The Reddish side of North London is basking in the joy of Arsenal’s 19-game unbeaten run, which has more or less been a fine melange of blagged victories, snaffled draws and a number of wallopings, the best of the lot being Arsenal’s 3-0 humbling of current league leaders Chelsea at The Emirates Stadium.
As a matter of fact, the very overwhelming turned the Gunners’ season around – just as it has Chelsea’s – and has since been looked up to as the kind of performance to be emulated, not just in terms of the result but the tactics that led to it as well.
Arsenal have, for the past few years, relied upon their heavily criticised “keep the ball, pass the ball” approach, which, though it has worked on most of the occasions has failed to be of any worth against bigger and better sides. They have been guilty of being flaccid in possession and throwing the ball away when it matters the most, only to be caught on the break – something that Arsenal used to do to others In the Thierry Henry era.
Now it seems they have switched back to a similar approach having seen its success against the Blues – no wonder they are hard to beat these days.
Although Arsene Wenger has only made a very simple tactical change to the way his team plays, the effect it has had on Arsenal has been ginormic. They have transformed into a counter-attacking outfit with a solid foundation at the back and in the middle with probably the best number 10 in the world dictating the terms and a lightning quick front three; that is exactly what Wenger built his title-winning sides upon in 1997/98, 2001/02 and 2003/04.
A lot of the Arsenal faithful are still wondering as to why he didn’t try and build his previous teams around the same tactics but that was never possible with their defensive vulnerabilities and a lack of pace up-front with Olivier Giroud being the focal point of the attack most of the times. Now that Wenger’s own opinion has changed about Giroud (and his role) having seen Alexis Sanchez revel in a striker’s role, he has been able to construct a team that excels at doing what made the Frenchman so successful in his early years.
Even Olivier Giroud won’t mind such a vicissitude of fortunes as long as it keeps benefitting the Gunners in their pursuit of the Premier League title.
Call it an early prediction, but Arsenal look more than prepared to lift the Premiership following their transition from being a side that’s hurt on the counter-attack to a side that can finish the opponent on it, as they have been doing all season.