There was a time this season when the only way an Arsenal fan would see a clean sheet was by visiting their local laundromat.
We couldn’t defend, our goalkeeper was under constant bombardment, and we allowed so many chances to the opposition that conceding was basically inevitable.
Now, after three games in a row without letting in a goal, we can see that there’s been a real improvement, and boss Mikel Arteta puts it down to ensuring that his players do their defensive work regardless of where they’re playing on the pitch.
As we’ve often said, defending isn’t just for the back four, and the benefits of that were obvious last night as we put ourselves into a good position ahead of next week’s second leg with a 1-0 win over Olympiacos in the Europa League.
Speaking afterwards, Arteta praised the improvement and the commitment of his players to that part of the game.
“I was telling them that they have to enjoy defending as well, it is a big part of the game and like tonight, if you give simple balls away, you better run back and get that ball back as quick as possible,” he said.
“They played with a big heart, I saw a lot of big effort and instead of splitting it joins together really quickly. The wide players before used to have different behaviours, now they are tracking back everybody.
“I think we are doing a lot of work to try to stay as compact as possible in many situations when we don’t have it, and I am pleased with that because it is big part.”
The manager was also pleased with how his team coped with the atmosphere inside the Karaiskakis Stadium where Olympiacos had only lost once this season – a Champions League defeat to Bayern Munich.
“It’s an incredible atmosphere,” he said. “We have a fantastic atmosphere in the UK but this is at least as good or even better than many stadiums.
“It does affect you, yes. When the crowd generates energy, football is about emotion and that transmits to the players. You have to build with that.
“It’s not easy for opponents.”