From the disaster at Saint Mary’s at the start of the year, to finishing January as the League’s most entertaining team, there is a new found buzz in and around the Emirates that has been too infectious to overlook.
This Arsenal team seems to have been touched by an Angel’s wand over the past month, with performances which have taken most quite by some surprise, bringing some curious enquiry into its possible origin.
After ending 2014 on a sequence of good results, the New Year got off to a worst possible start at Southampton, evoking the old memories of the frail Arsenal we have come to be familiar with. However, the Gunners have not looked back since that defeat and have now won five games on the bounce, including a solid win at the Etihad, scoring 10 and conceding just 2 in all competitions.
This has not just come out of the blue, it appears, as defensive leader Per Mertesacker reveals that a buckle-down series of team talks after the New Year disappointment has propelled the team to her new found heights.
“At Southampton, that was a major setback,” he said as revealed according to Express.
“It was a bad start of the year. Maybe sometimes you need a wake-up call in certain times to realize what was really important. We had lots of meetings, especially on what we needed to focus on, and what was really the important things.”
“Sometimes you can discuss a lot and you do not find any solutions, you have to find them on the pitch. You can talk so long, but you won’t get the benefit. We had talked constantly about how to find our best way. But you have to show it on the pitch, otherwise everybody will doubt you if they cannot see any benefit.”
Show it on the pitch is exactly what the BFG and his mates have done so far, as the team looks a better unit both defensively and in attack. This might have been helped by some change of personnel, notably in goal where Szczesny – the main villain at St Mary’s – has been dropped to the bench in favour of David Ospina. The Colombian is the only goalkeeper in England not to have conceded a goal in 2015 and while the argument may be that he has rarely been tested, there must some added edge of confidence in defenders when they know the man behind them can be trusted.
Mertesacker himself has put in some wonderful shift in the month, too, the Saint’s game being the only one in which he played with the team conceded. His absence in the FA Cup game at Brighton saw a less than favourable partnership between his usual partner Koscielny and left-back Nacho Monreal.
But overall, it is the whole team, and not just the defenders, who deserve credit for the turnaround.
“We worked a lot on our defensive shape, not just the back four, to avoid those dangerous free balls against us. We looked much better and the best game defensively was against Manchester City – that was a bit of a change. “After that 2-0 win at the Etihad, we promised ourselves to come out of that comfort zone and be a bit more focused.”
With a near perfect January done with and a new month already off to a flyer against Villa, gooners will want to see this team maintain the intensity established. It is clear enough there will almost never be a problem scoring goals, putting the graft to keep the rear secure is where more perfection will be sought.
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