Why Arsenal Are Far More Equipped To Surge A Title Challenge This Season
Posted by Featured Articles | Published on December 7, 2016
Arsene Wenger has been at the helm of Arsenal football club for 20 years, twenty long years, a journey which has helped him change the face of English football and certainly the face of the North Londoners. To say his time in charge has been exceptional is an understatement, it has been miraculous, exquisite, any word that comes under the bracket of special, that’s the feeling you get when you look back at the wonder years of the unbeaten season, Thierry Henry assisting Denis Bergkamp and vice-versa, Patrick Vieira and Roy Keane having a WWE no holds bar match in the tunnel and winning the league at White Hart Lane, but without a Premier League title in twelve years, I take a look at why things are about to change.
Twelve years, twelve long years since I saw my club Arsenal win the grandest prize in England, the Premier League trophy, twelve years of what if’s and maybes, twelve years of thinking “this is our year, it has to be?” but twelve years of heartache each season come May, but could this be set to come to an end? Arsenal has, without a doubt, matured ever so much this campaign.
They are no longer pushovers, nor will they be beaten easily, they have shown pure resilience to get results, whether that be a stoppage time winner against Burnley, or being professional in a 3-0 demolition of London rivals Chelsea, they have matured. This doesn’t come as a surprise, though, it was only a matter of time before the team which Arsene is creating clicks and kicks on into gear. The summer arrival of Shkodran Mustafi has probably been one of the best summers buys in England, he and Koscielny have formed a formidable partnership with the former remaining unbeaten in the famous Arsenal jersey. For years and years Arsenal had a defensive problem, but now they look good as any defence in the league with Petr Cech; Hector Bellerin, Shkodran Mustafi, Laurent Koscielny and Nacho Monreal, this is a back five of experience, leadership, and an injection of youth with each players understanding one of another quite exceptional whilst also remaining consistent each game.
Arsenal, have for some reason always been one, two, or three players short of having the perfect starting XI. This summer, although they didn’t get the world class centre forward Arsenal fans were craving for, managed to sign an absolute gem in Granit Xhaka, the midfield hard man will shore up the myth of Arsenal being too soft in the middle of the park and will look to emulate the days where Emanuel Petite was leading Arsenal to glory, the Switzerland international had his best game in his first ever North London Derby as an introduction of the type of player he is, whilst finding his feet in recent superlative displays. Xhaka will now look to kick on his Arsenal career whilst highlighting exquisite performances as of late as he looks to become Arsenal’s dictator with Santi Cazorla being ruled out for up to three months. “Per Mertesacker is a turtle, he is too slow for the Premier League” well, Arsene Wenger certainly rectified this position and went and signed German World Cup winner Mustafi to toughen up his defense, with the former Valencia man certainly doing so, remaining unbeaten since his summer arrival.
The way Arsenal are set up is the main reason I feel we can finally put the long-awaited years for a league title behind us. For many years we have played with a static front-man in Olivier Giroud, we have lacked the final touch or lack of movement in the final third but this has changed significantly this season. Firstly, we have deployed Alexis Sanchez, who was a Left Winger last season in our centre forward role, he is leading the team at number 9 and doing so in style, his electric movement, speed, skill, and ability to roam has been too much for defence’s to handle this season, Arsene deserves credit for trusting his Chilean upfront who is in hot form, as when the experience didn’t pay off at first he persisted with it, and now the team is reaping its awards.
Arsene Wenger has been said to be outdated in his approach to the game, sticking with the same ol’ 4-2-3-1 consistently throughout the season when it still hasn’t brought the team much success. But, Arsenal are closely changing formations throughout a game, starting off with the approach of a 4-2-3-1 you’ll often see them change to a 4-3-3 or a 4-4-2 within the game, this is because Mesut Ozil is playing incredibly high and making runs way beyond the defence’s using his football intelligence to maximum capacity and this is something the Gunners are certainly benefiting from.
You must give credit to Granit Xhaka / Santi Cazorla who plays the deep laying controlling role to allow Ozil stay so high, passing through the lines, and having the ability to pick out their teammates with incredible passes, short or long range, factors which are all calculating to the German having a prolific season in front of goal thus far.
