Arsene Wenger believes the departure of former captain Robin van Persie in the summer has helped the Gunners become a more all round team, rather than a one-man-band.
The Dutchman was in emphatic form last season prior to his departure to newly crowned Champions Manchester United, winning the golden boot, Player of the Year and scoring an impressive 37 goals in all competitions for the Gunners.
The striker has gone on to produce the goods for Sir Alex Ferguson’s side much to the displeasure of the Emirates faithful. The Arsenal boss believes his side have not dwelt on the past and have become stronger collectively as a result.
The Frenchman said:
What you want to focus on is that when the big players go, which has happened to us many times, you just want to get around it and try to find a new organisation that is efficient.
You always miss a big player. The only thing I can say [is] it took us a while to get around it but if you look at the number of goals we have scored, it’s similar to last season.
It took us a while to find a different way because the game went through him a lot. We had to find a new balance between defending and attacking but now we are stabilised.
[On having regrets over selling the Premier League top scorer] I don’t go into the game thinking that. In our job, you look forward. So many great players have left this club that you could be full of regrets.
When you make a decision, you know there are plusses and minuses. What is only important now is the future of the Club and the team. That’s how you look at it.
It’s always difficult to lose big players. Let’s be realistic – it’s more difficult when they are 24 than when they are 29 and they have given a few years to the Club. That’s part of the modern life of a modern footballer as well.
We are in a job where you want to do two things: do you best you can for your club and influence in a positive way the life of people. On that side, I think that Arsenal had a positive impact on the life and career of Robin van Persie so we have done our job in a positive way.
One of the summer recruits Olivier Giroud has gone some way of replacing the goals alongside Lukas Podolski, collectively the new attacking duo have scored 20 goals in the League, but it is the contribution to the team dynamic that is most interesting about Giroud’s arrival.
His aerial prowess helps the Gunners offensively as well as defensively, while his hold up play has allowed the likes of Cazorla to flourish. But the Frenchman will be missing for the next three matches after his straight red dismissal against Fulham last weekend. His suspension has led to some suggestions that a change of formation could be in order – though the Arsenal boss has squashed any such rumours.
While Wenger has options in the likes of Theo Walcott, Lukas Podolski and Gervinho to play as a centre foward, the manager has lamented the loss of his compatriot who adds a different dimension to the Gunners game.
We’ll be less strong in the air but we’ll try to play with the characteristics and the personality of the player who will replace him.
It’s something I have to weigh up, who will play through the middle. It’s not decided yet but in the next 48 hours it will be decided.
We’ll keep exactly the same structure in our team and the same football. The personnel will be a bit different.
This Sunday brings with it one of Arsenal’s most difficult tests – a match against Van Persie’s Manchester United. The return tie ended in a 2-1 win for the home side, after the former Gunners talisman netted the opener, and Wenger is looking for a change of attitude for his side that have struggled to overcome the top teams this season.
For the past few years Arsenal’s weakness seemed to be failing to finish off lower table opposition despite overcoming the likes of Chelsea, City and Spurs on regular occasions. This season they have struggled against the Premier League elite but Wenger is adamant they can prove their developed maturity and confidence as a team against the Champions.
I personally believe we have been remarkably consistent against the teams who do not fight for the championship. Last year we did well against top teams, but this year we have not.
I felt it was a lot down to the fact we renewed the team and had a big lack of confidence for a while in the season. Now we have a good opportunity on Sunday to show that we have made that step so let’s take it.
Fellow top four rivals Spurs and Chelsea will play prior to Arsenal’s clash with United, however the duo have a game in hand regardless of their results. The Gunners must gain three points against the Champions to keep the pressure on the others, and winning every game from here on out is a real possibility.
Personally I’d like to see Podolski up top against a strong United defence. Walcott has been too inconsistent recently to really warrant a spot as a centre forward, however his pace will be an asset against Evra. We will need plenty of inspiration from Cazorla and Wilshere, as there is every chance Arsenal can come away with maximum points.
Common you Gunners!!
All quotes are from Arsenal’s official website.