By Rob Kelly
“I believe when you have a squad where everyone is committed and focused, you have a chance. To have a successful season, that is absolutely vital and these are good signs.” - Arsene Wenger
What a difference a north London derby victory makes.
After two successive defeats, the Gunners went into Wednesday night’s game at White Hart Lane under the microscope. Could they respond or would they wilt under the pressure?
Two sublime swings of Mathieu Flamini’s boots - one left, one right - and Arsenal had inflicted another painful defeat on their local rivals. Not only that, confidence was restored ahead of this weekend’s trip to King Power Stadium to take on Leicester City - the Premier League’s only unbeaten side.
In terms of timing, it could barely have been better.
“I would say the most pleasing thing [against Tottenham] was our complete commitment, the workrate of the team and the mental resources we showed when we were back to 1-1 to find the second goal,” Arsene Wenger told Arsenal Player.
“As well, the players who have not played recently, like Flamini, came in with a fantastic spirit. That is very pleasing. When you have a squad where everyone is committed and focused, you have a chance. To have a successful season, that is absolutely vital and these are good signs.
|Leicester: Dyer (knee), James (knee)Arsenal: Coquelin (knee), Wilshere (ankle), Welbeck (knee), Rosicky (knee), Gabriel (suspended)|
“We came out of a disappointing afternoon at Chelsea and then it was down to how well we would respond. Now we go into Leicester in a good frame of mind.
“We know Leicester are the surprising team of the start of the season. They play in a convincing way with good pace and with players who can make a difference like Mahrez and Vardy. Overall they have strengthened their squad in a very positive way.
“Leicester show well what the Premier League is about now. They made 10 changes on Tuesday night against West Ham, and West Ham only made three. West Ham had also just won at Man City and, with 10 changes, Leicester beat West Ham at home.
“It shows that these teams now have squads that are unbelievably strong. It is not the Leicester you would visit four or five years ago, it is the Leicester who has the quality.”
ONE TO WATCH
One man has dominated the Arsenal news agenda since Wednesday night’s win at White Hart Lane: Mathieu Flamini.
The French midfielder has had to be patient in his desire for first-team football over the past nine months due to the emergence of Francis Coquelin, but when his chance came in the derby, he took it with both hands.
Perhaps we should not have been so surprised by Flamini’s winner - he scored an equally stunning goal against Newcastle in January 2008 - and Wenger is delighted for a man he has signed twice.
“He is a team man and he is frustrated as well because he did not get the games,” he said. “He is a good example of a guy who is frustrated but brings it out in a positive way. You can feel sorry for yourself or show that you are a fighter and he has shown the second aspect, that of real winners.
“He is quite a good finisher but as well he plays in a zone where you do not get too close to goal, so you cannot show it too much. I also liked his first goal [at Tottenham] because you need to smell where to be, and he finished well because he lifted the ball. The second goal is a purists’ goal because it is a volley and you have to take it well.”
If Flamini had his moment in the spotlight in midweek, Riyad Mahrez has had it trained on him all season.
The Algeria international epitomises Claudio Ranieri’s new-look Leicester - pacy, hard-working and with a keen eye for goal.
|Arsenal have only failed to score once in the 18 Premier League meetings with LeicesterThe Foxes haven't beaten Arsenal since their debut season in the Premier League in 1994/95 (W1 D6 L11)Santi Cazorla has created the most goalscoring chances (23) and completed the most passes (471) in the Premier League this season|
Mahrez is known for his ability to tie defenders in knots, cutting inside and out at will, and he has had a hand in eight goals (five goals, three assists) already this term - more than any other player.
Wenger is well aware of the danger the 24-year-old poses, and accepts that his side will have to mark him very closely at King Power Stadium.
“Mahrez has moved up again,” he said. “He was already showing what a great player he will be in patches last season. This year, from the start onwards, he has moved up another level.
“He’s a guy who is creative, who can score, who can provide, so he has the assets to be one of the revelations of the season.”
FROM THE ARCHIVES
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