Monday, 17 March 2014

Outstanding Mertesacker is dragging us kicking and screaming towards the title

· Match Report      · Rosicky's reaction       · Wenger's reaction

Morning Gooners.

Winning a north London derby is never an unenjoyable experience, no matter what anyone might say about about a win which was "papering over the cracks". We've heard bold predictions from Tottenham managers before, and look what happened next.

Yes it wasn't pretty. We had to defend resolutely for 92 minutes of the game after we took the lead inside 75 seconds from a thunderbolt off Tomas Rosicky's right foot, but this is the kind of performance we've been capable of this season - think Newcastle away in December.

There is something special about this team and for all the plaudits which can be thrown about the attacking style we've shown throughout the years, this season it's our defence which is putting us at the heart of the title race. Yesterday was this team's 13th clean sheet in the league. That's a third of our games this season we've not conceded.

The defence and the goalkeeper are of course being ably assisted by a midfield who know when to defend and we've got a set of attacking players who have been drilled that they are the first line of defence. It is this team's carefree mindset when it comes to defending which has gone. You can win a title by scoring lots of goals but you can lose one by conceding far too many of them to.

Have we got the mixture right this season? Only time will tell but the importance of Per Mertesacker, the captain without the armband, cannot be understated. He's brought the best out of the defence this season and made those around him into better players, a great example being Laurent Koscielny who has become a fantastic player and one certainly worthy of yesterday's man of the match award from the Sky Sports commentary team.

To me there is one player who is dragging us kicking and screaming towards the title and that is Mertesacker. I've believed for a long time that it was the German's influence which was ensuring we remained our focus on the title. He has barely put a foot wrong all season.

Arsene Wenger's critics claim he hasn't been able to put together a defence since the famous back four of Lee Dixon, Steve Bould, Tony Adams and Nigel Winterburn left the club. I'd point to The Invicibles and I'd suggest that this season's back four are also a good shout.

I never had any concerns about us failing to take all three points from yesterday's game. The Stoke result must be put down to a bad day at the office. Since then, we're through to the semi-final of the FA Cup after beating Everton, went out of the Champions League with a gutsy draw against the last season's winner and have now defeated our local rivals on enemy soil for the first time in seven years.

Now we must go to Stamford Bridge next weekend and win, putting the hex Jose Mourinho has over Arsene Wenger to bed once and for all. We've had some good victories over Chelsea while the self proclaimed special one was on a European tour away from south west London. This is now the time to get a result against one of our title rivals.

If the goal comes in the second minute like Tomas Rosicky's thunderbolt did yesterday and we have to defend for the remainder of the match, I'd take it. We need three points more than we do a signature performance.

With Chelsea losing on Saturday at Aston Villa and having two influential players sent off who will miss the game (Willian and Ramires), the gap is down to four points and we have a game in hand. We're back in the title race, momentum has swung our way again and we cannot be ruled out as contenders.

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