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THE TWIST AND TURNS OF THE 186TH NORTH LONDON DERBY: ARSENAL’S REVIVAL, SPURS UNDOING

Hands up, beautiful people, if like me you thought Arsenal would lose this game!

I mean we were 2-0 down as we neared the end of the first half. I know this is football, and anything can happen, but, remember this is Arsenal, and overturning a lead of two or more goals in just one half has not always been our strong suit.

What I am trying to say is that we are not wonder-kids like the Manchester United of old, who would go down in the first half by multiple goals, but come back blazing in the second half, overturn the goal difference and actually win the game.

The game ended in a draw much to our relief. But, was it because of our fighting spirit or did Tottenham, out of hubris, fail to do enough to cling to their lead?

I think it was a mix of both, plus a little bit of luck for the Gunners.

Tottenham was initially out to win this game. They looked in-form, focused, and driven to get the maximum points, hence the two goals they were able to produce in the first half of their match against the Gunners.

Their display in the first half did not have a semblance of the broken spirit that has marked Spurs’ rocky start to the season.

Before last week’s London derby, they had only managed one win this season against Aston Villa, a draw against Manchester City, and a shocking loss to Newcastle. They were not looking like the title contenders that they normally look at this stage of the season.

Even their coach was not looking too happy during the first three games, to a point people were now comparing him to the ever-grumpy Mourinho when he was at the helm of Manchester United.

But, that all seemed to change in the first half of that Arsenal game.

  • There was pace and urgency on the counter

The Spurs’ counter was lethal in that first half in terms of pace, passing, and making shots on target.

Their very first counter-attack of the first half came in the 10th minute, and it resulted in a goal by Ericksen.

The pressure did not stop there as Leno had to produce two fine saves shortly after, from both Eriksen and Son, as Spurs continued to run riot on the counter.

  • Their connections were better

One major complaint against Spurs by their manager after that disastrous 1-0 loss to Newcastle was that his players were not connecting right, which means fewer chances were being created.

In their next match, in the first half at least, they sought to improve that. For instance, the build-up saw an excellent pass from Son to Lamela as the counter gained momentum. Lamela shot towards goal with just the right amount of power to have Leno spill the ball, right into the path of the menacing Christensen. All the latter had to do was simply tap the ball in, and voila, an early lead for the visitors.

Numerous well-executed connections followed after that, but, none as successful as that first one.

  • Their defense was awake

In that first half, Danny Rose was looking impossible to get past. Just ask Pepe, who try as he could, was not able to get anything past him.

This was definitely a more alert Rose than his display against Newcastle in the previous match.

Yes, I know he did get a yellow card, but it was all in the line of duty!

  • They took advantage of the opponent’s blunders

When our team blundered, Spurs milked it for all its worth. That first goal was a poor display of what is supposed to be ‘premier defending’ by our backline, and I am sure Leno could have done much more from keeping that ball from going in.

Leno would have also been caught off-guard in the 36th’ yet again when he let the save from Kane‘s 25yard shot spill back into Son’s path. Terrible, terrible, just terrible! The same mistake that led to the first goal.

The second for Spurs was as a result of Xhaka’s outrageous challenge on Son within the penalty area. When will Xhaka learn? When?

 

Lucky for us, Lacazette and Pepe were working their behinds off at the other end of the pitch. These two engineered our comeback into the game with Lacazette taking Pepe’s pass, creatively flooring Vertonghen, and shooting one past Lloris.

We definitely didn’t see that coming.

From that goal, into the second half, a new, inspired, rejuvenated Arsenal emerged. Here’s what we did right, and the Spurs did wrong in that second half:

  • We pushed hard, and Tottenham let us do it

From the very start of the second half, we pushed…hard! One minute into the second half, and Laca was already threatening goal after latching onto a cross from Maitland-Niles.

Lloris did well to save that one, but two minutes later, he gave Aubamayeng a clear chance to score, were it not for a last-ditch effort of a challenge on our last season’s top scorer by one of the Spurs’ defenders.

The action did not stop there as we saw Lacazette, Guendouzi, Kolasinac, and Aubameyeng, relentlessly picking up the ball, and shooting it towards goal. Lloris was having an incredibly tough time trying to keep it together under all of this pressure.

Tottenham’s attempt at playing from the back was going horrendously wrong, and this had to be the liveliest of performances I have seen from our attack this season.

We were all over Tottenham in that second half, and one could barely breathe with all of the activity going on in the Spurs half for those 45+ minutes.

