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Why Wenger needs to keep a lid on things at Arsenal

This is the time of year when Arsenal start reaching for the stars.

Four wins in a row, including a big victory over arch nemesis Chelsea in the Premier League, and a near-perfect first-half display to set up their 2-0 triumph over FC Basel in the Champions League has positivity aplenty engulfing the Emirates Stadium.

There was a similar run of results 12 months ago when Arsene Wenger's men were fresh from disposing of eventual premiers Leicester City 5-2 before a dismally disappointing and ineptly inexplicable loss to Olympiakos at home in Europe.

That block of form included an away loss to Chelsea and disastrous start in the Champions League when going down to Dinamo Zagreb.

There was a lot left to be desired.

Back in the present, and the North Londoners look alluring and irresistible.

An unbeaten run of eight games in all competitions, including a hard-fought 1-1 draw at PSG, has given Gooners a reason to rejoice.

There is a renewed air of optimism surrounding the Emirates due to the fact that Wenger has assembled a more mature squad than what we have seen in the past, capable of seeing out results with substance as opposed to flapping about solely with style.

While one-touch passing and attractive football are still priorities, it looks as though Wenger has instilled a grit and sturdiness not seen at Arsenal for some time.

Yes, it has only been evident for perhaps a handful of games, but the general feel is that Arsenal is now a team adept at producing the necessary means to win a game of football.

From a pessimist's viewpoint, the 4-3 home defeat to Liverpool is still fresh in mind which suggests that perhaps now is not the time for the red side of North London to be dreaming too loftily.

All too often we have seen the Gunners put together a trio or quartet of sublime displays, exciting supporters and pundits alike while imposing fear onto opposition sides, before some sort of baffling act seems them fall flat on their faces.

Wenger had these words to say after the Basel victory, courtesy of Arsenal.com:

"It looks like the team has interesting potential.

"We have to be ambitious and, as you know, keep our feet on the ground to continue to develop.

"We know exactly how we want to play football and we have to continue to stick to that and get better at it.

"That demands big focus and some leadership inside the squad.

"We have keep the urgency level, the focus and the desire. It also requires humility."

This says to me that perhaps a new era is dawning, coincidentally in Wenger's last contracted year.

The strength of depth in all positions has the playing group competing hard for starting spots.

The on-field combinations between an energetic Alexis Sanchez, a revitalised Theo Walcott, the ever-reliable Santi Cazorla, the irrepressible Mesut Ozil and the increasingly exciting Alex Iwobi are at times delightful.

At the back, there appears to be a unique understanding among Laurent Koscielny and summer signing Shkodran Mustafi, who are central to a revised strategy that keeping the other team goalless goes a long way to winning games of football.

Full-backs Nacho Montreal and Hector Bellerin are the perfect mix of defence and attack, giving the back four a lovely balance, while the centre of midfield is in very capable hands with Granit Xhaka, Francis Coquelin and Mohamed Elneny rotating alongside Cazorla.

The dangerous Aaron Ramsey is still to return, as is Danny Welbeck (but not for some time), Olivier Giroud and Lucas Perez continue to wait patiently to contribute when required, and there is cover at the back in the form of Gabriel Paulista and Rob Holding, Kieran Gibbs and Mathieu Debuchy.

Overall, the squad emerges as harmonious both from a playing point of view and away from the match day arena, which for once, holds this club in good stead.

In saying all of this, however, it's far too early to get carried away if you are an Arsenal fan.

Wenger's earlier comments indicate that he himself knows what is required to keep Gunners' feet planted firmly on the ground.

It is now up to the players to maintain a realistic outlook and ensure the lid remains tightly placed upon both the Emirates and London Colney cauldrons in a bid to avoid the enduringly embarrassing ebbs of the past.

Andrew Slevison
About the author

Andrew Slevison

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