Learn to 'win ugly' and defeat at Stoke may not be the death knell for Arsenal's title ambitions?
Going to the Britannia stadium is one of those journeys that top clubs always like to get behind them. This season alone, a visit to the Potteries by Manchester city, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal has garnered a collective single point for the away teams as City drew there. Losing to Stoke therefore is not necessarily the season-ending result that many pundits have been declaring over the weekend. The trick for Arsene Wenger now is to understand the need for a Plan B approach. Sometimes, the beautiful game doesn’t get the job done.
Over recent years, the teams that have won the league title have learned the priceless trick of winning when not playing particularly well. League titles are not won on the back of strutting 4-0 or 5-0 victories when champagne football sends the fans home giddy with the excitement and anticipation of glory ahead. Of course those results have a place, and building confidence in also important. The results that really make the difference however are the scrappy 1-0 wins when a lot of players are performing below par. The games where the desire to win, rather than the elegant flick, is what gets you over the line are the key ones.
Over recent times, Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester have turned such desire into an art form and it’s no surprise that the amounts of ‘Fergie time’ at the end of games often brings a crucial goal for his team.
There’s little doubt that Arsenal have the ability and players to be worthy title contenders, despite still perhaps being a striker light. That said, moving forward for the remainder of the season, the Gunners will have games where their sometimes coruscating football won’t be sufficient to win the game.
At these times, Wenger needs to have drilled into his side the case-hardened desire to get the job done. Dogging out a result when it perhaps isn’t really deserved is what will make the difference. It remains to be seen whether Arsenal have that particular talent in their armoury.
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