Arsenal are beginning to awake from their sleepy start. After the much-talked about 8-2 embarrassment at Old Trafford, the Gunners fought hard to gain two good results. Arsene Wenger has been forced to reconstruct the team.
No club would be ashamed with a draw in front of the “Yellow Wall.” Arsenal, like the two Manchester sides, took a point from their first Champions League group stage match. The Gunners survived an attacking onslaught from the German champions Borussia Dortmund.
On Wednesday, I saw headlines such as “Arsenal Let Lead Slip.” While that is technically true, a more accurate title would say “Arsenal Held on for Dear Life.” Dortmund’s finishing was dreadful, and they easily could have scored three or four goals. Luck, something the Gunners have not had a lot of lately, played a big role in the game.
After the international break, Arsenal seized a chance to get their first win of the Premier League season against Swansea City at home. The victory was narrow (1-0), but it did provide an opportunity for Per Mertesacker and Mikel Arteta to make their debuts.
Mikel Arteta has blended in with his teammates well. He has not been exceptional, but he is certainly an improvement over Tomas Rosicky. Per Mertesacker, while undoubtedly slow, has the sort of positional sense that Johan Djourou lacks. The German defender should, at the very least, help the Gunners on set pieces.
Arsene Wenger has been tasked with rebuilding this Arsenal squad. For the moment, they are not playing pretty football. Wenger has been forced to forgo his system in the name of results. Based on his fist pump after the Dortmund-dominated 1-1 draw, Wenger is not fretting over the lack of possession and shots.
Arsenal have a chance to race up the table to a more accustomed position. Their next two Premier League opponents (Blackburn and Bolton) have a combined four points. Blackburn fans are quickly turning on Steve Kean, while Bolton are coming off three straight defeats. The real challenge for Wenger will be keeping Arsenal in the top four while he rebuilds the team.