Arsenal defender Per Mertesacker has credited the manager for Arsenal’s run of success this season, revealing that the adaptability of the side has helped them prepare accordingly for every major opponent (via Arsenal.com). In the past, manager Arsene Wenger has often been accused of being rigid with tactics, resulting in the massive defeats that we suffered towards the end of the 2013 season. Since last season however, Wenger seems to have become much more situational, and the purchase of Alexis Sanchez coupled with the rise of Theo Walcott as a centre forward has given him ample options to work with.
As a result, the current Arsenal side are a much more efficient and lethal outfit that rely on passing play but also have the potential to become much more direct or play on the counter as necessary. This has resulted in a very noticeable improvement against the big clubs, as evidenced by our results against both Manchester sides last season, as well as victories over Bayern Munich, Manchester United, Chelsea (in the Community Shield), and now Manchester City this season.
The recent win against City is further proof that the new system is working well and bringing the best out of players like Olivier Giroud and Mesut Ozil, who have not quite been at their best in previous seasons. Mertesacker certainly believes so, and discussed it with Arsenal Player, saying, “We are capable of doing different things sometimes and that is what makes it harder for the opponent. That is why we implement it in games sometimes but we are still dangerous on the counter-attack and that makes us a real threat.
“Last season we played at Manchester City and showed a different kind of gameplan. That is what we had in the locker already but this year we are more consistent and it makes us a bit better as a unit.
“Sometimes we need to adjust, we don’t have all the players available at the minute so we [thought] that was the best way to win against City. We need to trust that way as well – it is not only thinking about it, it is also about putting it into practice.
“That is what we are doing really well at the minute but that means a lot of concentration and work in training, and everyone is up for the challenge.
“When I see our players up front working as hard as they did [against City] that makes a difference for us defenders – it makes it much easier to defend our goal.
“We go game by game and concentrate on having a gameplan and trying to implement it. That has been our strength so far against the big teams and it makes us stronger as a unit.”
Arsene Wenger is still highly partial to the fluid passing style of play that he pioneered in the Premier League, and it certainly yields dividends against smaller opposition where the individual abilities of our players can create enough decisive opportunities. Against the bigger teams however, where we are much more evenly matched – or even outmatched – the ability to switch our tactics around can tilt a close game in our favour.
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With the recent pairing of both Giroud and Walcott in the starting lineup, we have become even more flexible, as we have both the pace of Theo and the aerial abilities of Giroud to rely upon. When Sanchez returns to reclaim his spot, Arsenal will truly have a top-quality forward line in those three, and while we may not be the best in Europe, we can certainly give them a run for their money.
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