In the last 5 or 6 years, defensive frailties have cost Arsenal dearly, impacting negatively in its quest for silverware. But the recent appointment of Steve Bould as assistant manager is changing all that. Bould has pushed Arsenal to work extra hard on its defence and he is credited with gradually building a rock solid rearguard for the gunners, no wonder that Arsenal has now maintained a third successive clean sheet since the kick off of the 2012-13 EPL season.
Teams would find it more difficult this season to unlock Arsenal's defence. With new signings Lukas Podolski and Santi Carzola finding the net in Arsenal's 2-0 win over Liverpool, it appears that the Gunner's are now sharpening upfront, which would add much needed punch in the team's attacking ranks.
Podolski appears to be teaming up well with Carzola with the Spanish midfielder setting up the German striker with an inch perfect pass to score his first goal for Arsenal during the Anfield encounter before returning the favour by freeing up Carzola on a clear run to fire in a near post shot for Arsenal’s second. Despite firing blanks in his first three outings, Podolki’s newly-acquired striking partner, Olivier Giroud, is fast developing a better understanding of Arsenal’s free flowing style of play. It won’t be long before the French target man finds his goal scoring form, meaning that Arsenal are on course to establishing a lethal striking force this season.
Arguably the best manager in the world at club level, Arsene Wenger has transformed the gunners beyond recognition. Before his arrival at Highbury (Arsenal’s former home), the gunners struggled in the shadows of English giants, the likes of Liverpool that dominated in the eighties and Manchester United that rose to title-winning prominence starting in the nineties. In the old days, Arsenal employed a largely archaic type of football, where long and high balls were the mainstay of it game in an attacking approach devoid of flair.
Wenger’s arrival in October 1996 paved the way for a new era at Highbury and later at Emirates Stadium (Arsenal’s current home) as the gunners produced a footballing masterclass that saw them win EPL titles in 1998, 2002, and in 2004, when Arsenal’s invincibles won the title unbeaten. Wenger’s team was also dominant in the FA Cup winning titles in 1998, 2002, 2003, and 2005. With a cup double in 1998 and 2002, Wenger was named the manager of the year in 1998, 2002 and 2005.
Today, the gunners are the flag bearers of an intricate football, characterized by breath taking display and artistry that is the envy of many clubs in Europe. When it comes to total football, it is widely believed that Arsenal is second only to Spain’s FC Barcelona as both the North London team and the Catalans have earned the respect of fans around the world for refusing to abandon their footballing principles that emphasize possession football and brilliant attacking formations in an era where defensive play remains the hallmark of European football.
Wenger’s insistence on financial fair play is laudable as it ensures that the development of young talent is central to advancement of the sport in Europe and beyond. Wenger has persistently hit out at big spending clubs like Manchester City, Chelsea and Real Madrid that he accuses of ruining football. Although highly-priced, multi-million dollar signings have brought a measure of success to Europe’s big spending giants, Wenger’s Arsenal that has maintained a respectable top three or four finishes in the EPL over the last few years is an illustration that financial fair play could be the future of European football as many big clubs are now struggling with massive debts.
When it comes to competing at the highest level, money, which cannot always buy glory, should not be the driving force in football. The game should be celebrated for its passion, sheer artistry and its power to bring positive change in the lives of marginalized youth who have risen to prominence through the world’s most popular sport.