Among all the excitement and euphoria pouring out of Arsenal supporters the world over last weekend, there was still an element of concern. It was nothing to do with the way the Gunners played, tactically, as a team and with the individual performances from the players. The big question was whether it would prove to be a one-off from Arsenal, a flash in the pan.
The TV pundits did suggest that the tactics of staying solid and compact and playing on the counter-attack without committing too many men forward was something we should have been doing in all the big away games in recent years. They also wondered, however, whether Arsene Wenger had set the Gunners up this way specifically to deal with the little Spanish magician that is David Silva.
This left me worried that we would see the bad old Arsenal in future big games, but Wenger has eased any fears about this, in an interview reported by The Mirror. The Frenchman explained the reasons for his tactical switch and they had nothing to do with Silva.
Somewhat surprisingly, Wenger admits that player power was a factor, with everyone feeling that something needed to change and being thoroughly fed up of the demoralising demolitions that we suffered last season. And although the boss says he is not giving up on his attacking principles entirely, he admits that he is happy to go with this system that makes the team feel more comfortable.
Wenger said, “At some stage you cannot go against the feelings of the team because it’s detrimental to the result.
“The team sometimes needs to be reassured and reassurance comes first from feeling solid and strong and then you can express your talent and our confidence in the big games had been damaged by these big results.
“Of course (I listened to the players). Your tactics have to be aligned as well with the feeling of the team and with the confidence level of the team.
“That’s why you hear so many times in the papers or on television “let’s get back to basics”.
“It’s not because a team doesn’t know the basics, it’s just to get the priorities right to reinforce the confidence of the team again because you gain it slowly back by feeling that you are not going to get blown away.”
In two weeks today, Arsenal travel the short distance to take on Tottenham and this will be the first test of the new tactics, even though the spuds are not one of the `big` teams that hurt us last year. And then we have the Champions League with Monaco, where the away tie could be crucial to our progression, but the one I am really looking forward to is the penultimate Premier League game of the season at Old Trafford.
That game could be so important, not just for league position but to show that Arsenal will really be a force to be reckoned with in next season’s title race. So are the big game blues really over?