Tuesday 23 January 2018

Wenger revels in Arsenal's art of winning ugly

Arsenal 2 Fulham 0

Santi Carzola
Santi Carzola

Oliver Brown

Quite a sorcerer is Santi Cazorla. With his shimmying, slaloming runs, even performing his own take on Andres Iniesta's 'La Croqueta' move en route to two lethal finishes that re-established Arsenal's place at the top of the table, the Spaniard reminded the club's rivals that this team scarcely want for title-winning talents.

Since a miniature slump last month -- how hazy the memory of that 6-3 defeat at Manchester City now seems -- Arsenal have amassed six wins and 12 goals courtesy of seven different scorers.

There is also an obduracy about a side who, for every prognosis of imminent failure, continue to pass each test with a degree of calmness and poise unheard of in recent seasons.

"We are much more consistent, more solid, especially when we are on top of a game," Cazorla admitted. "Before there were matches when we would go 2-0 up and let it escape from us. That makes it practically impossible to win a title, but this season that has changed."

In the perfect world, Arsenal still desire an extra striker to take the strain off Olivier Giroud, and will not tire in their efforts to prise Montenegrin forward Mirko Vucinic on loan from Juventus.

But there is a comfort in the spread of contributions throughout the side, not least from the workhorse Cazorla, who cut in from the left to devastating effect with two goals to settle Arsenal's anxieties after an hour of toil.

His set-up work was equally intricate -- with a dip of the shoulder here, a dash into open space there, he produced a display of attacking ambidexterity of which Iniesta would have been proud.

With Mesut Özil providing a quieter shift than usual, the stage was Cazorla's to seize.

"It's true that Mesut has occupied a No 10 role but the best thing here is that the boss gives me freedom," he said. "So when we don't have the ball, I have to stick a little to a certain position, but when we do have it there is the chance for Mesut, Jack (Wilshere) and I to interchange positions. It is something we like."

Arsene Wenger, who had worked himself into a fearful state on the touchline for the 57 minutes that it took Arsenal to score, had rarely looked happier.

Explaining his players' newly-acquired maturity under pressure, he explained: "We have improved on that front. The consistency of our results over the past year illustrates that, and the fact that we are defensively more stable gives us more of a serene attitude."

The collective work ethic also raised the type of smile to suggest that Wenger believes the title, in spite of Manchester City's century of goals, is eminently possible.

"You cannot depend on just one player, or keep him in cotton wool to keep him fit," Wenger said. "It's good to know that everybody can score, even when players like Aaron Ramsey and Mikel Arteta are not involved. That is very positive." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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