'Serene' Arsenal have the true quality of champions with the ability to win games ugly

The Gunners were frustrated by Fulham on Saturday before finally coming through 2-0

Rene Meulensteen may be embroiled in a relegation battle this season, but the Fulham manager spent the last six seasons contesting the title as a key member of Manchester United’s coaching staff. He is thus well equipped to assess the value of Arsenal’s humdrum 2-0 victory over his team at the Emirates on Saturday.

“What’s the secret? Keep winning games ugly if you have to,” he said. “Those 1-0 wins where you do not play so well, those are the points that matter in the end.”

Arsenal won their last two matches 2-0 and (at Villa Park last week) 2-1, but they merit Meulensteen’s “ugly” status. This was a frequently laboured performance by the Premier League leaders.

They were rescued by Santi Cazorla, who capped a lively display with two goals in five minutes. “This season we’re much more consistent, much more solid, especially when we’re on top of a game,” said the Spaniard. “That’s something that has changed from last season. We’re much better at closing out games.”

Arsène Wenger agreed. “We have improved on that front,” he said. “The consistency of the results of the team since January 2013 has strengthened that maturity and the fact that we are defensively more stable gives us more of a serene attitude. That helps a lot.”


Defensive stability is also what Meulensteen is searching for. A reshaped back four, with Dan Burn recalled from Birmingham City to make his Fulham debut three years after joining from Darlington, kept a clean sheet in the FA Cup in midweek and so was retained. Another shut-out was beyond them but at least Fulham did not fold. They have conceded 48 goals and have a minus-26 goal difference, both the worst in the division.

“We focus on making sure that we are defensively more solid, because we strongly believe that if we get more clean sheets that will  eventually keep us up,” said Meulensteen. “We have enough quality to win other games and to create chances to score. We are starting to look more solid.”

The irony is that Meulensteen is known as an attack-minded coach. So is Wenger but he too is increasingly concerned with defending. He believes if his team keep a clean sheet they will win because they are sure to score.  Much of the credit goes to the defensive axis of Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker, but defending is a team responsibility and that finally seems to have been drummed in at Arsenal. Wenger added: “Our defensive stability shows the solidarity in our squad because everyone helps out and works for each other.”

Nevertheless, it is a forward Wenger seeks this transfer window, cover for Olivier Giroud, who looked jaded. Though Nicklas Bendtner and Yaya Sanogo are both nearing fitness, Wenger is thought to be pursuing the loan signing of the Montenegrin Mirko Vucinic from Juventus, with Schalke’s Julian Draxler another option. “We are open to strengthening our squad if it’s possible, ideally another striker,” he admitted.

Read more:

Transfer news: Arsene Wenger coy on deal to bring in Juventus striker Mirko Vucinic on loan to Arsenal - reports  

Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
Life and Style
food + drink
John Profumo and his wife Valerie Robson in 1959
voicesWard committed no crime, and the truth is still being covered up, writes Geoffrey Robertson QC
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
news... you won't believe how bad their skills were

Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright and Mark Wright
tvStrictly goes head-to-head with Apprentice
footballPremier League preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's clashes
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas