In March of last season, Arsenal’s top-four ambitions were severely dented after suffering a 2-1 defeat at the hands of north London rivals Tottenham.
The Gunners’ defensive display could only be described as abysmal. Time and time again Spurs cut through a ridiculously high line, found space in the attacking third and capitalised on ill-disciplined positioning.
While Andre Villas-Boas men revelled in the glory of the occasion and affixed one eye firmly upon European football, the result was far more epiphanic just a few miles down the Seven Sisters Road.
Arsene Wenger and co realised that the side did not have the necessary quality to play a pressing, all-out attacking game without getting punished and so a change of philosophy was necessary. Mikel Arteta’s defensive shackles were pulled taut and the Spaniard was assisted in the centre of the park by an in-form Aaron Ramsey who ate up the ground when Arsenal were both in and out of possession.
The error-prone Thomas Vermaelen was dropped for Laurent Koscielny who formed a revolutionary partnership with Per Mertesacker. The Gunners’ defence became a drilled unit and archetypal of a back-four fit to don the red and white.
Arsenal consequently went the remainder of the season undefeated, picked up 26 points out of a potential 30, did not concede more than one goal in a single game and won all of their away fixtures. If the Gunners carry the same sort of game plan into the upcoming season they look good value to have the best away record in the league at 10/1, especially considering that only Chelsea and the transitional Manchester United picked up more points on the road last year.
The Gunners have been linked with plenty of big names this summer too, the latest of which is Liverpool’s exceptional Luis Suarez. That price will only shorten should Wenger land a big-name striker who has the quality to produce goals out of nothing while the defence can concentrate on keeping it tight at the back.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.