Theo Walcott has recently said that Arsenal has to play dirty football. He wasn't advocating Arsenal players run out on the pitch and hit any opposing players, but I clearly understood what he was saying and absolutely agree.
During the club's unbeaten streak last season, there were a number of games—ones that should have been wins—in which the team failed to win or even score. A perfect example was the month of February, during which all three Premier League games were scoreless draws.
The one positive Arsenal can take out of that month was that it did not lose any of those games. However, that's not much of a victory because it did not win, either.
This is the root of Arsenal's troubles.
What Walcott was saying is that Arsenal doesn't play every game with a certain intensity, and I'm not really convinced that the club is mentally strong enough to "play dirty."
This team—one that has been written off and declared out of the fourth spot—has all it needs to contend. So what's stopping it? This is where things become complicated.
One of the most obvious problems is the defense, especially the center backs. We all know how inconsistent Arsenal was on defense last season, which made the team's back four almost laughable in games that it was expected to win.
For instance, the 4-4 draw against Tottenham in October is notable because Arsenal was leading, 4-2, and gave away two goals in the last two minutes.
If it weren't for an unlucky string of injuries, Arsenal would be in a better situation. But, some of the blame must go to lack of attitude on the pitch.
But that was last season.
This season Arsenal has Eduardo and Tomas Rosicky back from long-term injury and countless other players ready to step up from last season's disappointment.
But, more importantly, the team has Andrey Arshavin.
He helped revitalize Arsenal last season, and we have the privilege of seeing him play both halves of a season and for Europe. With Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger deciding whether to switch up the formation every once in a while, Arshavin will play a major part regardless.
But unfortunately, one man can not save the team on his own; it's a team sport and this brings me back to what Walcott said.
The team has to tough it out and succeed in this Man City attitude of overspending by playing strong football, which means some of the finesse has to go and Arsenal will have to toughen up.
Arsenal is not that intimidating (at least not to the appropriate level). Maybe it is to a team like Stoke City or Blackburn, but the idea is to intimidate the whole league.
Last year, the team had a decent record against the other top four teams but it had inexplicable losses and draws against the bottom half.
Instead of complaining about those misfortunes, th team has a new season on the horizon and has to manage a sort of dominance to win. I'm not referring to the Invincibles, but it takes a sort of grittiness to at least be consistent.
Man U—and to a certain extent, Liverpool—play football with a physical style as well as a more subtle, entertaining style. I'm pretty sure Wenger is finding a way to use this 4-3-3 experiment to play a bit more flexibly.
This team used to be known to shut out opposing teams with one of the most air-tight defenses in Britain, but currently I don't see enough of that. The partnership of William Gallas and Johan Djourou sounds interesting with defender Thomas Vermaelen thrown into the mix.
But I'm not particularly sold on them this season, and that is not a comforting thought at all. At least Arsenal will have players like Arshavin and Robin Van Persie, who will put the fear of yellow cards in the hearts of defenses everywhere.
In order to reach that, Wenger will need another defensive signing; hopefully, one that will dominate the pitch and balance the squad.
Wenger knows this, he's done it before, and it can happen again. Arsenal has very few excuses this time so if it don't buckle down now it may become a pushover.
All it can do now is hope Walcott can convince his teammates.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!