  • Leno was more alert

Finally, this man’s head was in the game. But, yes, he had a little help from the post as one of Kane’s attempt in the 59th was bound to be a goal, and there would be nothing our goalkeeper could do about it.

  • Guendouzi was brilliant

Enough said! This young maestro is the glue that holds our midfield together. I wish Xhaka could learn a thing or two from this youngster. His game was so good last Saturday that he has been called up to the France national squad in preparation for the Euro 2020.

  • Our passing at the front was glorious

…leaving Tottenham’s defense completely outclassed.

Guendouzi’s magnificent cross into the box in the 70th minute, leaves defenders scrambling, and Aubamayeng is right there to deliver an inspired poke into the opponent’s net.

Kolasinac, Sokratis, Auba, Mikhi, and Pepe were going ham at the opponent’s defense, out-maneuvering them with impressive passes, crosses, and shots towards goal.

 

So exciting! What an exhilarating half! What a time to be a living, breathing, Arsenal fan.

But, as usual, we did make a few mistakes in that second half as well.

  • Xhaka is a problem child

That yellow he received in the dying minutes of the game just continues to prove how much of a burden this midfielder is shaping up to be.

Yes, his indiscipline on the pitch is giving Arsenal issues.

Yes, Guendouzi is a much better midfielder.

Yes, it is in our freaking best interest to sell him even to the lowest bidder.

I foresee him costing us dearly this season, just like the last one. Let’s just hope Emery gives him less playing time for the sake of our collective sanity.

  • Sokratis loses his head under pressure

Sokratis does not work well under intense pressure, and his challenge against Winks and Kane in the late minutes of the game would have undone all of the work that Laca, Pepe, Guendouzi, Kolasinac, Auba, and Leno had done to keep us in this game.

In future games, I would prefer him to be subbed the minute the game goes into high tempo, otherwise, we are looking at laughable defeats over the next few months.

 

It’s Arsenal vs Watford next Sunday, while Tottenham is up against Crystal Palace. Let’s just wait and see who gets to drop points next week.

Tigoi na wega!

 

The 186th North London Derby_ Arsenal's Revival; Spurs Undoing

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bonus:

 

Here’s a video I made on Mourinho’s grumpiness last season:

 

 

ARSENAL VS LIVERPOOL: KEY PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR

24/08/2019.

The 24th of August 2019.

This is the day that Arsenal will play its third Premier League match of the 2019/2020 season.

Our first two matches were against formidable teams, but somehow we managed to pull through, and win both.

Our next match will be the toughest one yet as we will be playing against Liverpool.

The same Liverpool that just recently won the Super Cup by beating Chelsea on penalties.

The same Liverpool that managed to win the Champions League last season by beating Tottenham 2 goals to nil. The Liverpool that completely THRASHED the one and only Barcelona 4 goals to zero in the second leg of their semi-final Champions League match.

Remember, this is the Liverpool that also beat Porto 6-1 on aggregate in the quarter-finals of the CL, and before that, they had done away with Bayern Munich by putting three in the net against Bayern’s solitary goal.

This is also the Liverpool that hammered us 5 goals to 1 last December.

Yes, 29th December 2018, a date that I as an Arsenal fan will never forget. It took me months to get over that humiliation.

So, yeah, Arsenal is going up against that Liverpool.

Is there any hope? Will this be our first loss this season?

We’ll just have to wait for this Saturday to see what happens. (Best case scenario, the game ends in a draw; most likely scenario- we lose; most unlikely scenario, Liverpool lose).

But, before that, there is absolutely no harm in looking at the key players from both sides who can have a major effect on how that game turns out.

We’ll start from the back.

  • Bernd Leno- Arsenal

Here’s a little stat for all of us Arsenal fans to sweat over- we’ve conceded at least three goals in our last four trips to Anfield.

Can Leno change the tide?

Will he be able to stop the Salah, Mane, Firmino, etc goals from coming in despite the blunders our defense might make?

Can he communicate effectively enough with our defense to ensure that none of those blunders occur?

  • Sokratis Papastothoupoulous- Arsenal

He’s mainly on this list because he let the world know that he thinks our upcoming match against Liverpool will be easier than our match with Burnley, defensively speaking.

That’s a shocking statement when you consider that Burnley ended up at position 15 last season, while Liverpool was second.

Let us not forget Liverpool’s dangerous attacking trio of Salah, Mane, and Firmino. Will his new-found partnership with David Luiz be able to contend with the pace, creativity, skill, and goal-scoring prowess of these three Liverpool greats?

