Arsenal must follow Chelsea and Man City and learn to win ugly
Without a solid back line, the Gunners can't build the foundations for winning ugly and winning titles, writes Alex Sharp
Winning ugly is the DNA of champions. Countless title-winning sides have struggled on the road or against relegation strugglers but have still managed to grind out those three precious points.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s United sides have been the blueprint for scraping through dire games and across Manchester, City’s ego-laden squad proved their metal last night at Wigan.
An average City performance, without the inspirational Yaya Touré and Vincent Kompany gelling the team together, managed to maintain their lead at the top courtesy of Edin Dzeko’s first-half winner.
Similarly, Chelsea edged past Sunderland 1-0 at Stamford Bridge. The Blues are certainly not firing on all cylinders under André Villas-Boas but are managing to pick up points.
On the other hand Arsène Wenger’s Gunners have well and truly fallen off the bandwagon and are worryingly close to capitulating and falling away from the Champions League qualification places.
What has gone wrong for the Gunners? Wenger had managed to drag his depleted squad briefly back into title contention but once again alarm bells are ringing and results have dwindled.
The defeat by Swansea on Sunday highlighted Arsenal’s frail backline, a lack of composure and an underperforming squad.
Arsenal look scared at the back and lack a leader – Thomas Vermaelen is superb but frequently injured. In Wenger’s defence all of the Gunners’ fullbacks are out injured and a seasoned international in Per Mertesacker has been shambolic.
Without a solid back line, the Gunners can’t build the foundations for winning ugly and winning titles.
The vulnerability of Arsenal’s defence has been a frustrating feature for the past four seasons and it is bamboozling why Wenger hasn’t solved the problem with some astute signings.
Gary Cahill has signed for Chelsea ““ a deal Wenger could and should have done. Seven million pounds is an absolute steal for Chelsea and it could end up ruining Arsenal’s season.
Defensive reinforcements are a necessity but also some composure in the final third will be crucial if Arsenal are going to recover lost ground on their rivals.
Thierry Henry has returned, Robin van Persie continues to dazzle but the rest have to step up to the plate. Wenger’s insistence on starting Andrey Arshavin is bizarre – the Russian is failing to provide for his team in terms of goals and effort.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain isn’t getting game time. He’s more direct than Walcott and has an accurate distribution off the flanks.
Whether he starts or not, the youngster needs to be involved far more – and Wenger needs to freshen up the squad with signings and rotations.
A final word from this weekend concerns Mark Hughes first game in charge for Queens Park Rangers. The former Wales manager has a huge task on his hands but the dismissal of Neil Warnock is an appalling reflection of the modern game.
He got the club back to the big bucks and deserved his chance – rather like the Chris Hughton situation last season.
Meanwhile Hughes, like Wenger needs reinforcements, confidence and firepower quick or it could be Championship football again at Loftus Road in 2012.