Ar­se­nal re­vival

> Gun­ners now driven by grit as well as guile led by Wal­cott

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SPORTS -

AF­TER crum­bling at the first sign of pres­sure far too of­ten in re­cent years, Ar­se­nal are fi­nally show­ing signs of de­vel­op­ing a steely spine and Theo Wal­cott is the un­likely stan­dard bearer.

Arsene Wenger’s side have been guilty of squan­der­ing numer­ous chances to mount Pre­mier League ti­tle chal­lenges and go deep into the Cham­pi­ons League due in a large part to a woe­ful lack of back­bone.

Yet Satur­day’s 3-2 win over Swansea at the Emi­rates Sta­dium was the lat­est sign of a more res­o­lute na­ture tak­ing hold among Wenger’s squad.

With Bul­gar­ian min­nows Lu­do­gorets vis­it­ing north Lon­don to­day, Ar­se­nal have an op­por­tu­nity to show their at­tack­ing tal­ents, but it was the way they dug deep to see off Swansea that was more en­cour­ag­ing for Gun­ners winger Wal­cott (car­i­ca­ture).

Wal­cott scored twice in the first half against Swansea be­fore Me­sut Ozil’s goal put them 3-1 ahead in the 57th minute.

How­ever, Swansea re­duced the deficit and Ar­se­nal mid­fielder Granit Xhaka was sent off mo­ments later to leave the hosts forced to play the last 20 min­utes with 10 men.

It was the kind of per­ilous sit­u­a­tion that may well have in­duced a fa­tal wob­ble from Ar­se­nal in the past, but Wenger’s men bat­tened down the hatches and, with Wal­cott work­ing tire­less along across the for­ward line, they man­aged to hold on for a vic­tory that moved them level on points with lead­ers Manch­ester City.

Since the glory days of Wenger’s 2003-04 ‘In­vin­ci­bles’, who won the Pre­mier League with­out los­ing a sin­gle match, the abil­ity to pro­duce that kind of gritty per­for­mance has been miss­ing from Ar­se­nal’s men­tal make-up.

But Wal­cott, in the past a frag­ile un­der­achiever him­self, feels the Swansea re­sult and a late win at Burn­ley in their pre­vi­ous match, pro­vide proof the cur­rent group has ma­tured and is ready to chal­lenge for hon­ours.

Asked if Ar­se­nal now had a new men­tal­ity, Wal­cott said: “The Burn­ley game, they were very well or­gan­ised and we found it very dif­fi­cult. But we all stuck in, showed pa­tience and in time we got the win which was re­ally im­por­tant.

“Again against Swansea, we had to be dili­gent, be pa­tient at times... but we still got the win even if it would have been nice to take the ball home on a per­sonal note. But that’s not the case. “The Burn­ley match was a game where we had to grind it out. This game, when we went down to 10 men, we tend to lose, to be hon­est. There’s some things that are slowly get­ting bet­ter. “We’ve been in this sit­u­a­tion (top of the ta­ble) be­fore. We started off this sea­son be­fore than we have re­cently. There’s al­ways some sort of blip but hope­fully we’re not go­ing to have that this year. “With the squad we have, if we keep play­ers fit, with play­ers com­ing back, then who knows... You can’t re­ally call the Pre­mier League this year. It’s so un­pre­dictable.” Wal­cott is now just eight away from a cen­tury of goals for the Gun­ners, but he would gladly sac­ri­fice per­sonal glory for team suc­cess. “It would be nice to reach 100 goals, ob­vi­ously,” he said. “It’s a long sea­son ahead. I’d be very dis­ap­pointed if I don’t make that “But then again I’d rather the team per­forms and we win some­thing rather than a per­sonal goal.” – AFP

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malaysia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.