Arsene Wenger’s newly-found pragmatism has got the ultimate pragmatist, Jose Mourinho, panicking. There has been a notable change in Arsenal’s style over the last two years.
The defence is more willing to be robust and clear its lines, the midfield is willing to give up possession in certain matches and play on the counter – and Arsenal now defend as a team with Francis Coquelin playing a holding role. Some of the old stereotypes are changing too – Arsenal now score from set-pieces and shoot from distance. This team deserves to be viewed differently.
Belief and momentum are powerful forces and, at the moment, Arsenal have it. The performance against Villa in the FA Cup Final summed up where Wenger’s side are at – and beating Chelsea in the Community Shield only emphasised the fact.
Alexis Sanchez has every chance of vying for the Golden Boot with Sergio Aguero, but Arsenal have goals from a variety of angles, using the pace of Walcott, the energy of Welbeck and Ramsey and the aerial ability of Giroud.
Providing he stays fit, Oxlade-Chamberlain could become one of the season’s key performers, while Wenger has demanded more goals from Ozil and Wilshere. Arsenal scored only 71 times last year in the Premier League. Wenger believes 10 more this year could be enough to win the title.
There is a real feeling at Arsenal the team is growing and maturing; most of the players have played together for several years; they know the system, and know how it feels to win and lose together.
At City there is also a nucleus that has been together a long time but the group is older and surrounded by newcomers. At Liverpool nobody really knows anymore what the style is going to be – and at United, it’s a case of throwing new players together and waiting to see if they gel.
Only Chelsea can match Arsenal for togetherness. But will that survive when John Terry eventually steps down?
Signing the Chelsea goalkeeper was a masterstroke from Wenger and one that has made Jose Mourinho decidedly uncomfortable. Adding experience and a winning mentality in such a crucial spot is already transforming belief in the Arsenal back four. If he saves Arsenal 10 points in a season – as Chelsea players have predicted – it could be enough to finish top of the pile.
Last season Arsenal conceded only 13 goals in the last 19 games and Laurent Koscielny emerged as the best defender in the Premier League. One-nil to the Arsenal could be on its way back.