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Arsene Wenger believes in mental strength as much as any other Premier League manager does as it goads the lads to go the extra mile whilst trailing by a goal or two. However, if one team exemplifies a positive attitude in the English top-flight, it has to be Leicester City, who faced Arsenal in a losing effort on Sunday afternoon.
Arsenal undoubtedly boast more technically gifted players than the league leaders, who thrive by virtue of sheer hard work. Though the Gunners ultimately turned down a first-half deficit in an emphatic fashion, the Foxes’ showcased yet again why their rise to prominence cannot be labelled a fluke, with Jamie Vardy and Kasper Schmeichel displaying undying grit until the whistle.
In the Arsenal camp, however, the attitude varied from apathy to aggression for different players. Given the Arsenal faithful lambasted their lads after disappointing results against Liverpool, Southampton and Stoke despite them showing a different level of intent, they would have belted an entirely different tune at full-time had Danny Welbeck failed to glance Mesut Ozil’s sublime cross past Schmeichel.
Should the German duo man up?
Mesut Ozil easily is the difference between the Arsenal teams that perennially languished in the fourth spot and the current team that constantly tops the table as his vision and ability to carve game-changing moments out of nothing has won more games than not. However, his attitude becomes questionable, especially against physical opponents.
With N’Golo Kante proving to be too much for him to handle, the German playmaker struck a figure that had completely given up, though he tried pulling off his trademark crosses occasionally. Marc Albrighton’s successful tackle on him on 60 minutes near the edge of the penalty box bears testimony to his appalling mental strength.
Even if his technical ability goes down by 25% and his aggression shoots up by the same degree, Arsenal will still have a world-class midfielder, who can and will win the title for Arsenal. After all, amassing 17 assists in 24 games cannot be a mean feat.
In addition, his compatriot did little to nothing after referee Martin Atkinson awarded a penalty to Leicester. The captain neither appealed to the referee nor consoled Nacho Monreal, who seemed devastated with the decision.
Have Gooners finally got what they had wished for?
Francis Coquelin, whilst already being on yellow for a mistimed tackle on the Riyad Mahrez in the first half, physically ushered the Algerian midfielder off the pitch on 58 minutes after the latter had appeared to time-waste.
Though some fans censured him for risking a second yellow whilst searching for an equalizer, such an attitude or the desire to win is what Arsenal had lacked in the seasons they failed to mount a serious title bid.
The French midfielder showed traits of a skipper when he comforted Monreal after the harsh penalty call, and his reaction to the substitution only verified his strong attitude.
Theo Walcott, who replaced him, also rose to the occasion; his passion was surprisingly profound. His strike partner, Olivier Giroud swept the Arsenal faithful off their feet with his untiring efforts throughout and also showcased massive mental strength, exchanging words with Schmeichel at one point.
More aggressive and determined
Arsenal players have earned a reputation for being docile on the pitch, but adding a concoction of aggression and determination to their gameplan could steer them to unprecedented success, as demonstrated by Leicester.
Written by Praveen Paramasivam
Follow Praveen on Twitter @49Praveen
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