Experience counting in the run-in

Posted by Sam Limbert

Tomas Rosicky fires home his second goal of the gameGettyImagesArsenal's Tomas Rosicky fires home his second goal against West Brom

Albeit for only 24 hours, Arsenal were back in the top four this weekend after the 2-1 win away at West Bromwich Albion Saturday. Chelsea's win over Sunderland has moved them back past the Gunners, but Tottenham's draw with Everton means Spurs are just two points ahead of Arsenal, who have a game in hand.

-- Wenger urges Rosicky to stay

All the sides involved in the fight for the top four are doing things the hard way. They've all shown signs of strain. However, as shown by their victory at the Hawthorns on Saturday, Arsenal’s experience can be important for them to emerge from the battle in the position needed for Champions League qualification.

The last 20 minutes felt horribly similar to the tense, nervy moments of the last day of the previous season. Arsenal held on in the face of Baggies pressure to win 3-2 that day, with Kieran Gibbs saving the Gunners from missing out on the Champions League with a superb last ditch tackle. On Saturday, they held on again, but this time had to do it with 10 men.

It would be wrong to ignore that West Brom had some good chances to secure the draw. However frantic and panicked Arsenal's play might have looked, the experience of winning at the same stadium last year when trying to qualify for Europe served them well.

The belief the team could survive a late barrage would have been strengthened by the resolve shown at Sunderland in February, when the Gunners also held on for a one-goal victory with 10 men. Clearly, it helps to be playing free-flowing football at this stage of the season, but having momentum through positive results, however those results are achieved, is the most important aspect of a season run-in.

With four wins since the North London derby defeat, Arsenal are building plenty of that. Some pundits are suddenly changing their tune about Arsenal’s top four chances because they’ve been there and done it before. Arsenal have good memories of embarking on a similar task last season, while Chelsea and Tottenham don't, meaning doubt could be creeping into their minds.

If the team are showing they’re learning from experiences, it’s helped by certain players taking the lead in this crucial period. Last season, there was a definite emphasis on Arsenal’s success being linked to the form of Robin van Persie. Now, the burden is being shared around the team. Gervinho and Santi Cazorla were influential in the win against Reading, but it was Tomas Rosicky who put his hand up on Saturday.

Due to player sales, injuries and team selection, there is a difference between the personnel in the Arsenal team that chased down Tottenham last season and the one aiming to do the same in this campaign. Rosicky was vital in that charge, and is drawing on his importance in that chase to potentially do the same in the remaining seven games. Mikel Arteta and Laurent Koscielny were also key figures in the last season’s comeback, and are doing the same again.

The mood among Arsenal fans has definitely picked up, with fans believing now that the top four is within reach. Having been seven points behind Spurs, Arsenal's own fate in finishing above Tottenham is now in their hands. The Gunners are proving themselves to be good chasers with the pressure off. The closer they get to their target, the more the pressure increases. Arsenal's experience built up over the last two seasons can see them reach the top four, but it remains to be seen if they can deal with the increase in pressure again.

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