Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has told the Daily Telegraph that he believes last season’s New Year’s Day 2-0 loss to Southampton was a turning point in the team’s fortunes, taking them from a team that somehow always managed to finish in the top four, to true title contenders this season.
During that fateful day at the start of the year, the Saints punished Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny for his errors – the Polish international later fined £20,000 for smoking in the showers (via the Daily Mail). Szczesny never played another League match for Arsenal, and is now on loan with Serie A side Roma until the end of the season.
Following the loss, Arsenal returned home to North London 16 points behind league leaders Chelsea with not too much hope of catching the eventual champions.
When speaking about that bleak day, Wenger said: “I will never forget that game in Southampton.
“There was a lot around the game after that. It was a turning point of our season. I think what changed is we are more stable defensively. If you look at our record we are more consistent with our results and I looked yesterday and someone made the table in 2015 and we are quite ahead of everyone else in 2015. The consistency has been quite good.”
And while the Gunners turnaround – which included 13 wins from the remaining 18 matches (via the Telegraph) – was not enough to catch the Blues, it did set them up well for this season.
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While everyone waits for current league leaders Leicester City to implode, Wenger knows that his team could in fact go top today should Arsenal win at Southampton and the Foxes lose at Liverpool, with the Gunners’ traditional rivals all struggling at the moment.
Liverpool and Chelsea have both sacked their managers following poor results, while Louis van Gaal’s side show over at Old Trafford has our full attention, as we wait to see if the Dutchman can remain in charge until the end of the year.
Add to this the fact The Guardian is claiming Manuel Pellegrini is going to be replaced by Pep Guardiola at Manchester City next summer, you wonder if the Chilean is really concerned about whether or not City can win the Premier League.
Wenger was asked whether the turmoil at the other clubs was allowing Arsenal to assert control, and gave his usual non-committal answer.
“I don’t know. You have to go inside the clubs to know,” he said (via The Telegraph).
“But it’s more difficult because people are better informed today. They know more straight away. When a team loses a game, everybody has an opinion and the environment is more destabilising than it was ever before.
“So maybe inside the clubs this kind of cohesion becomes more important, and resistance to that destabilising factor becomes more important.”
Meanwhile, when asked if he thought he could have made other signings during the summer other than goalkeeper Petr Cech, Wenger stressed that it was cohesion that mattered and not necessarily new faces.
“The society today always wants something new,” he said (via The Telegraph).
“We have news every half an hour, or every minute. But let’s not forget that football is as well about cohesion, about stability. I still think success is linked with the talent and cohesion.”
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We’re certainly seeing a team that looks more united and close-knit than ever before, and you have to believe the cohesion is a large part of the success we’ve been enjoying this season. Hopefully the January signings that we are all expecting don’t unsettle the squad too much.
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