By Richard Clarke
For Gael Clichy, the win over Sparta Prague on Wednesday night was the perfect illustration of the change that has taken place at Arsenal over the summer.
In the first half Arsène Wenger's side were well below par, had three key players booked and were losing the physical battle to the powerful Czech outfit. However after the break the visitors took control. Clichy's mazy dribble set up the first goal for Cesc Fabregas 18 minutes from time then Alex Hleb rolled in a second with the final kick of the game. The record books will show a regulation win for Arsenal but the French full back knows this game was in the balance most of the evening and it took real strength - mental and physical - to come away with a victory.
"We knew that in terms of quality we were better than them," he said. "But we know they have some weapons as well. They are strong and they try to impress people.
"Everybody thinks that this is the way to play against Arsenal but this year we are ready to show that we are not the same side as before. We are waiting for the challenge and we are waiting for the teams to come. Every weekend we play against a side like this in England. This season we believe we have the football quality and the physical quality.
"We are ready and we are going to show we are not the same
team as before."
Like Fulham on Sunday, Arsenal relied on late goals to win the game. Clichy believes that is another example of the burgeoning maturity.
"It shows we don't give up until the end," said Clichy. "For years it was the other way, we gave up a bit too quick and we were not focussed until the end. This is a different team with a different spirit. We have done it from the first game against Barnet and now we are going to do it week in, week out."Copyright 2014 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 16 Aug 2007