Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Inner Steel Needed for Arsenal to Win League

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Inner Steel Needed for Arsenal to Win League

Article excerpt

Byline: Tony Evans @tonyevans92a

HE title will not be won on the pitch. It will be won in the mind. That makes you worry for Arsenal.

The 2-1 victory over Leicester City yesterday was thrilling and uplifting. The wild celebrations that followed Danny Welbeck's last-gasp winner shook the Emirates. It felt like a final. It wasn't, despite the dressingroom 'selfies'.

Arsenal's inability to impose themselves on an unusually open Premier League has little to do with ability. Skill is something Arsene Wenger does not need to worry about. His squad has an abundance of talent. The weaknesses are largely psychological.

Wenger knows this implicitly. After the game yesterday, he talked of "mental desire" and "mental hurdles" as if the opponents were not Leicester but internal demons. His team have a nasty habit of self-harming.

When challenged -- and Claudio Ranieri's side have the sort of snidey, niggly approach that upsets Arsenal -- the Gunners lose focus. They began the game with an imperious, stylish swagger that should have put them a brace up within two minutes but started to lose their focus as Leicester clawed themselves, somewhat literally, back into the game. When things go against them, Arsenal's sense of injustice overrides their sense of purpose.

They were given a massive advantage yesterday when Martin Atkinson made the rather eccentric decision to send off Danny Simpson for a second yellow card. Yet the advantage was nearly squandered in a moment of petulance a few minutes later when Ranieri reorganised his team with a substitution. Riyad Mahrez was meandering off to be replaced by Marcin Wasilewski when Francis Coquelin decided to manhandle the Leicester player off the field. Coquelin was on a yellow card himself and a braver referee would have handed him a second card for getting involved. It was a stupid lapse of discipline.

Against 10 men, a side like Arsenal should be in their element. They have the passing range to stretch and exhaust the opposition.

Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil have the guile and craft to outmanoeuvre defences but under pressure they become rushed and shed their subtlety. …

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