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Joe Strange - Arsenal reveal their mean streak

Published: 18 Jan 2010 - 07:36:08

If I were to survey a selection of Premier League fans about who, other than their own club, they would pay to see, I'd be pretty confident that most would opt for a certain team from North London.

And sadly for Spurs fans, it's not you.

It's no secret that Arsenal play the most eye-catching, attractive football in the league, an accolade they've laid claim to for arguably the last ten years or more.

But as big a compliment as that is, beautiful football doesn't always guarantee success - a fact that Arsenal fans have been able to vouch for since last watching their team lift a trophy in May 2005.

For a club accustomed to winning silverware on a regular basis, a five-year wait for a trophy has been frustrating to say the least.

In that period there have been title challenges, top of the table capitulations and a couple of fights just to hold onto the fourth Champions League spot - all a far cry from the title winning invincibles of 2003/04.

With hugely influential players such as Patrick Vieira, Robert Pires and Thierry Henry all moving to pastures new over the last few years, Arsene Wenger has been undertaking somewhat of a squad rebuilding process in recent seasons.

'Le Professuer' has chosen to place huge emphasis on buying and developing young talent instead of spending big on established stars - a tactic employed by many a Premier League side, especially with the arrival of the billionaire foreign owner to English football.

Despite pressure from fans and the media alike, Wenger has been patient and conscientious with his transfer budget, refusing to bow to inflated transfer fees and ridiculous wage demands.

His transfer strategy has been condemned by some but for the most part it seems to be working - even if it is taking a little longer than first planned.

However there have been two accusations levelled at the Gunners in recent seasons that even Wenger himself has been unable to answer.

The first, that Arsenal cannot compete with the physical, battling approach of sides like Bolton and Blackburn. And the second, that they are unable to win when not playing at their beautiful best.

Even Arsenal fans would admit that there has been more than just a shred of evidence to back up both of these statements but after a battling 2-0 away win over a reinvigorated Bolton side yesterday afternoon, Wenger's men look close to completing their transformation into genuine title contenders once again.

Gone was the side who can only score after passing through the entire opposition; the side who might have been overawed by a passionate crowd buoyed by the arrival of a new manager; the side who would have been physically dominated by a Bolton side running on adrenaline, fighting to get out of the relegation zone.

Any critics that Arsenal still have were well and truly answered come six o'clock yesterday evening.

Despite their first goal being well-worked, Arsenal didn't play anywhere near their full potential but still came away with a comfortable victory. And it's for that reason that Chelsea and Manchester United should start to worry.

The best teams are the ones who grind out wins when not playing at their best and that is exactly what Cesc Fabregas and co did at the Reebok stadium.

They dealt with Bolton's physical approach with relative ease and actually looked like they quite enjoyed being involved in such a blood and thunder affair.

Their ability on the pitch has never been in question, but their attitude and footballing ideals have come under scrutiny from many a pundit in recent times.

Yesterday they showed that they are capable of battling and winning ugly if need be, an essential characteristic for any title winning team.

If Wenger can combine their new mean streak with their trademark free-flowing football, we might just see the Premier League trophy at the Emirates come the end of the season. And that is something I know I'd definitely pay to see.

READ JOE STRANGE EXCLUSIVELY AT FOOTBALL.CO.UK EVERY MONDAY

DSG


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FOOTBALL.CO.UK BLOGGER:joe strange
A product of Brighton University's prolific youth system, Joe Strange has boundless energy and the enviable ability to cover every blade of grass in his Monday blog. Joe has written for a variety of football websites and fanzines and is also a regular contributor to golf.co.uk. Despite being born and raised in Kent, 'Stranger' is a diehard Everton fan and counts his team's penalty shoot-out victory against Manchester United last season as his most memorable football moment. Follow Joe on Twitter @joe_strange.

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