About a month ago I wrote an article about how Arsenal should just suck it up and play a little dirty in order to grind out a result.
Last Saturday against Fulham they did it. It was if it was Manchester United playing, but without cheating (just kidding, Man U. fans). Arsenal did almost exactly what they did against Standard Liege but without the early mistakes.
Last year we failed to get maximum points from lowly teams like Stoke and Hull City. Not to say those teams can't eventually snatch a few wins (ask Chelsea).
We had a decent record against top teams but it was the lower class that we were really inconsistent against. It proves that the Premier League is won by collecting points, not who played the hardest.
As a team constantly in the top four, Arsenal plays a majority of games against teams of lesser talent, and it takes consistency and durability to win as many games as possible.
Arsenal is going to have to maintain the spirit of playing a bit rougher in order to win. That doesn't mean collecting red cards and spitting on fans. Playing rougher is all about being mentally strong.
There was a reason the Gunners came back against Standard Liege, they were mentally strong enough to snatch the win away. Simply said, if they fail to do this now, some important players will lose faith and leave.
It seems obvious that Arsenal is avoiding some of the mistakes of last year but with two losses already, they can't make many more.
As for the Fulham game, it was hard to look away from young keeper Vito Mannone. If he performs like that more often the fans will eventually call him "Don Vito." But, he did make one odd mistake.
In the first half, he collided with defender William Gallas. As the goalkeeper it is vital to communicate with defenders, something even Almunia hasn't quite mastered. So before Wenger hails him as the second coming, he should learn that.
Except for Robin Van Persie and Cesc Fabregas in the second half, the rest of the team could have played better, but thats besides the point.
The point is that Arsenal didn't have to play at their best, they needed to play good enough to get the three points. To keep Fulham at bay instead of overwhelm them with free-flowing football is a nice change of pace.
And that was exactly what I have been asking for. We don't need to eliminate slick passing because it has its benefits, but when that doesn't work be ready to play a bit tougher.
Hopefully by May it could make all the difference.
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