It was a very unhappy New Year for Arsenal fans as we saw our beloved team drop precious points to a direct rival when we were beaten 2-0 away at Southampton, but Per Mertesacker says that that was a blessing in disguise and taught the players that they needed to be more solid defensively rather than going gung-ho into the attack.
Since that day, Arsenal have won 5 games in a row and are now level on points with the Saints for the coveted Fourth Place, and Mertesacker has made it clear that the game at St. Marys was the turning point for the Gunners. He said on Arsenal Player; “Southampton was a major setback – it was a bad start to the year,”
“After that, we promised ourselves to come out of that comfort zone and be a bit more focused, especially to know that what comes first is defensive work and not just for the back four.
“That was maybe the main thing for us to focus on, and afterwards we played more convincingly, especially defensively. You can see the benefit when everyone realises that, and I thought everyone realised it very quickly after we lost at Southampton.
“Maybe sometimes you need a wake-up call to realise what is really important. We worked a lot on our defensive shape, not just the back four, to avoid those dangerous free balls against us. We look much better and the best game defensively was against Man City – that was a bit of a change.
“In the last few years, we went there and wanted to convince everybody that we could play our own way, so it was a bit of a change this time. Sometimes we have to do something unexpected, and that was maybe the winning moment.”
Arsene Wenger admitted after the Man City win that he had taken advice from his players on how to beat the League title holders, and it certainly seems to have paid off! Normally Wenger would just tell his players to go out and enjoy yourself by attacking constantly, so it is a major shift in his perception. Perhaps he realises now that the Arsenal fans care more about winning than just looking good on the field!