emery knew in the summer his defence needed bolstering but the arrival of Luiz has, if anything, made the Arsenal defence look more vulnerable.

It may still be early days in the season, but in just six games Arsenal’s flaws at the back have been exposed all too often – and by sides who really shouldn’t even be getting a sniff against them.

In their last four Premier League outings, Arsenal have conceded at least twice. If they do so again against Manchester United on Monday, it will be the first time they have shipped two or more goals in five consecutive top-flight games since August 1985.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles gets a red card after committing a foul on Villa's Neil Taylor
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Ainsley Maitland-Niles gets a red card after committing a foul on Villa's Neil Taylor

Ainsley Maitland-Niles gets a red card after committing a foul on Villa’s Neil Taylor

They finished that season outside of the top six and if the problems are not quickly addressed and dealt with, they will be in danger of falling victim to the very same fate.

That may sound drastic, but for the first time in five years, the big six’s stronghold on the European places seems to be loosening.

Leicester and West Ham have shown they are capable of potentially dislodging Arsenal, Tottenham, Manchester United or Chelsea this season, so slip ups cannot be afforded.

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It is why Emery must make sorting out the defence his priority. First matter of business will be to find a way to eliminate mistakes at the back.

If Arsenal’s shortcomings against Watford didn’t highlight their problems at the back then the shambolic defending for Aston Villa’s second goal last weekend would have.

It was the performance at Watford two weeks ago, though, which was most alarming.

Manager Unai Emery reacts angrily during a League Cup game against Nottingham Forest

Manager Unai Emery reacts angrily during a League Cup game against Nottingham Forest

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Manager Unai Emery reacts angrily during a League Cup game against Nottingham Forest

First, a mix up playing out from the back gifted their opponents a goal. Then, Luiz gave away a late penalty and as easy as that a two-goal lead was thrown away.

Two errors, two goals conceded and three points became one. That has been an all too familiar theme for Arsenal recently.

This year, they have conceded eight times directly from errors – more than any other Premier League side.

Arsenal have also conceded the most penalties in the league (5), along with Brighton – all of which were converted.

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They appear to have a habitual tendency to shoot themselves in the foot and Emery must try to eradicate that because it is costing them dearly.

Arsenal cannot continue to be their own worst enemy and expect to win games.

Arsenal's defence was all over the place for Aston Villa's second goal last weekend

Arsenal's defence was all over the place for Aston Villa's second goal last weekend

Arsenal’s defence was all over the place for Aston Villa’s second goal last weekend

Despite Sokratis’ error against Watford, Emery has insisted he will stick to his guns when it comes to playing out from the back.

In some regard, he should be commended for that. Emery has clear a vision of how he wants to play and is not willing to give up on that after the first sign of trouble.

But if the Arsenal players continue to wilt under pressure and make mistakes in dangerous areas, Emery must be prepared to compromise.

While he insisted building from the back is part of Arsenal’s new ‘identity’, he has reassured fans that his players will mix things up and occasionally resort to an old-fashioned punt up the pitch after their convincing 3-0 win over Frankfurt was evidence that going long can sometimes be effective.

Sokratis and Luiz have rightly come under scrutiny for their recent performances but it would be unfair to attribute all of the blame to them.

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Ainsley Maitland-Niles has started every game at right back in the Premier League for Arsenal this season, and while he has been impressive going forward, his defensive play has left a lot to be desired.

He also left his team in the lurch on the weekend when he was sent off against Aston Villa, albeit harshly. 

The 22-year-old does deserves a degree of sympathy though – he is a young player playing at the highest level out of position and has largely done a decent job.

Sead Kolasinac, it must be said, needs to improve on his consistency while Shkodran Mustafi just isn’t up to scratch.

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So, this isn’t just about two players not pulling their weight, it’s the whole defence.

This year, Arsenal have kept fewer clean sheets than Crystal Palace, Newcastle and West Ham, and Everton have registered double the number they have with 12.

Arsenal are an exciting team going forward and will score goals, but they can’t keep solely relying on Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang to dig them out of a hole.

As things stand, they are miles away from even being in the conversation for the title and it’s because of how poor they are at defending.

Arsenal have faced the second-highest number of shots in the Premier League this year

Arsenal have faced the second-highest number of shots in the Premier League this year

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Arsenal have faced the second-highest number of shots in the Premier League this year

They have also faced the second-highest number of shots on goal in the Premier League this year – only Crystal Palace have more.

These are damning statistics. It’s not really good enough for a club the size of Arsenal.

On a positive note, Hector Bellerin, Rob Holding and Kieran Tierney are on the verge of returning to full fitness and will provide their defence with a much-needed boost.

But it’s unlikely any of them will feature against United from the off.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer may be facing somewhat of a striker crisis, but they have proven on their day they can stick the ball in the back of net, hammering Chelsea 4-0 last month.

Given their recent dry patch, though — United have scored just three times in their last four league games — Arsenal will believe they can record their first clean sheet since their opening-day win at Newcastle.

If that is going to happen, mistakes simply must be kept to a minimum.