Arsenal: Why the Gunners' Good Form Is Coming at Right Time for Arsene Wenger
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The Champions League win over Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena on Wednesday might not have been enough to ensure qualification to the quarterfinals, but the manner in which was achieved deserves credit.
The Gunners followed that up with a fine 2-0 win at Swansea City in the Premier League on Saturday to maintain their hopes of a top-four finish in the Premier League this season.
Coupled with the home defeat of north London rivals Tottenham to Fulham on Sunday, the outlook is more optimistic for Wenger, who has endured the most turbulent season of his career with the club.
Domestic cup defeats to Bradford City and Blackburn Rovers saw hopes of a first trophy in eight years disappear as the Manchester clubs ran away with the Premier League title chase.
And any thoughts of emulating Chelsea in the Champions League were always going to pipe dreams rather than actualities.
But Wenger can be entitled to at least one weekend free of criticism as he attempts to guide his team into another Champions League campaign next season.
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Throw in the fact that the victories were achieved without injured midfielder Jack Wilshere, arguably the one shining light in a comparatively dismal season for Arsenal, and a good week becomes even better.
The only real downside for Wenger and his team was Chelsea's 2-0 win over West Ham, which lifted the Stamford Bridge club into third place, five points clear of Arsenal with Spurs four ahead of the Gunners.
In that light, the victory in South Wales becomes, arguably, more significant than the same scoreline in Bavaria.
Arsenal still have a toe-hold on the top four and a fixture list which offers further optimism than those of Chelsea and Tottenham.
But it was the resilience of the Arsenal team which should be most appreciated by Wenger and the supporters.
The writing had, apparently, been on the wall for Arsenal ahead of the second leg against Bayern, with the Daily Mail reporting a lack of matchwinners in the team.
Cue goals from Olivier Giroud and Laurent Koscielny and the Gunners had undermined that theory. Add the strikes, albeit a fortunate one from Nacho Monreal and an unlikely one by shot-shy forward Gervinho, at the Liberty Stadium and the season has a slightly different complexion.
But Arsenal appear to be hitting the right notes at the right time. Gareth Bale might have returned to the Spurs side for the visit of Fulham but even he could not prevent the White Hart Lane club slipping to defeat.
The fears among Tottenham fans will be a consecutive season of throwing away Champions League football unless Bale can move through the gears swiftly back to his previous form before suspension from the Europa League tie against Inter Milan.
Without the Wales international, Tottenham are accused of lacking a cutting edge and Bale alone cannot carry Tottenham in every match.
Chelsea remain a club without a rudder, but still possess the quality to scrape into the top four.
There has been a stubborn streak about Arsenal this week which has been noticeably absent throughout the season so far.
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Per Mertesacker and Koscielny looked composed against Bayern and refused to buckle, while Lukasz Fabianski finally appears to have given Szczesny the competition he so badly needed at the Emirates Stadium.
The Gunners will now embark on a two-week break from Premier League action due to the World Cup qualifiers but, on their return, they will be preparing for a home game with manager-less relegation candidates Reading.
Maintaining their focus and never-say-die spirit will be vital, but the biggest winner in the latter part of the current season could well prove to be Arsene Wenger.
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