Gritty, boring Arsenal? Gritty, boring Arsenal.
Mikel Arteta has Arsenal grinding in the right direction as they recorded their most important win of the season so far, securing a 2-0 victory at Champions League chasing Wolves.
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Arsenal kept a third-straight clean sheet as a third-straight win propelled them into the Champions League race in the Premier League. This run marks the first time since November 2017 they’ve won three-straight Premier League games without conceding a goal.
Speaking to reporters via Zoom from Molineux after the win — their first on the road against a team above them since September 2015 — ProSoccerTalk asked Arteta how important these improved defensive displays are to what he’s trying to achieve.
“You can see all of the teams that are in the title race and wins championships, the amount of clean sheets needed in order to do that,” Arteta said. “The more we improve here, the more solid we are, the more chances we have to win football games. It is simple. Obviously we have a lot of things to improve in our attacking patterns, the way we used the spaces, the overloads, but that we will come. But it comes down to 11 players defending the ball every time the ball is at the opponents feet.”
Arsenal have Leicester, Tottenham, Liverpool, Aston Villa and Watford left to play and the Gunners know they probably have to win four of those five to have any chance of sneaking into fifth place in the table and secure a possible Champions League berth.
With players returning from injury all the time, Arteta now has a host of options and has rotated players across just about every position. It is clear that under Arteta, any Arsenal player not willing to put in a shift and do the defensive work first will not be in his team.
That should keep this Arsenal side fresh and even though the future’s of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette remain unclear, teenage sensations Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli have signed long-term contracts and we can see the direction Arsenal are heading in.
Saka, 18, finished his dream work in dream fashion as he scored his first Premier League goal despite having a tough time defensively. Arteta praised him for working hard and battling through some tactical problems, while after the game Saka said the Arsenal players now feel ‘more together’ than before.
Does Arteta agree with that?
“To be fair, since I’ve joined I have seen some really good things,” Arteta told ProSoccerTalk. “About how they treat each other and how much they enjoyed being together. I think they understand more what we are looking for from them, what we expect from them. This brings the team together. When you suffer together and you see your teammate giving absolutely everything for you, if someone makes a mistake, the other one puts it right, it makes you feel proud of where you are. That is slowly what we have to try to evolve and get better and then do it in a very consistent way.”
Even if they don’t qualify for the Champions League this season, they are heading in the right direction. They have a plan and Arteta is putting the building blocks in place.
That plan starts with defense and Arteta is addressing the key problem which has held the Gunners back for at least the last five seasons. Finally. Gritty, boring Arsenal, indeed.