Arsenal star Per Mertesacker has revealed that the team held a series of meeting after their devastating 2-0 loss to Southampton, in a bid to get things back on track for the remainder of the season.
As relayed by the Daily Express the German World Cup winner described how the loss at St. Mary’s may have acted as a wake up call to those within the Gunners camp still facing up to how much effort is required to thrive in the Premier League, and could continue to be a catalyst for the rest of the campaign.
Major setback and crisis meeting
"At Southampton, that was a major setback," he said.
"It was a bad start of the year. Maybe sometimes you need a wake-up call in certain times to realise what was really important.
"We had lots of meetings, especially on what we needed to focus on, and what was really the important things.
"Sometimes you can discuss a lot and you do not find any solutions, you have to find them on the pitch. You can talk so long, but you won't get the benefit."
The blame game
In the ill-fated game against Southampton Arsenal’s defence received a particular hammering from critics. Wojciech Szczesny’s performance - after which he was supposedly caught smoking in the showers - led to numerous calls for him to be dropped from first-team duties, before the Pole’s father went on the offensive to lay a portion of the blame on Mertesacker for being too slow.
The 30-year-old himself, who retired from international football last summer in an effort to prolong his club career, has insisted that immediate work began to set about rectifying the problems.
Strengthening the defence
"We had talked constantly about how to find our best way. But you have to show it on the pitch, otherwise everybody will doubt you if they cannot see any benefit," Mertesacker continued.
"We worked a lot on our defensive shape, not just the back four, to avoid those dangerous free balls against us."
Since the match on New Year’s Day Arsenal have gone on a five game winning streak in all competitions, including an impressive victory over title contenders Manchester City and a 5-0 thumping of Aston Villa.
With the likes of Theo Walcott and Mesut Ozil coming back into the fold, accompanied by the resurgence of former loanee Francis Coquelin, the squad is beginning to take on a formidable shape, and Arsene Wenger’s transfer business will have only strengthened its resolve.
Though many expected the addition of a new defensive midfielder during the January window, Coquelin’s form so far since his failed loan spell at Charlton Athletic has forgone that necessity.
Instead Gabriel Paulista was bought in from La Liga to help strengthen the back-line, and he’ll provide Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny with an established understudy for when either man isn’t available.
Szczesny meanwhile appears to have lost his place to World Cup star David Ospina, who has been given the nod for a consecutive run of games for the first time since arriving at the Emirates Stadium last summer.