By Arsenal correspondent Tony Hughes
Per Mertesacker has revealed how Arsenal have adapted their normal attacking gameplan to overcome the top teams.
The Gunners defeated Manchester City 2-1 on Monday night to strengthen their hold on second place in the Premier League and climb within two points of leaders Leicester.
Arsenal have won five and drawn two of their eight games against Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea in 2015.
The notable improvement comes after Arsene Wenger’s team were regarded for years as a soft touch against the strongest sides at home and abroad.
Mertesacker highlighted the Gunners’ 2-0 win at City, when they were content to concede possession and play on the counter-attack, in February as a turning point.
“We are capable of doing different things sometimes and that is what makes it harder for the opponent,” he told the Arsenal website. “That is why we implement it in games sometimes but we are still dangerous on the counter-attack and that makes us a real threat.
“Last season we played at Manchester City and showed a different kind of gameplan. That is what we had in the locker already but this year we are more consistent and it makes us a bit better as a unit.
“Sometimes we need to adjust, we don’t have all the players available at the minute so we [thought] that was the best way to win against City. We need to trust that way as well – it is not only thinking about it, it is also about putting it into practice.”
Theo Walcott revealed on Monday night how impressed he has been by the work rate of assist king Mesut Ozil, which was echoed by his defensive team-mate.
“When I see our players up front working as hard as they did [against City] that makes a difference for us defenders – it makes it much easier to defend our goal,” explained Mertesacker.
“We go game by game and concentrate on having a gameplan and trying to implement it. That has been our strength so far against the big teams and it makes us stronger as a unit.”