Every cloud has a silver lining, so they say, and for Arsenal fans it was their silver fox, Arsène Wenger, who provided it. Reminiscent of a playground brawl, the, no-nonsense, 'get the fuck out of my way' push on a seemingly terrified Mourinho at least softened the blow of Arsenal's 2-0 defeat to rivals Chelsea.
This less than characteristic shove showed that the Frenchman and his team weren't about to roll over a la March 2014. The tone was set and thus it was; Arsenal had fire in their belly and weren't going down without a fight. This more steely performance forced Chelsea to be more patient and cautious in their approach, and despite eventually losing the game, Arsenal made a match of it. This point can't be understated, especially considering their atrocious form away from home against those around them last season and, in my view, the Arsenal team should be commended for it.
By standing their ground, Arsenal gave themselves a platform upon which to build, but build they did not. Even though for a period of the game one would be forgiven for saying Arsenal deserved at least a point, a concerning lack of penetration led to frustration, stagnation and ultimately being picked off by an efficient and clinical Chelsea side. Chelsea seemed to have the edge because they have a system that they have adjusted to and are thus comfortable with, meaning that their players played with a more flowing freedom than Arsenal’s.
There is no doubt that, at this moment in time, Chelsea are the superior force in the Premier League and their near-perfect record demonstrates as much. But what really sets Chelsea apart is their power and aggressiveness, for without it, their attacking flare simply wouldn't be enough in what is widely regarded the most physical of Europe's top 5 leagues. Although it is clichéd to say that you've got to give as good as you get, in the Premier League, you kind of do. And up until now, in recent years that is, we have rarely seen an Arsenal side that is combative and physically dominating.
In fact, it's not even specifically the size of players that matters, but the approach and attitude they have. For instance, Oscar has a slight frame and the face of a fourteen year old, but was being physical enough to break up play and disrupt Arsenal's flow. We, as Arsenal fans, may have not liked it, but it worked. Another example is Alexis with his tenacious style and relentless chasing. Even for Flamini, despite not being consistently reliable, it’s about a mentality and willingness, not physical domination.
However, as aforementioned, Arsenal did look more aggressive and did look like less of a pushover than perhaps they have looked away from home in recent seasons. It is important that this is picked up on by both the manager and the players and brought forward into future fixtures. If Arsenal can assert themselves in a similar way in games to come against lesser opposition, there is potential for domination and dictation which, as I'm sure many will agree, really should be the case if a team wants to be viewed as one of the best and primarily feared.
I love Arsenal's determination to play the way they want to and it should be admirable in the modern game, but the main reason that it isn't at the moment, is because it isn't forced upon the opposition with a certain arrogance synonymous with Champions. The change in system and lack of certain personnel has a big part to play in a less assured approach to games thus far this season, but once it clicks, players return and Arsenal say "we're here to bloody play", it just might be a formula for success. Until then, repeatedly watching footage of Wenger pushing Mourinho may be the closest Arsenal fans come to enjoying toppling the likes of Chelsea.