Commentary

Wenger's now prepared to play a bit ugly to win matches

Let us get one thing straight: I believe you can learn a good deal from a friendly fixture and that the outcome of a match such as the Community Shield matters.

So when I say Arsenal's performance proves to me that Arsene Wenger is capable of orchestrating a real title challenge, I will not accept any caveats such as Chelsea were tired or not quite up to speed.

Many commentators argue that Wenger cannot change, that he has become defined by his purist football philosophy, but I think he is capable of adapting, of even performing the odd U-turn.

The match reminded me of how Arsenal ceded possession against Manchester City last season. It was a pragmatic performance.

Chelsea were undone by a team prepared to let them have the ball while being threatening on the counter-attack - the west London club must have felt that they were looking in a mirror.

The title will come down, I believe, to a straight fight between these clubs, and this was a warning shot from Wenger that he knows what he has to do to undermine Chelsea.

The title will come down, I believe, to a straight fight between these clubs, and this was a warning shot from Wenger that he knows what he has to do to undermine Chelsea.

He will not quite manage it unless he strengthens his defence with at least one big signing but he does have the mindset now to win a little bit ugly. He is changing, trust me.

And, perhaps, because Arsenal have so much flair, he knows that his version of winning ugly will not be all that unattractive anyway.

I suspect Wenger is ready to spring a few surprises and to be tough enough to take points off Chelsea, off Manchester United, off Manchester City.

No one gives him credit for being a clever tactician but this season he will use his intelligence to make an assault on the league.

When I played at Nancy, it was clear that his legacy included a tactical approach to the team.

The lowest point for Wenger last season was the defeat by Monaco in the Champions League but sometimes you have to be hit hard to make changes.

As for Chelsea, the game showed just how crucial it is that Diego Costa is fit.

Without him, the team lack bite.

Loic Remy again showed why it is better to use him off the bench. When he starts, you see too many wasted runs.

Radamel Falcao might be a great addition but also he does not intimidate defenders in the same manner as Costa.

Wenger waited more than 11 years to outwit Jose Mourinho.

Does anyone really think that he will abandon that sense of satisfaction?

stsports@sph.com.sg

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 04, 2015, with the headline 'Wenger's now prepared to play a bit ugly to win matches'. Print Edition | Subscribe