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