If Arsène Wenger’s team can shut out
But so far, so good, in the league at least. Three clean sheets reflect some solid displays and have got people wondering whether a corner has been turned.
The fragility and indecision that characterised too many days last season and beyond has been replaced, for now, by some welcome resilience gained by working together on the training ground.
For this, Steve Bould has received a fair amount of credit.
And as much as it will embarrass my old team-mate who always prefers to keep
his head below the parapet,
Good habits once instilled by the methodical George Graham are now being passed on to the present generation, this time with a twist to accommodate the modern game.
And understanding soon comes if you repeatedly practice drills that concentrate on the positioning of each defender in relation to each other and the ball.
So now comes the biggest test yet when the intelligent movement of people like David Silva, Carlos Tévez and Sergio Agüero will expose any weakness in Arsenal’s rearguard, as might the rampaging runs of Yaya Touré.
I would therefore expect the visitors to defend fairly deep to deny space in behind, whilst making sure that the full-backs tuck in to stay in touch with their centre-halves, something that didn’t always happen last season when gaps became too wide.
This is vital against City, a team that tries to pick passes through the middle ground rather than depending on wingers to beat their man.
A big day, then, for Per Mertesacker and Thomas Vermaelen, both of whom will need to be talking constantly to Carl Jenkinson and Kieran Gibbs to make sure nobody switches off when City approach.
The full-backs can certainly get forward, but they will have to pick their moments wisely to avoid getting caught ahead of the ball at the wrong time.
An important player in this respect is the experienced Mikel Arteta, not just for his organising skills but for his ability to plug holes in those defensive areas.
He and Abou Diaby, in fact, have a huge job on their hands to offer the kind of protection the back four has enjoyed so far.
It won’t be easy at all. That much is clear. But early signs indicate Arsenal are heading in the right direction.