Before Sunday’s trip to South Wales to face Cardiff City, Arsenal had claimed just two away wins all year long. Indeed, their form on the road has been abysmal, contributing in no small part to the downfall of Arsene Wenger in the second half of last season. It’s why the 3-2 win over the Bluebirds was so significant.
On the face of it, Arsenal were less than impressive against Neil Warnock’s side, who are without a win since their promotion to the Premier League. Cardiff City should have been swept aside, but twice Arsenal allowed them back into the game, with Alexandre Lacazette‘s late winner giving them three points.
It was far from the perfect display by the Gunners. They looked vulnerable at the back, not for the first time this season, and allowed Cardiff to control the game in the centre of the pitch for spells. But the mere fact that they were able to win a game away from home represented a form of progress for Arsenal.
“It is good to get rid of that mental barrier, it’s important to win away,” Lacazette said after the victory. “Like when we started the game like, [we thought] ‘Okay we can play like we do at home.’ I think we won just two games in 2018 away from home. This season we want to be better away and it was the first game we have won. I hope that it will the first of many.”
There are still questions over the start Unai Emery has made as Arsenal manager, but much of his job is about overhauling the culture of failure that festered at the Emirates Stadium over the second half of Wenger’s reign. Part of that culture includes an inferiority complex on the road. The only way to eradicate that is to pick up away wins, like the one earned against Cardiff.
“You can see we had the right mentality,” Lacazette added, underlining the difference in mentality at Arsenal between last season and this. “Last season we lost this kind of game. But if you see the faces after the second goal we had confidence and that was why we came back.”
He’s right. Arsenal probably would have folded last season. Having been pegged back twice, they would have struggled to a point or worse, would have conceded a third. There are concerns over the way the Gunners are playing out from the back, particularly over the suitability of Petr Cech, and the way they are struggling for creativity behind the central strikers.
But Emery has a tough job on his hands to untangle all the years of mediocrity that have dragged Arsenal down over the years. This is why Sunday’s win over Cardiff City came with a hidden significance. It could prove to be a watershed.
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