Arsene Wenger’s team, Arsenal, has shown the rest of the Premier League that they are for real this season. Well, at least, so far they have.
Compiling an undefeated home record and only dropping points against both sides from Manchester and dropping points at West Ham this season, the Gunners find themselves in third position, five points behind leaders, Chelsea.
The question about Arsenal, however, is can they win ugly?
On the road, in tough conditions, Arsenal's opponent’s are intent on shutting down the attack, giving no space to influential players Cesc Fabregas and Andrey Arshavin, and making it difficult for leading scorer Robin Van Persie to get in on the act.
We saw a lot of this over the course of last season, where Arsenal would get ‘bullied’ by other teams, but is seems that Arsene Wenger and his troops have found a way to counter the physical approach that many Premier League opponents will opt for when they come up against the Gunners.
The addition of Thomas Vermaelen in the centre of the defence and the presence of Alex Song and Abou Diaby in the midfield make Arsenal a much more physical team than in previous years.
Theo Walcott stated before the season that Arsenal must find a way to win ugly. They must emulate the performances of championship contenders and rivals Manchester United and (especially) Chelsea in tough games, and be able to grind out a result even when things aren’t going smoothly.
Arsenal have had good stability in their defence over the last decade, with the brilliant back four that helped Wenger’s men go to a League Title, undefeated, six years ago in the 2003-'04 season—conceding only 26 goals throughout that entire campaign. That defence consisted of Sol Campbell, Ashley Cole, Kolo Toure and Lauren.
Will we be remembering this version of the Arsenal defence any time soon? For good reasons or for bad?
The most important thing, however, for the Gunners to maintain their title bid and form, will be the ability of the defence to keep clean sheets. So far, the Gunners defence has rarely been able to shut out opponents. This will prove to be crucial later on in the season when they have a one goal lead against an opponent.
Whether it be in the Premier League or Champions League, Arsenals frailties in defence are still prominent.
There is no doubt that this is a fairly young group of players in Sagna (26), Vermaelen (23), Clichy (24), Gibbs (20), and Song (22). Veteran William Gallas at 32 years of age is the eldest player on the team.
However, this defence definitely has talent and speed that kills, but the question is, can they win those 1-0 and 2-1 games when they are unable to blow out their opponents by an average to three goals as they have so far this season?
Gallas pointed out the teams inability to recover from setbacks last season. They will have to deal with a few this season, that is for sure.
Their ability to play tough, recover from these setbacks, and win ugly is what makes champions—just ask Sir Alex Ferguson.
Although the loss of Gael Clichy to a back injury is not a major setback for the Gunners, a loss in the centre of defence will be a devastating blow to an already rocky back line. As the old quote goes, “Defence wins Championships.” This Arsenal back line will go a long way in deciding that.