Arsenal have long been regarded as purveyors of fluent and creative football, but have also been criticised for having a soft centre and not being able to cope with physical sides like Sam Allardyce’s West Ham and more recently Tony Pulis’ Stoke City. The Gunners beat Stoke this weekend in a tough and hard fought game, and Arsene Wenger was as pleased with the way that his players competed, as he was with the result.
Wenger believes it was a game which showed how Arsenal are toughening up and maturing. His words also suggest that we will be seeing more of this in the future as he builds a team capable of competing for the Premier league title again. Arsenal need more resilience and battling qualities to add to the creative side, and the Frenchman can see it starting to work.
“In England you have to cope with all types of football without losing the quality you want to play and that is not always easy, because if you have 10 Cazorlas you would have a very good technical team, but against Stoke you would struggle.
“I think it is more mental preparation. You tell your central defenders you have to be ready and they are good on the second ball too, so your midfielders have to be good on the second ball, to fight for it and let you play your game.
“We played Diaby at home and away against Stoke because in front of the defence he can win some headers. We are a bit more mature now but we dealt with it well. In the past we were a bit younger as well, more inexperienced.
“But defensively, Bacary Sagna, Nacho Monreal, Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker have some experience, some stature, they are not small at the back.”
Wenger did not complain about Stoke’s tactics, even the two late incidents with Michael Owen and Ryan Shawcross, which is a great attitude for the team as well. In his first game, Monreal seemed to have asteadying influence on the Arsenal team defensively. It is too soon to judge, but the Spaniard could really help us to have a great end to the season.