Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has had an amazing week. The Gunners have won three matches over the course of seven days, accruing six points in the Premier League and also handing German champions Bayern Munich their first defeat of the season. This set of results was largely possible thanks to some outstanding team performances from the players, who have noticeably tightened up their defensive game. We scored seven goals in total over the three games, only conceding one, and were able to successfully employ counter-attacking tactics against one of the best teams in Europe.
Speaking to Arsenal Player after the Everton game, the veteran manager admitted that the performances were down to the self-belief of the players, and that the confidence that they have in each other is clearly visible on the pitch (via Arsenal.com). He said, “They are all on board and they have the belief. They all came off the pitch really tired.
“[Santi] Cazorla won many balls and blocked many tackles, even [Mesut] Özil. Once you have that in the team – and it is not easy to get it – it shows the belief is there and then you need enough humility to keep it in there.
“You need to convince the players that you have to work hard to win football games in the Premier League and that you need all 11 players to do that.”
This marked improvement is clearly noticeable, especially in the case of Özil. Previously, the Gunners had somewhat separated offensive and defensive units, who only contributed in their phase before switching off. The emergence of players like Hector Bellerin and Francis Coquelin seems to have changed the entire balance of the team and the players have become vastly more versatile. Take Özil for example; the German has long been accused of disappearing in the big games, but was a major force in the Bayern game, pressing the opposition whenever possible and putting in the hard miles. Even against Everton, he was the most active player on the pitch. This kind of change is very welcome and extremely satisfying to watch.
Wenger also took the time to speak about Brazilian defender Gabriel Paulista. The player was responsible for the deflection that led to Ross Barkley’s goal, but more than made up for it with a fiery second half performance -including a crucial sliding tackle on Romelu Lukaku in the dying minutes. The French manager had this to say, “He’s shown that he’s a fighter. At half-time he was so upset at the deflection but in the second half he came out again with the same spirit, a fantastic combative aspect. He’s not a talking leader, he’s a fighting leader, and he’s a typical centre back for the Premier League.”
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In Gabriel and Laurent Koscielny we seem to have found a strong Premier League pairing, capable of carrying us through the tricky games against mid-table opposition. With Petr Cech behind them, the Arsenal defence looks more solid than it has in years, and hopefully this will continue going forward.