Efficient Gunners doing it in cruise control

Posted by Andrew Mangan

When Arsenal lost 6-3 against Manchester City, there were some who said it was a sign that the Gunners were, finally, coming off the rails. Pundits had suggested it was just a matter of time until they were found out and their season would fall apart.

Instead, Arsene Wenger's team have gone on to prove it was an aberration of the highest order and, after a 0-0 with Chelsea on Dec. 23 that was as much about consolidation as anything else, they've gone on to win their next seven games, conceding goals only twice in that time.

Despite West Ham giving them a little bit of a scare, the Gunners rallied to win 3-1. Newcastle was a tough test, but a 1-0 win was just reward for their effort. After that, wins over Cardiff, Spurs in the FA Cup, Aston Villa, Fulham and Coventry in the FA Cup last night have been achieved with minimal fuss.

Although the final 15 minutes at Villa Park were a little more nervy than Wenger would have liked, his team's defensive strength meant they were in little danger. And the other victories have come without Arsenal having to really do more than play in second gear. They crank it up for a few minutes, get the goals, and then settle back into cruise control.

The FA Cup win over Coventry was the perfect example. They scored twice, then took their foot off the pedal because they simply didn't need to play at anything approaching top pace. With a string of increasingly daunting fixtures upcoming in February and March, the players know there's no point in running themselves into the ground in games which simply don't require that amount of effort.

Had it been required against Coventry, you always got the feeling they could go up another gear or two, but doing it for the sake of it? Nope. They've got a Premier League game against Southampton on Tuesday night to contend with, and anyway, it's a rare thing to be playing with such confidence that you can control games the way they do.

They're producing the maximum in terms of points and results in a very efficient way. Over the course of a long season that could stand them in very good stead.

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A quick word, too, about Gedion Zelalem: despite football's obsession with hyping young players as the next this, or the next that, it's clear the young man is a real talent and, considering the club he's at, will be given plenty of chances to develop that over the coming years.

Yet the hype machine does more than bring players to the forefront of discussion and awareness, it often robs them of that comfort zone they need to mature properly, i.e patience from fans. When so much is expected, the perfectly natural shortfalls in consistency and level aren't tolerated/understood.

Given that Zelalem is just 17, and players can take until their early-mid 20s to mature properly, he's still got some way to go, and hopefully that's borne in mind when he does start to feature more regularly.

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