Let me set the scene. It’s March the 13th, 2013. Arsenal are making a trip to Munich for the second leg of their Champions League tie already being 3-1 down. The pundits have written us off. The neutrals have written us off. Even our own fans have written us off. That night, the football world expected the Bayern juggernaut to tear Arsenal’s media battered team to shreds. Arsenal may not have qualified that night, but it was the start of something very special.
Arsenal made such huge progress in 2013, a calendar year in which we recorded 82 points in the league, second to none. In recent years, we’ve seen plenty of goal fests that Arsenal came out on top in, which arguably could have gone either way. Not in 2013. There was a change in Arsenal’s way, a new tactic employed by Wenger himself. We began to win games 1-0, and not just any games, we won those tough “banana skin” away games that we always used to slip up on.
I think not conceding in the Allianz Arena was huge for the center-back duo of Koscielny and Mertesacker. For the first time we witnessed the two of them communicating with each other and the rest of the team like two leaders, something we had been desperately lacking. And since then the couple have stuck at the heart of our team. You only had to watch our recent game against high flying Newcastle to see why we have been so successful in the past 12 months. An Arsenal team of old would have definitely surrendered that 1-0 goal lead, in fact we managed to surrender a 4 goal lead there. But not this time. The two of them looked comfortable in this high pressure scenario, and carried us to the full time whistle. Then we buggered off down the motorway with all 3 points.
We currently have the meanest defence in the premier league, having conceded just 18 goals, and that includes the anomalous result at the Etihad. Not to mention that we have only conceded once in our last 8 home games. We’ve never had a problem scoring goals with the pace and creativity of our midfield, but if we maintain this ability to grind out games 1-0 and 2-0, then the title might just be heading to North London in the summer, and it will largely down to the resilience of our center back partnership.