Arsenal are no longer the bunch of boys that teams push around and intimidate physically. Beautiful, technical football from Wenger’s men helped see of many teams but when it came to the big guns, the team was also found wanting. A victory against sides likes Manchester United was always least anticipated and Arsenal rarely entered such matches as the favourite. Things have taken a positive turn this time around as the Gunners fancied their chances ahead of the visit to Old Trafford last weekend. Despite falling to ex-Gunner van Persie who is developing a knack of scoring against his former team, Arsenal’s performance deserves praise. As Arsene Wenger said after the match, a draw would have been a fair result given the way Arsenal controlled large portions of the match which ultimately proved inconsequential in terms of points due to their inability to string quality passes together and their shyness to shoot from inside the box or meet Sagna’s wonderful crosses which were agonizingly close. After the unexpected reverse on opening day this season when they lost after opening the scoring against Aston Villa the team really dug in brought about the best in them in the subsequent sequence of matches - a wave of form that makes Gunner fans craving for something similar till the season ends.
Arsenal’s reaction on the pitch during the match against United was in stark contrast to earlier seasons in similar situations when trailing against teams of United’s stature led to moments of nervousness that often ended in calamity. Arsenal, no longer the green youngsters trying to fend off the aggressiveness of their opponents, look no longer afraid to play it rough or wilt under pressure. Giroud willing to bump Johnny Evans early in the game and Flamini scuffing it out willingly match after match are instances of their toughness which have begun to lend an element of physical toughness absent in the team for a prolonged period. Teams like United are never afraid to play tough and establish a stronghold on matches and Arsenal’s newfound ability to play that way is an encouraging sight.
United’s willingness to sit back and absorb Arsenal’s attacking moves (which some might say is the result of changes in the managerial regimen – but to counter this, I point out that it is the same set of players from last season who are beginning to look formidable once again after getting adjusted to life under Moyes) is proof that the Gunners will not be willing to go down easily with their newfound mentality this season. Mr. Wenger was spot on in introducing Gnabry and Bendtner to carve out an equalizer and if not for the unlucky Bendtner, who missed a peach of a chance and subsequently a prolonged moment of glory, Arsenal’s unbeaten away streak would still be intact.
The defeat to Villa inspired the club to a run of 8 victories and 1 draw and a spot at the top of the table. With key players like Walcott and Podolski scheduled to return to first team action soon and Mr. Wenger poised perhaps to sign another center forward come January, things look exciting for the Gunners.
Arsenal next set of League fixtures – 9 in all including the tie at the Emirates on New Year’s Day against Cardiff – could be a perfect platform to replicate the form between their 2 defeats this season.
|December 4||Hull City||H|
|December 14||Man City||A|
|December 26||West Ham||A|