I told you I hated North London derbies. Yesterday was no exception. Worry before, nerves during, and in the case of yesterday’s result it was disappointment after.
The disappointment isn’t because we completely outplayed a Tottenham team who don’t concede many, but more that we didn’t show our potential in a big game at home to a local rival.
I thought we were poor yesterday. Especially in the second half. Tottenham were on a poor run of form, had been dreadful in midweek, plus had a half-fit striker coming back in. Sure, he got his customary goal against us by virtue of a very soft penalty, but he also won a lot of aerial duels and made life more difficult for our defenders than I thought it should be.
Arsène had named Xhaka in the line up yesterday, which was perhaps the only real surprise, but the Swiss proved just how useful he is and put in a fine display, but we missed Santi alongside him yesterday. The little Spaniard sees things that others don’t and the side just feels a little more complete when he’s slotted in to the midfield. Yesterday felt like a game in which he could have had a really big impact. I thought we looked nervous at times and up against an experimental back three with very wide-playing wing backs, we looked at times a little shaky I thought.
But as the game hit the half hour mark, we seemed to grow in confidence and whilst our goal had a touch of fortune about it, it’s hard to argue that it wasn’t deserved. Before that Theo had hit the post, Özil had dragged a shot wide and Iwobi had missed a glorious chance. He’s struggling at the moment and due to Alexis’ move centrally, we don’t have many options on the wing, which is often the difference in games like these. When there’s nothing between the two teams, when you just need that little bit of extra magic in your side, you want as many world class game-changers as possible and at this moment in time Iwobi isn’t one of those. The guy needs to be taken out of the limelight, because we don’t want to kill his confidence by him running in to the ground, form-wise.
Unfortunately though, there aren’t really any alternatives. The Ox came on and absolutely stunk the place out. He lost possession, he didn’t win any tackles, his final ball distribution was horrible, and when we needed a bit more drive we just didn’t get it from him. I don’t know what his Arsenal future holds, but after yesterday he’s hardly staked a claim to be playing more regularly.
It’s the same for Ramsey though, although he might be afforded the luxury of not being subject to the groans because of recently coming back from injury. But I thought he was poor against Ludogorets and didn’t impact the game at all yesterday. It’s his holding on to the ball too long that frustrates me. That and his constant need to take long range shots. I’d love to see some data on how many shots he takes in a season and how many actually hit the target. Not even how many go in, just hit the target, because I feel like every game he plays in he will have a minimum of one attempt blazed over the bar. I just don’t know how he fits in to our team sometimes. He came on yesterday and for a minute or two I thought his introduction looked to have given us fresh impetus, but after five minutes it was obvious that he was having little impact. Arsène loves him though and always trys to fit him in somewhere, so I wouldn’t be surprised if we don’t see him playing as a left winger again after the international break, unfortunately.
The most concerning thing for me was that second half. We seemed to wilt after they got their goal. I didn’t really see an ‘all guns blazing’ Arsenal team at home. We just seemed content to contain at times. Was the team too fearful of a defeat? Perhaps, but that makes the result all the more frustrating, because I saw spells in the game when Tottenham looked a little ropey too. Yet we couldn’t capitalise.
Let’s take a moment to look at that Spurs team though. Wanyama managed to avoid any kind of booking, which was amazing, but I saw first hand some of the ‘dark arts’ that I’ve seen some mention on social media. The feigning injury, the sly digs, they’re getting good at it, but I didn’t see a team that was t cynically fantastic, just well organised. Which makes yesterday’s result seem much more like two points dropped than one point gained.
We had the chance to stay level on points with the leaders yesterday, but back-to-back home draws have cost us in the league now. We need to sort ourselves out, because next up we’ve got our annual dropping of points away from home to United. So we could find that November has once again been unkind to us.
The good news is that we’ve now got an international break. It means Santi can hopefully get himself back fit for that United game and we can have some of the team ready to rock and roll in a couple of weeks time. A draw isn’t the end of the world, but it also isn’t exactly great, so I guess we just have to try and have as much ‘neutral’ emotions this morning as possible.
The positive is that we’ve still got an unbeaten run going. We’ve lost once all season in all competitions and so hopefully the players can keep their confidence going. We do need to work out how to play against a back three that pushes their wing-backs right up to the chalky white lines on the side of the pitch though. Yesterday we started to look like we could find some pockets of space in the first half, but that was snuffed out in the second, so it’s that second half display that the manager needs to analyse.
The good news for him is that he’s got an international break to do just that. Let’s hope he does.
I’ll catch you lovely people tomorrow.