ARSENE WENGER is sensing that the “vibes” are right for Arsenal to finally end their Premier League title drought, saying the team showed their growing maturity in grinding out an ugly win against Newcastle.
Wenger’s team have not won the league since 2004 and have often been criticised in recent years for not being mentally or physically tough enough to stage a proper title challenge.
But with Arsenal two points clear atop the table just past the halfway stage, the Frenchman said he has a feeling that this season could be different. Especially after seeing his team overcome Newcastle 1-0 despite a poor performance at home on Saturday.
“If you look at your team like a person and the vibes that are coming out — you can sense in this job if you feel it or not,” Wenger said on Sunday. “I think we’re more experienced than the teams I had when I moved into the stadium here [in 2006].
“On our day we could play everybody off the park and when you’d to dig deep you experience it was a bit more difficult. It was different. Now, the experience, the quality of their attitude, the team always has the charisma.”
Wenger’s teams have always been known for attractive football, but not necessarily for being able to pull out hard-fought victories on a day when they struggle going forward. Saturday’s victory, though, showed the team is learning to do just that.
“I must say [you see] another aspect of your team in a game like [against Newcastle]. It’s more the mental aspect – you fight, don’t panic and wait for your chance,” Wenger said. “We were more questioned on that aspect than the way we played football.”
The question that remains about Arsenal is whether they can sustain a title challenge all the way to end. While Leicester are still Arsenal’s closest rivals in second place, Manchester City are likely to be the Gunners’ biggest challenger come May.
Unlike Arsenal, the City squad is full of players who have already won the Premier League and know how to deliver the championship.
Goalkeeper Petr Cech is the only current Arsenal player who can say the same, but striker Olivier Giroud thinks title-winning experience from other countries can be just as important.
Giroud won the French league with Montpellier in 2012 before joining Arsenal, the same year Mesut Ozil won La Liga with Real Madrid.
“To be a champion, I know [what it takes] because I was a champion with Montpellier,” Giroud said. “If I can advise the young players I’ll do it. We’ve a couple of experienced players like Mathieu Flamini, Petr Cech and people like that.
“We’ve a good mixture of experienced players and young players and the older ones bring confidence to the youngest and lead them.” —ESPN