North London is red with embarrassment, and rightly so.
Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino has clearly seen the tapes. Most teams who press diligently in the middle of the park have had their way with Arsenal’s back line; think back to our loss to Borussia Dortmund, and the draw with Liverpool. Midfielders Nabil Bentaleb, Moussa Dembele, and Ryan Mason knew they were to be nothing more than workhorses; to let the more creative Christian Eriksen and Eric Lamela do the dazzling.
This was a game where I think our structure, more than our execution, was wrong. His performances since returning from injury have been outstanding, but I’m still not convinced that Mesut Ozil should be used in a wide position with any regularity. We know that Ozil thrives off having multiple outlets, so having him occupy one of the positions that he usually looks to pass to isn’t helping anyone. I can’t be hard on him. He put in a decent performance, and scored a great goal. Oli wasn’t fooling anyone with that shot gone wrong, though.
On the other side of the pitch, Danny Welbeck did well to compete his opposing full back Danny Rose, and was responsible on the defensive side, notably denying Harry Kane a clear chance at goal in the first half.
Defending against Spurs’ barrage for 90 minutes was no easy task, but considering the amount of chances they had on goal, I think our back line could have done much worse. Young right back Hector Bellerin did well for the most part, maintaining composure in one or two compromising situations, but there were instances where he played himself into trouble that was wholly avoidable.
Maybe it’s a sign of his youth, but Bellerin seemed naive to the fact that Spurs were keen to overload his flank, yet he continued to be sucked towards the middle of the pitch. Compress to stretch, Hector. Surely they taught you this in Spain? I know he’s only 19, but that game should serve as a bit of a reality check for him, He’s not totally ready.
Elsewhere, there wasn’t much to complain about. Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny were adequate at the very worst, and Nacho Monreal did well at both ends of the pitch when possible. David Ospina looked a little shakier than we’re used to, but I suspect he toughed out that early knee injury. It showed in his haphazard distribution – which is usually top notch – through the course of the match.
I can’t say it was our back five that was the problem. The real issues were in the engine room.
If our deep midfielders can’t cope with pressure, why aren’t we using a more compact shape, transition from defence to offence? Why did Welbeck and Ozil stay wide when everyone could see we had trouble breaking out of our own end? You know times are tough when we’re back to the school of thought of lumping it down field 50 yards for Olivier Giroud to wrestle with two centre backs, in the futile hope of keeping the ball.
We were disjointed, and it was ultimately our downfall. For the amount of chances Tottenham created, we did quite well only to concede two, and score one. I don’t think that’s being unkind.
It’s unfortunate, but we will lose to them the odd time. I won’t cry about it now, as we’ve got a lot of games left in this season, and silverware to defend.
Arsène summed things up quite well after the match, and offered a bit of perspective in the process:
“It leaves us with a big disappointment to swallow first and then to prepare for the next game. We have played two more away games than Spurs, who have played 13 at home and 11 away. We have played 13 away and 11 at home. It’s down to our home form now – we know we can win away from home but it will be a battle until the end,” he said to media.
The best part about early games is the amount of time left in the day to forget them when you lose.
Onwards and upwards for Tuesday against Leicester, and beyond that, there’s still plenty at stake. Nothing’s over ‘til it’s over.