The Gunners have plenty of cause for celebration as we head into the festive period – the arrival of Mesut Ozil, the form of Aaron Ramsey and the team spirit that sees them four points clear of the chasing pack.
Perhaps more cause for celebration is the team’s defensive displays – the Gunners have not conceded a goal in 470 minutes of Premier League football and have recorded 5 clean sheets from their 13 games averaging just 0.7 goals conceded per game, their 10 goals conceded in total lower than any other team in the league (level with Southampton).
Their back four (five with goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny) have been superb but it’s also the work of their midfield to diffuse potential danger that has been key to their solidity and stability at the back. Mathieu Flamini is well known for his no-nonsense approach to the art of defending but the subtle art of tackling is something not often associated with Arsenal and especially not with the Arsenal midfield.
Mikel Arteta and Aaron Ramsey are the living proof that this perception of fragility in the Gunners’ midfield is myth – the previous notion concocted many seasons ago that Arsenal ‘don’t like it up ‘em’ (in the words of the current West Ham boss Sam Allardyce) has been a point of contention and something of a received wisdom in the Premier League.
Their intricate passing style, their delicate players, slight and petit players have stood front of stage whilst their supporting cast blending into the scenery unnoticed. Arteta and Ramsey are not big but they are very very clever – they anticipate danger so well and their tackling is as key a component to Arsenal’s current position in the league as their goals, their passing, and their attacking play.
The are artists of tackling – so much so that their challenges have not even caught the remotest of interest or attention of pundits, opposition managers and, most importantly, of referees for the most part.
In fact, as things stand, Ramsey has made 58 tackles in total this term and Arteta 33 – to put that in context, the context it deserves, that is more tackles than the entire Tottenham defence combined. Spurs’ 7 defenders have made a total of 89 tackles (Danny Rose 10, Vlad Chiriches 11, Younes Kaboul 2, Kyle Naughton 3, Michael Dawson 14, Jan Vertonghen 22 and Kyle Walker 27). Ramsey and Arteta have made 91 in total and that’s not even particularly their main jurisdiction.