How Arsenal can prove doubters of their title credentials wrong
Arsenal have become a reference point for the football fraternity to speak about, especially when it comes to their inability to compete for the title. The last time the Gunners lifted the Premier League title was in the 2003-2004 season when they went the entire season unbeaten, becoming the first and only team to do so since the English top flight league was rebranded in 1993.
There have been near misses in the past. There have been times when they looked like they could compete for the title and eventually win it.
In the 2007-2008 season, Arsenal were table toppers until after the winter, when they drew 2-2 away at Birmingham and from then on, they lost their momentum to compete for the title. William Gallas was also stripped off the captaincy after openly criticizing his teammates in 2008. Arsenal were looking like a team that would go on to win the title that season.
The second was in the 2013-2014 season, when Arsenal broke their transfer record to snatch Mesut Ozil from Real Madrid. That marquee signing galvanized the whole squad and you get the feeling that they were playing to impress the German playmaker that he had made the right decision to sign for the Gunners.
Despite an opening day 1–3 league defeat at home to Aston Villa, Arsenal's league campaign got off to a strong start. Arsenal were at the summit of the table for much of the season, spending more time on top of the league than any other side.
However, a combination of injuries to key players and heavy defeats away from home against other title challengers saw the Gunners' title ambitions evaporate by late March.
With the foregoing in mind, there are a number of things the gunners must do to finally end their Premier League title drought.
Change of mentality is required
There is a sense of palpitation and fear when the Gunners take on their domestic title rivals. That has to change if they are going to even be considered as an outside contender for the league title. As seen in some games this season, their composure or lack of it can determine if they would eventually come up with three points on board
Take for example, they go to Old Trafford, where they have a terrible record. The last time Arsenal won there was in 2006 when Togolese striker Emmanuel Adebayor helped them gain all the three points.
As seen in games played at the Theatre of Dreams, they often panic when they are in possession, allowing the opposition to harry the ball off them and turn it into a counter-attacking situation against them.
When the opposition can sense this indecisiveness of whether to make a pass or not, they often try to intimidate them by being physical. Arsenal desperately need to show more confidence going into games such as these.
The last time Arsenal won at a major premier league rival's home, was in 2015 when they defeated Manchester City by two goals to nil, thanks to goals from Santi Cazorla and Olivier Giroud. The English media praised Wenger for his tactical astuteness for masterminding that memorable win over City.
However, that was just a flash in the pan, as Wenger failed to adopt this approach on a consistent basis, leaving the Gunners short of a better head to head record against their rivals
However, you get the feeling that in Unai Emery, Arsenal have found a coach who is tactically intelligent and can adapt the team to playing different opposition. In some games this season he has played a number of formation before and during games like 4-2-3-1,4-4-2 and 4-2-4.
He has also made intelligent substitutions that have been game-changers and it is a good sign, especially as the Gunners seem to be finding their feet and confidence again.
Lastly, Unai Emery's animated coaching on the touchline seem to get the players to work harder on the pitch and there is no doubt that against the big sides, Arsenal are more likely to put in more fight to try and get a good result as against to what we were used to seeing under Arsene Wenger.
When they play the big sides, they also need to keep their concentration levels very high as any sloppy pass or balls given away would easily be punished.
Former Arsenal player and skysports pundit Paul Merson has been quick to dismiss Arsenal's impressive run of form. He told skysports:"Sooner or later they will be on the end of a big score - defensively they are all over the place,"
"The one thing that gets them out of trouble is that they're always going to score goals. But defensively, they are just not good enough."
We all agree that it is time for Paul Merson to be proved wrong. Let the Unai Emery revolution continue