One last thing on how Arsenal have changed, they’re pressing in packs, recent seasons have seen the likes of Sanchez hunt his prey down alone, mainly because the type of player he is, with him being compared to a Duracell battery. But, now they press in packs, whether it be Ozil – Iwobi – Sanchez on the left-hand side or vice versa with Walcott, the once known defensive midfielder Francis Coquelin is now applying pressure from the front and playing a box to box role allowing our back four to play a high line. You may read this and think why is this helping Arsenal’s cause in winning the league, well, they’re tactics that have worked, the pressure they are applying high up the pitch is allowing our most efficient, skillful players work their magic in a more goal scoring natural position.
The pressing game we have adapted is brilliant, it will often pressure players into errors with the intensity we have been able to put them under. A real change in style of the Arsenal team this year has looked promising, and the pressing in packs is certainly something I’m happy we have adopted. Arsenal hasn’t become an expert in the pressing game, though. Liverpool is currently probably best at it currently under Jurgen Klopp, they are a joy to watch this season and the pressing is simply incredible.
Youth players and fringe players are finally making an impact. Hector Bellerin and Alex Iwobi who have been superlative in recent seasons have nailed themselves a place in the starting XI and making an incredible impact for the club, maturing and becoming vital players in the boss’s system. Speaking of Bellerin, he has recently signed a new six-year contract with the club despite Barcelona and Manchester City’s interest just to show how far Arsenal have come in recent years, with Iwobi showing glimpses of his uncle Jay-Jay Okocha, creating chances at will for Arsenal, highlighting majestic skill and helping Arsenal out immensely offensively. Whilst having world-class players in the squad making the difference consistently for Arsenal, we also have fringe players on the bench ready to make an impact. For example, we have the likes of Olivier Giroud, Alex Oxlade – Chamberlain and Lucas Perez sitting on the sidelines who all come on and can make a massive impact on the game, whether that be sending on the beautiful Frenchman to hold up play and see out the game or throw on Perez and the Ox in bid to break down the defence, the 18-man squad has gone from strength to strength each year and has now got to the point where we will be leaving very, very good players out of the match-day squad.
Something Arsenal has relished from is the way our full backs have been offensively this season, with both Hector Bellerin and Nacho Monreal helping the attack massively as well as remaining solid defensively. The Spanish whiz kid Bellerin especially has been effective going forward whilst becoming one of the most dangerous full-backs in European football.
As you can see in the picture below, Bellerin starts off from a defensive position before becoming an important outlet for the midfield to feed on, eventually getting into a dangerous position to put the ball into the 18-yard-box.
Bellerin saw the opportunity to attack the line, using his impeccable speed to keep Arsenal on the front foot and having an opportunity to deliver the box into an oncoming of three Arsenal players.
Earlier this season, especially in the game against Chelsea, Arsenal fans saw the true meaning of quick transition which they have adapted too. There was a time of the match where Arsenal was under the cosh, before Mesut Ozil broke from the Arsenal 18-yard-box to past the half way line within seconds, all from one pass and turn.
Ozil single-handedly turned the Chelsea attack into a counter attack with receiving the ball on the turn and breezing past a static N’golo Kante. Sanchez, who has learned the 9-role immensely ran Cahill and Luiz away from the danger zone to let Ozil pick his pass with hawk eye vision, before making space for himself in the box to score past the helpless Thibaut Courtois.
These are just two examples of many things helping Arsenal in game-play situations, whether that be quick transitions, clever runs, attacking full back’s or pressing high up the pitch. The football Arsene created his philosophy on in North London is back, the game Wenger made Arsenal adapt too, the beautiful passing, 1 two’s and triangles are back. We are playing with flair and aggressiveness, we look a completely different animal to recent seasons and have displayed this against the likes of Chelsea this season, where we made them look like boys in a park, they could not handle us, they were prey to us whilst we were hungry animals ready to kill, and after a 3-0 demolition, we certainly did that. Yes, we have had a blip in recent weeks, but prior to a sticky patch we have looked far more supreme than in previous years, and remain unbeaten in the league since the opening day.
You may read and agree with this, you may think I am deluded to think we can finally end this title drought, but one thing for sure is we are on the up and are back to playing some beautiful meaningful football, we were on an unbeaten run of 19 games prior to the Southampton horror show, and sit just three points off the top of the table and are in immense shape, twelve long years I have seen my club go without the title, but that twelve-year wait could be on the verge of ending. Up the Arsenal