Arsenal As Close To The Real Thing As Ever

Many wondered if this run of tough games would be the making or breaking of Arsenal. After their win against Dortmund, Nick Miller says it looks like the former...

Last Updated: 07/11/13 at 14:17 Post Comment

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Arsene Wenger knew. Somehow, he knew what was coming, back in 2012, when he said: "Once Aaron Ramsey starts scoring goals, he won't stop."

And he hasn't stopped this season. Ramsey's goal (his 11th of a remarkable campaign) in the 62nd minute of their 1-0 win over Borussia Dortmund was Arsenal's first effort on goal of any description. Before they had tried not one shot, on target, off target, hit the post, blocked, saved - nothing. Nada. Zip. It was a mugging and no mistake.

But what a mugging. Daniel Storey asked this week at what point Arsenal should become favourites for the Premier League title, which of course inspired some debate in the Mailbox over whether this latest incarnation of Wenger's side can be considered the real thing.

It's probably too early to judge, but they're the closest Wenger has had to the real thing since Patrick Vieira left. This is an Arsenal equally capable of winning beautifully and winning hideously, as they did in Germany on Wednesday night.

When Dortmund picked Arsenal off as they looked for a victory in the previous game, Sarah Winterburn wrote about how the Gunners left themselves far too open and allowed Dortmund's rapier counter-attacks to rip them open, but there were no such mistakes this time. This was an old-fashioned English away performance in Europe, clinging on before nicking something on the break.

Initially, it didn't look too good. Jurgen Klopp said he prefers an English style of football, revelling in the times his players have run more than the opposition, but in the first half in particular this was English football plus. English football supersized. English football, if you'll excuse the slightly tortured heavy metal reference, turned up to 11. Arsenal looked dizzied at times with how relentless Dortmund were. Even Mesut Ozil, Arsenal's chosen one created by the very midi-chlorians themselves, looked hurried and vaguely punch-drunk as he tried to create something, such was the ferocity of Dortmund's pressing.

In the first half Arsenal were very easily contained. They created barely anything and with every attack Dortmund mounted, they looked less and less likely to get the point that would have still been a good result.

But they did hang on. It's worth noting that the most encouraging aspect of this Arsenal side is that they seem to be improving. Even earlier on this season they were prone to the sort of lapses of concentration that cause woe among their fans and clucks of scepticism about their credentials from the rest of us. Even in games they ostensibly won comfortably (Norwich at home springs to mind) they were prone to dozing off and almost allowing their opponents back in. They beat Norwich 4-1, but two of the goals came in the final seven minutes to add a gloss that their careless play in the previous half an hour or so didn't exactly merit.

Not so here though. Of course it's a bit easier to stay alert when Robert Lewandowski is running at you with a lead to protect, rather than when you're 2-0 up against Robert Snodgrass and pals, but it would have been very easy for Arsenal to crumble under the yellow waves of pressure. They didn't though, and eliminating lapses in concentration and repelling one of the continent's best teams are both encouraging signs that Arsenal have what it takes up top, as well as in their feet. Many wondered if this run of tough games, which closes with the trip to Manchester United on Sunday, would be the making or breaking of Arsenal - after this performance, it very much looks like the former.

Wayne Rooney's declaration that Arsenal might not be all that just yet looks a little foolish now, just a few hours after he made it, but it is of course sensible given what history tells us about Arsenal.

That's for the rest of us though. Arsenal fans can be forgiven for thinking that they have the real thing now.

Nick Miller - follow him on Twitter

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