It may not have been the free flowing Arsenal that has become the scourge of smaller clubs, but Saturday’s FA cup semi/final was further proof of just how far the Gunners have come in the last few years. More specifically in fact, the last year has seen Arsenal and Arsene Wenger find a new strength and resilience to be able to cope with the sort of determined and dogged opposition that Reading provided at Wembley.
It is impossible to say for sure of course, but you have to suspect that the Arsenal of last season may well have crumbled in the face of Reading’s heavy pressure. That team may have rolled over smaller clubs on a regular basis with our superior skills but when the going got tough we did not get going, we got beaten.
It is good to see the Gunners now able to stand toe to toe with in a physical battle and that has been a major part of us no longer failing so badly in the big away games. But I can’t help but wonder if we may have lost a little bit of our hold over the others at the same time.
Arsenal have still been winning against the likes of Reading, Leicester, Burnley, Newcastle and QPR recently but only just and not in the comfortable way we have become used to. As reported by Arsenal.com, Wenger says that his players have learned a lot from previous struggles and that is what got us into the final.
He admitted, “We struggled for a while. We have learned from our hiccups and we have matured a little bit.
“When we had difficult moments [against Reading] the team kept going. We don’t feel sorry for ourselves. We just kept our gameplan.
“We have to show that now on a consistent level and we have the opportunity to do that against Chelsea next Sunday. We were back against the wall and responded well. The team has great spirit and togetherness and that helps.
“Let’s finish this season well. We have six games, a big game next weekend, and I believe we have the spirit, which is encouraged by the results. That’s what we have to produce until the end.”
Am I worrying too much? Or have Arsenal lost a little bit of our swagger against the smaller clubs while becoming harder to beat?