It is not an attribute that is commonly associated with this breed of Arsenal footballers, but it has become evident through the departures of several key squad members that the gunners have found a new mantra.
Known for their free flowing, beautiful football, Arsenal have somewhat ditched that approach this year, opting for a much more blue collar style.
Whilst they still experience tremendous periods of possession, swift attacks and incredible feats of skill, a backbone of strength seems to be forming underneath this seemingly fragile exterior and it has greatly aided the club ever since their horrific loss at Old Trafford.
Arsenal are undefeated in all competitions since their heartbreaking loss away to Tottenham, yet their wins have come in less characteristic styles. Several times the club has come from a goal behind, or equalising efforts to secure late wins, hard grinds and periods of severe defensive pressure.
Last season it was these games that eventually cost Arsenal a greater title threat, even with the greater talents of Cesc Fabregas and $amir Na$ri (couldn’t help myself). These players obviously pushed the team into greater presentations of footballing mastery, and perhaps the downgrade in class has assisted in the departure of this unequalled beauty in their style of play, but I think the effect of losing these two in particular has helped Arsenal to find a truer identity.
They have been so criticised through the past half decade for lacking will, lacking a foundation and lacking a spine. The team has been described as frail, mentally and physically weak and easily intimidated. Players like Na$ri and Fabregas hardly helped the argument for the North Londoners. However as they left, Arsenal brought in replacements that were clearly not as talented, but certainly had a lot more grit, a lot more will and a lot more of a spine. The players they brought in are respective captains, experienced leaders and players used to playing in a more competitive fashion, rather than the sometimes softness that Arsenal produce.
The most recent performances against Sunderland and Stoke City in the Premier League, and certainly Marseille in the Champions League have underlined to me that Arsenal have begun a journey down a new path. The team is no longer relying on it’s beautiful free flowing football to dominate every team they play and attempt to outscore their opponent rather than hold them scoreless, the focus now seems to tie the opposition down with their ever improving defense and play a more physical, direct approach when they are in possession.
The result is hardly as eye pleasing and certainly at times more frustrating, especially for the gooners who have such high expectations (and rightfully so), but in the end all that matters is winning and at the moment that is what Arsenal are doing.
Arsenal have quickly moved back up into 7th place in the Premier League, are in control of their Champions League group and are into the quarter finals of the Carling Cup.
That does not seem to be the club in crisis that everyone is making it out to be. The steadying influence of Arsene Wenger has again come out victorious and the greatness that is Arsenal FC will continue into the near and far future, despite what people might want to believe. With a few additions in January, the welcoming back of several key players and a commitment to consistency, there is no reason why Arsenal fans should expect anything less than a Top 4 finish, and if things go well they could still be in the hunt for a trophy.