It’s been an unusual season for Arsenal, struggling to play the kind of football they’re known for, but maybe coming up and revealing a side of them not many thought they had, as their most talented players, like Santi Cazorla, have gone through the motions and are hitting back their earlier form at the perfect time.
You need to be good all season long, but the really important stretch begins when the snows start to thaw, and February gets closer to March. The return of the Champions League usually signals that winter should soon be over, and it’s time to get serious and stop dropping points. The title is gone, and the Champions League spot is still a bit far away, but if Arsenal have indeed found the toughness and fortitude to cover for their lack of flair and impressive passing game, they might finish in the top after all.
It’s been an up and down ride for Santi Cazorla this season, starting out very well, exactly like the most expensive signing of the summer should. But as Arsenal struggled and Arsene Wenger kept changing everything in the lineup, so did Cazrola’s form take a big dip. No longer the very influential midfielder from the first few weeks, once teams picked up on the trick of closing him down, seeing how no one else picks up the slack.
Arsenal haven’t exactly been tearing the pitches of England to shreds, but the return of Jack Wilshere to full form has been the key, along with Olivier Giroud becoming more comfortable with the playing style in England and Theo Walcott playing his best football, even when he’s not the striker he wants to be. Santi Cazorla scored the only goal in the 1-0 win over Sunderland thanks to Walcott’s passing and vision.
Arsene Wenger keeps complaining about Wilshere being over used and the fear of burning him out so early, and had to take Wilshere out after only 50 minutes (planning to play him for the full 90, no doubt) because of a harsh foul on him. He may complain about the national sides making use of Wilshere, but it’s him that’s been over-using him just the same.
Not for the first time in recent weeks, it seems that Arsenal answered the call of a physical challenge. Sudnerland didn’t play in the softest of manners, and despite playing with 10 men for the final 30 minutes, Arsenal displayed the kind of mental toughness and physicality not normally associated with Arsene Wenger’s teams. Wojciech Szczesny being in top form was another reason for the 3 points, keeping up the pace with Tottenham and Chelsea, making quite a few impressive saves in the end of the match.
Maybe this is the transformation Arsenal need – becoming less gentle, turning into a more aggressive, battling team. They still don’t have the right personnel to make that shift completely, with too many “talents” and not enough “enforces” on the team, but a change of mind and the willing to play with the right kind of intensity, not backing down from a challenge even without their ability to dominate a match on football quality alone, is a start. Arsenal won’t win the title, and chances are they won’t end up in the Champions League, but they seem to be on to something. Too bad they found it out possibly too late in the season.