By Chris Harris

Arsène Wenger has identified Arsenal's key weakness this season - defending long balls.

The Arsenal manager is a renowned number cruncher and it's no surprise that he has been scouring the statistics to find areas which must improve before the next title race gets underway in August.

Wenger has already acknowledged that his team have "lacked a little bit of maturity" at times this season, notably when they surrendered the advantage in big games against Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United. At the shareholders Q&A this week, the Frenchman was more specific.

"I must say this year we had among the best attack but [with one game to go] we have conceded 31 goals which is six or seven too many," he said. "It's as close as that to win the championship.

"We didn't give more goals away than any other team in the League on open play, nor on set pieces, but where we gave more goals away was on direct balls, in the air, through the middle, and most of the time on second balls.

"On set pieces and open play we were as good as Manchester United and Chelsea. The numbers are available. But we have to rectify how we deal with direct balls. When a team just goes for long, direct balls against us, we have to improve."

The full Q&A with Wenger will be shown on Arsenal TV from 9.15pm (UK time) on Thursday.

Copyright 2017 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to as the source
Chris Harris 8 May 2008