Let’s be clear. Arsenal were by no means ‘bad’ at any time in the last decade. Their coach, Arsene Wenger, has always been an aesthete of the game and that suits the tradition of this great club.
But success in football, as in life, is about balance. And Arsenal have struggled to find it over the last few years. They look wonderful going forward against the lesser lights, but can easily be blunted in attack against the big boys and have retained a soft centre which is too easy to play through.
But their results in Manchester this season – which include defeats of Manchester City in the league and United in the cup – have spoken of a team which is finally dealing with its Achilles Heel.
We hope that this opinion doesn’t prove to be a pre-cursor to another humbling defeat. Arsenal did look very ordinary in The Champions League against Monaco after all.
But there was certainly a steely resolve about Arsenal at Old Trafford on Monday which has too often been missing from Wenger’s side in the big tussles. Francis Coquelin was again superb and, even if he isn’t world class, he is the sort of defensive midfielder that this team has been positively aching for since the departure of Patrick Vieira; a player whose sole job is no more ambitious than to shield the defence.
Santi Cazorla also offered a surprising amount of bite in that crucial midfield area and this has given Arsenal an altogether more solid look.
It’s way too early to conclude that Arsenal are ready to win the title or The Champions League. The club still needs to acquire another top finisher and goalkeeper at least. But there does appear to finally be a surge in the right direction in terms of Arsenal’s ability to contain and flummox the top sides.