Experience key for Arsenal in 2013

Posted by Andrew Mangan

Even throughout the years when silverware has been in short supply, Arsenal have been known for the style of their football.

When they got in their groove they could play scintillating stuff, a tough match for anyone on their day. But it was also a case that when their rhythm was interrupted, they could find themselves knocked way off course. One defeat seemed to knock the wind out of their sails and it wasn't unusual for a couple of bad results to follow that one before they got themselves right again.

This season, that's been very obviously not the case.

The pressure heaped upon them after the opening day defeat to Aston Villa was immense. All the frustration of an unsuccessful transfer window, topped by dropping points to an inferior team, lurched them towards crisis. The response: winning 10 games in a row and going top of the table.

Then, rthere were those who suggested that the 1-0 defeat to Man Utd back in November was a true measure of each team's relative quality. Arsenal won their next three league games; United took just two points from their next four games. Measure that.

And after a period in which they lost to Napoli and Man City in quick succession, they put things right with a draw against Chelsea and three consecutive wins over the festive period. When questions are asked of this current Arsenal side, they have, up until now, always found the answers.

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It's worth noting that they've won those last three games in circumstances which really required some character. Coming from behind against (an admittedly poor) West Ham; grinding out a 1-0 win against Newcastle (who have recently beaten Man Utd, Chelsea and Spurs) without Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Ozil, two of their most effective attacking players; and digging deep to win late against Cardiff when the visitors looked like they might frustrate Wenger's men.

The key in each of these circumstances has been experience. There are no real kids in this Arsenal team any more. Young players, yes, but young players with plenty of football under their belts. When allied with the men who have been around the block a bit -- the likes of Mikel Arteta, Per Mertesacker, Bacary Sagna and Mathieu Flamini -- and quality like Mesut Ozil, Santi Cazorla and Lukas Podolski, it looks like the perfect blend.

The callowness of previous teams was certainly a factor. When it went well they were effective and devastating at times, but when things didn't go according to plan there just wasn't enough experience to deal with difficult situations.

Even last season, they lost a game to Swansea in similar circumstances to the 2-0 win over Cardiff. They piled men forward late on trying to win it, and lost it on the break. That was never going to happen on New Year's Day. They were in control and although the goals came late, there was only going to be one winner.

The next test is in the second half of the season. Not too many of them have the experience of going the distance in a league campaign. That's not to say they can't cope with it, but it is a unique kind of pressure, and will be the next big challenge Arsenal's players have to overcome if they're to bring a trophy back to the Emirates.


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