Recently the word permeating throughout the north London club has been ‘consistency.’ As Arsenal notched four past Wolverhampton Wanderers in Saturday’s late kick off – leapfrogging Manchester United into second place in the table – they displayed a ruthless streak that will surely stand them in good stead for the campaign.
Seemingly gone are the days when Arsenal looked precariously positioned at 1-0 up, as they continued to press Wolves’ midfield and increased their lead to secure the three points. In recent seasons Arsenal have looked vulnerable to physical approaches and set-piece plays, whereas now they have all but eradicated this from their game and are turning in consistently strong performances, both home and away. The weekend result took their recent league tally to 18 goals in five games, conceding six. Whilst this run has seen them earn only one clean sheet, it appears to be reflective of the high scoring Premier League this season, rather than any defensive frailties from the men in red.
In the wake of two 4-1 victories in the space of a week, Arsene Wenger has been talking up Arsenal’s prospects in both the Premier League and Champions League. Not taking recent success for granted, Wenger has called upon his side to maintain their consistent performances if they are to deliver on all fronts: “I said before the season that I believe in them but it is down to us to go and be consistent. Then we see how far we can go in this competition.” Cesc Fabregas has also kept a level head: “There will be a time when we cannot score goals and everyone will say there is a crisis…We will have to be patient and it is in that moment where we have to be strong.” Growing media hype is surrounding Arsenal once more, but the Gunners appear focused on the task in hand rather than taking plaudits as the most attractive team to watch.
Wenger cites consistency in terms of continuity as the reason for their recent good form: “I believe something that is very important is that we have built the team together for a few years…I feel we have learned a lot…Many of the players who played two years ago are in the squad today.” Wenger’s squad are strong and full of confidence despite the manager’s castigated lack of transfer activity in the summer. The shrewd purchase of Thomas Vermaelen coupled with emerging talents such as Alexandre Song give credence to the the banner regularly unfurled at the Emirates that reads ‘Arsene knows.’ This continuity means that the bulk of the squad have been at this stage before and whereas in the past it has all fallen apart, this time around their collective heartache from recent years may prove to be the catalyst for greater success. They are better equipped than ever – both in terms of ability and mentality – to launch a title tilt.
It is not only the manager seeking consistency and continuity, as the Arsenal board attempt to stave off interest from Alisher Usmanov. Stan Kroenke again increased his Arsenal shareholding on Thursday – this time purchasing 100 shares from Peter Hill-Wood the Arsenal Chairman – reaching 29.9%. This sale is symptomatic of the Arsenal board’s backing for the American, as they see him as the closest fit to the club ethos that has been so painstakingly built up. It is unlikely that ‘Silent Stan’ will make any further movement in this respect for a while now, as the next step is a rather significant one. In the meantime, the perceived consistency that Kroenke would bring to proceedings appears to be winning out in his battle against Red & White Holdings for control of the club.
Consistency at centre-half has propelled Arsenal forward so far this season. Vermaelen has gelled well with William Gallas, rejuvenating the latter after a rocky period for the Frenchman. As well as bringing some much-needed defensive steel, the pair have been prolific at the other end of the field, bringing nine goals between them in 16 appearances in all competitions. With such an apparent understanding, the manager is loath to break up the partnership and so will resist the temptation to spread his plans for November rotation to the defensive ranks.
Of course this is injury dependant and le Professeur will hope that the pair, along with the rest of his squad, return from international duty unscathed to resume Arsenal’s title challenge.