Another constant threat he will have to contend with, Trent Alexander Arnold. This Liverpool right-back is a formidable ball crosser, and he can run a riot on our defense if Sokratis and Luiz don’t keep a lid on him.

And then, this is Sokratis. He’s bound to make a mistake, but at least not as unforgivable as Mustafi’s. Will his mistake today cost us this crucial game?

I have my doubts, but, we’ll just have to wait and see…

  • David Luiz

As I mentioned in my earlier post, we really need this man, ESPECIALLY today!

He’ll be the one to offer some leadership at the back, and possibly clean up Sokratis mistakes, plus offer support to Niles, Monreal, and Chambers.

Good luck!

  • Virgil van Dijk-Liverpool

I’ll admit it; this guy is hot! But, his team is playing against mine today, so my gonads will have to take a back seat this team.

He is a potent defensive threat with the ability to create and score goals as well.

He was a Ballon D’or nominee in the last Champions League season, so yes, he is definitely someone we should be wary of going into the game.

Let us see if Ceballos, Aubamayeng, and Lacazette can manage to pull the wool over this guy at least once during the game.

  • Trent Alexander Arnold- Liverpool

What more can be written about this young right back’s impeccable crossing ability, speed, agility, and work rate?

His ability to cause trouble along the right flank regardless of the defense muscle he meets means the likes of Niles, and our entire backline is going to have their work truly cut out for them.

He had 13 assists last season, and I’m sure he is fully intending to replicate and surpass that record this season as well.

  • Fabinho and Georginio – Liverpool

The more I write about this topic, the more I realize how difficult it is going to be.

Fabinho and Georginio are a wonder pair in central midfield, and it’s going to be an uphill task launching a counter-attack for Arsenal when these two are on the pitch.

Somebody, please #prayforarsenal

Oh yeah, and our former player, Oxlade-Chamberlain could be playing today as well in midfield. That’s another reason to be worried, especially if he plans on playing his heart out just to prove a point…

  • Granit Xhaka- Arsenal

Another reason why somebody has to please #prayforarsenal!

Torreria is still not match-ready, so we are stuck with Xhaka. He’s really useful when it comes to aerial defending of set pieces.

BUT…

…he has this uncanny ability to get dispossessed in midfield, and causing fouls when he’s trying to win back the ball.

One mistake from Xhaka today, and our midfield collapses, our defense scrambles, and before you know it, a goal!

Pray for us, people, pray for us!

  • Matteo Guendouzi- Arsenal

I love his hair! And, he’s definitely a bright spot in our midfield.

I hope his pace can help create chances for the strikers, and cause problems for Liverpool’s backline.

He’s going to come a lot in handy when it comes to our quick counter-attacks.

  • Dani Ceballos- Arsenal

He has been all the rage since his full debut for Arsenal against Burnley. He has all of the qualities we have been missing in our midfield since Cazorla left.

Let’s just hope that he brings his A-game today, otherwise we are truly doomed.

He has the potential of giving our forwards all the crucial passes that can lead to goals. He also can help with the defensive duties that might prove overwhelming to our still struggling backline.

He is one of our main hopes for avoiding a major embarrassment against Liverpool, and I hope he can truly rise to the occasion.

  • Lacazette and Aubamayeng- Arsenal

So far, our strikers have been an incredible duo.

However, they are going to have to dig really deep in order to penetrate Liverpool’s defense.

If they can get a goal each in this game, then this season will be much more rewarding for Arsenal.

  • Firmino – Liverpool

You’ll remember this Brazilian forward from our 5-1 near-death experience last December. He scored a bloody hat-trick on that day, and since then, I have been unable to get the image of his pearly white teeth from my mind. He has scored at least 11 goals against us, which is more than his tally against any other club in the English Premier League.

Trouble!

  • Salah- Liverpool

Salah is a force to reckon with all on his own, and our defenders are going to have a hard time stopping him from hammering at least one against us.

He is yet to rediscover his magical scoring touch, let’s just pray his re-awakening does not happen tomorrow.

  • Mane – Liverpool

Another huge threat who does not seem to ever have an off-switch! He has scored the most goals for Liverpool since the year began, and I don’t think he’s planning to take a break from his goal-scoring racket.

Fingers crossed, he has a cold tomorrow or something that stops him from seeing the goal.

And, there you have it. 15 players that I will be keeping a close eye on today because they have the potential of taking this game either way.

This is a big game for us, and it’s going to take each player to give their best in order to contain Liverpool.

Good luck, and God speed, Boys!!!