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All part of Wenger's masterplan.
31 March  2004

Well we are halfway through this set of four nightmare games and nothing has gone wrong so far.
In fact if anything my nerves have been more than settled.

I really wasn't looking forward to these four games. Both Chelsea and Man Utd are the only teams in The Premiership who could do any damage to us, and they haven't.
Our first leg CL game against Chelsea saw them test us for only 10 minutes after they scored, but yet again as soon as we got the goal back, their heads dropped and they were finished for that game. They really must be just totally out of ideas as to how to get anything from us now. Of course it does only take them the one time to do it and we are out of the CL, but after worrying about this tie, I am confident we will not slip up at home. Arsenal will in no way go for the 0-0 that will see them through, we all know we can't play that game anymore. Chelsea will score but we will win the game and the tie and go through to meet a team I am sure we have all be dying to play while we have been playing like this. Real Madrid.

But after the game against Chelsea, it was pointed out by many that Arsenal didn't look their usual self. Some players were off form and we didn't threaten as much as we usually do.

The game against man Utd on Sunday was a real Premeirship titanic battle against the two best teams in the league. Man Utd didn't look anything like the team they used to be. I know that has been put down to the team selection of Fergie and not exactly playing the strongest XI he could. But there was a time when no matter what team Fergie put out, they looked like Man Utd. Much like Wenger can do now with his Arsenal team. It doesn't matter who fills in for who, the team never really suffer.
Arsenal dominated the game simply with the power we had over them in midfield. But like in the Chelsea game we didn't create the usual amount of chances we usually do. Man Utd did threaten at the end of the game and started to look like their usual self, but other than that, they didn't bother us.
But we still didn't play to our highest standard.

And I think we have seen this all before.

Arsenal seem to have got back into a habit that has served them well in the past round about this time of the season. Especially in the double winning seasons.

In recent games Arsenal have been easing off. Not coming out of 2nd gear. Yet it's always been enough to get us through. 30 games unbeaten tells it's own story. And one Sky didn't really want to talk about after the Man Utd game. 30 minutes talking about Man Utd after Arsenal had just set a record I doubt will ever go was a sham, but typical Sky Sports.
But Arsenal have gone back into a trend that I think is the only way to get them through this last set of fixtures. They know they are the best, they know that they are that far in front of everyone else that they only have to play within themselves to get a result they need. But at the same time they know that playing that game can leave them with nothing. This train of thought I think is very much keeping their eye on the ball and allowing the players to do enough in each game without blowing themselves out before the end of the season.
They didn't hammer on Chelsea's door the other week, but as soon as they needed a goal they just simply went and got it.
In recent games we have gone 2-0 up and then eased off. Many have said that it has nearly cost us points and let the opposition back into the game, but we have shown we know when we can do it without the danger of slipping up. And of course there is still fresh in the minds the slip up of last season.

Man Utd didn't turn up and ask many questions on Sunday and so we were able to dominate the game without having to up the gears. The theroy now is of course that Man Utd's late goal will serve them better in this weekends Semi Final. But I think if anything we will up our game and beat them. I also think we will do it with some rested players.

This easing up and not playing to 100% has to have come from the Manager. It's clear that the whole team know what they are doing when it happens. And you have to say that it's another stroke of genius by Wenger.
It's a tactic that is keeping us above everyone else. The players won't get burnt out as much as most could at this time of the season when you are fighting for everything.
It's the only way to survive at the top in the modern game in England, and Wenger has mastered it.
And it seems to have gone un-noticed. All the better for us.


The Ginge

andyw@theginge.com
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