Maturity and stability the key as Arsenal go from strength to strength

Mike Arteta opens the scoring before proving pivotal to securing all 3 points.










From the 7 pensioners battling away inside Mecca Bingo’s raucously illuminated arcade, to the baron, moated wasteland posing for an adequate stadium setting, Saturday’s excursion to Wigan coughed up one stereotype after another. The hurtling rain, the northern territory and the struggling opposition also contributed to a fixture once typically considered a nemesis of Wenger’s teams. Thankfully, the one aspect of Saturday’s rain-soaked encounter free from stereotype was the result.

As well as a lack of trophies, a breachable and soft underbelly has been characteristic of the post-invincible baron years for Wenger and his consistently young charges. That which has regularly been exposed in the country’s northern quarters, when the weather often plays pathetic fallacy to Arsenal’s ailments, is though to stem from a lack of leadership, grit, determination and experience. Often euphemized by a lack of Britishness, a familiar vulnerability has at times proved mightily frustrating. Successive squandering of two goal leads in this fixture alone merely added to a succession of dropped points to many other relatively inferior opposition- the latter of these two catastrophes proving doubly frustrating coming just days after beating Chelsea. An almost entirely changed XI took to the field this Saturday however, with those players thought to be letting down the squad either moved on in the summer, or phased out. Similarly the introduction of an experienced and weather-beaten quartet of new signings has helped to instill a steadiness and confidence in the side, attributes which have remedied another of Arsenal’s habitual deficiencies of allowing goal advantages to be eradicated. Where Denilson, Squilacci and Chamakh featured in the corresponding fixture last December, Arteta, Mertersacker and Van Persie began the match on Saturday to instill an air of assured responsibility, alongside proven quality.

Alongside a new sense of leadership and savoir-faire, sprightly youth and a new-found directness has been regularly incorporated. Theo Walcott continues to impress, whilst Aaron Ramsey and Wojciech Szczesny complete a dominant trio of youth only set to be added to with the return of Wilshere towards the end of January. Gervinho’s arrival alongside the unpredictability of Andre Santos, albeit sometimes more worrying than inspiring, have helped speed up attacking moves whilst delegate creative responsibilities once resting entirely on Fabregas and Nasri. All held in place by the growing stability and maturity of Alex Song, Arsenal were able to comfortably stroll to a resounding 4-0 win without being particularly resounding in their play.

A quiet start insighted more disenchanted choruses of ‘come on Arsenal’ from the away support than vociferous support, though that soon came once Szczesny had repelled a Jordi Gomez chance and Arsenal decided to up the tempo. As of yet, little joy was being found on the wings with both Walcott and Gervinho affored little space. Thus it fell upon the central players to invigorate the rest and following on from Vermaelen striding into the opposition half, the benefeactor of this proved to Mikel Arteta who strode into his own space and unleashed past Ali Al-Habsi. Whilst the Wigan goalkeeper should have done better, this breakthrough allowed for Arsenal to press with less inhibitions and they gained a corner almost immediately from the restart. Vermaelen, still finding consistency from months out of action, leapt highest to head inside Al-Habsi’s near post.

Most impressively, Arsenal didn’t allow a purposeful Wigan re-start to dent their lead following the half-time break. The ability to understand when, and when not, to take risks when a goal or two up has often resulted in disastrous consequences in recent years. Similarly, a lack of maturity and understanding of the machinations of how to see out a win have consistently underpinned error-strewn seasons. Arguably the ability to do all these things correctly has been the most pleasing development of all since the arrival of a number of experienced heads. Indeed Arteta’s new found role as tempo-keeper has helped tremendously with holding onto 3 points when in commanding positions such as these. Whilst building up his pass-tally for the season, currently 3rd in the Premier League at 961, Arteta helped maintain a tempo that played into Arsenal’s hands, and eventually the Gunners were able to pick off a Wigan side lacking confidence. First Gervinho slotted in a rebound from Robin Van Persie’s right-footed curler, a goal that exemplified the more measured side to this team as it culminated a 33-pass move. Theo Walcott then helped to secure all three points by laying on yet another assist for Van Persie. With goals seemingly available whenever they are needed, defensive stability is key to the consistency Wenger insists will be key to the fates of the Premier League’s top clubs. Maturity and stability proved vital this weekend, as the stereotypes of Arsenal’s penetrable core were rubbished once again, and such features will need to be consistently honed in order to make up the deficit.


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