Once again, Arsenal have triumphed 1-0 away from home in what was described by many as a difficult fixture. Winning at Watford in their Hornets’ nest is one thing, but beating Napoli in their own backyard adds to the belief that the Gunners have finally found defensive solidity.
It wouldn’t be Arsenal, though, if there weren’t some hairy moments, but it’s good see Leno and Cech both recording clean sheets. You’d have to say that they have been reasonably well protected by what’s in front of them, strange as that may sound to those that have been following Arsenal’s defensive trials and tribulations for some time.
Most impressively at Watford, coach Unai Emery even managed to get a clean sheet out of a side that contained the talented, but relatively untried youngster Mavropanos. With mistake-prone Mustafi filling in at right back and out-of-form Monreal on the left, it was left to a still ring-rusty Koscielny to hold the back four together.
Indeed, it was the ring-rusty one who was one of the common denominators in the two 1-0 wins, as like Monreal he started both games. This can be no coincidence, as the Kos-Lettuce Captain has matured into arguably the best defender at the club. Until his return from injury, there was a distinct lack of ‘shut-outs’, but that seems to be changing now.
It will have to, as Valencia await Arsenal in the semi-finals of the Europa League and they are formidable at home. They’ve only lost twice at the Mestalla and one of those defeats was to the Ronaldo-inspired Juventus.
Meanwhile, in the league, Arsenal have to visit Wolves and Leicester before ending the season at Burnley, which is not a place for the faint-hearted. The Gunners have such a miserable record in the north-west of England that they may need to have ensured a top-four spot before embarking on that trip in hope rather than expectation.
Wolves away is also a daunting prospect, as they have beaten Man Utd twice at Molineaux recently while, on paper at least, Leicester looks the easiest trip, although the Foxes did win three consecutive home games before their recent reverse against Newcastle.
Perhaps much of Arsenal’s success this season will depend on Koscielny. Should the veteran defender be available for selection for all the remaining games, who can bet against a top-four finish and European trophy in the cabinet come the end of the campaign?