Arsenal 1 – 1 Tottenham Hotspur
0 – 1 Chadli (56)
1 – 1 Oxlade-Chamberlain (74)
I am not sure what it says but the first positive that sent through my mind after the full-time whistle was that no matter what happens next weekend at Stamford Bridge, the gap to the top of the table is not going to be double figures. Until Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s equaliser that was a distinct possibility.
Actually I am sure what that says. And it will only be October.
Which, given that Arsenal haven’t lost a Premier League game this season is not much of a positive. Somewhere in a talented squad of individuals is a team screaming to get out but they have yet to find cohesion on a consistent basis to take the next step forward. Too many draws is costing them; whether it is dear remains to be seen.
But nothing quite captures the feeling of a missed opportunity in the same way.
Despite this, Arsenal sit in the familiar surroundings of the top four. To highlight the cost of draws, the two teams they head on goal difference have lost twice. The two immediately above them have lost once. Four draws out of six is two too many for aspirations of a significant improvement on last season to become a reality.
And we didn’t lose to Tottenham. At home. A draw in yesterday’s match isn’t leaving me anywhere near as despondent as defeat but Arsenal were once more below their peak and that happens too often to give grounds for optimism about progress being made this season.
The real cost may not be in points dropped as injuries are beginning to take their toll. Whilst Arsène is not the most reliable in his initial prognosis, it isn’t hard to believe that neither Arteta or Ramsey will play until after the international break. Judging by the recent updates, the manager will have quite a good squad to choose from. He has one now but the problems are in creating a unit which can beat mediocre sides such as the Tottenham one which left The Emirates with a point.
Losing two players in the centre of the pitch is unsettling to the pattern of the match, particularly with Tottenham sitting deep to protect the point they arrived with. It was nearly a trio with Jack Wilshere’s ankle turning awkwardly having been felled in the area. Moments like that push you in favour of video referees – or further entrench your opinions – as does a spinning ball which photographs hint may have crossed the line.
Not making those moments count proved costly when against the run of play, Tottenham scored a goal of Arsenal’s making. It was a poor choice of pass by Mertesacker in the first place but ponderous possession on the part of Flamini. As a defensive midfielder, I would have expected a more robust attempt at withstanding Eriksen’s challenge. It wasn’t there and Chadli finished well from Lamela’s pass.
The Argentine was pivotal in Arsenal’s equaliser as well. A misplaced clearance to Sanchez offered the opportunity to pull the defence out of position. Welbeck’s winning entry in the World Air Kicking Championship fooled everyone bar Oxlade-Chamberlain who rammed the ball home convincingly. Well taken, and a thoroughly deserved equaliser.
That said, depending on decisions to go in your favour to get a performance moving indicates a problem. Arsenal created shooting opportunities and Lloris was by far the busier of the two ‘keeper, pushing Oxlade-Chamberlain in the choice for Man of the Match. The England international shaded it and proved he deserved his place in the starting line-up yesterday ahead of Santi Cazorla but Arsenal – and Arsène – are caught between two attacking stools.
I was surprised the Sanchez didn’t start, particularly with Oxlade-Chamberlain on the right. The Chilean offers a similar pacey threat on the left and there was little evidence that what is becoming a habitually slow transformation of defence into attack, one that Sanchez was bought, is being solved. As Arsène commented afterwards, there wasn’t any other reason beyond selection as its basis. Was it was right? It’s a matter of opinion but you would like to think that a £35m signing would have made a difference.
Tottenham’s formation and tactics were nothing new, many teams come to Arsenal and play that way. It’s one that we seem to need an early goal to overcome, to open up the game and exploit space. For a technically adept team, one with extremely talented players, we do lack imagination at times, which when you need to find a breakthrough is a problem.
It isn’t gloom and doom, despite the previous seven hundred and fifty words; that’s what not beating a distinctly average Tottenham side does for you.
Calum Chambers continues to learn his trade in public and improves although being one booking away from a suspension already is concerning. His comfort on the ball shows the youngster has much promise and I suspect, had Arsène conducted summer transfer business, Chambers performances would not be the subject of such intense scrutiny. The manager didn’t and for me, the speed that Chambers has taken to playing in any of the competitions is a huge plus.
Equally, Mesut Özil, despite not being given his favoured role, was instrumental in prompting during the match, drifting across the pitch as Tottenham sought to crowd him in the centre. It was a performance born of the confidence of an outstanding contribution at Villa Park. It’s easy to point to Sanchez’s absence as allowing him the freedom but Arsène has to find a way of accommodating the pair if Arsenal’s attack is to thrive in coming seasons, as well as for the rest of this one.
It’s a bit flat this morning, the overwhelming sense of two points dropped is emphasised by the ease with which others won yesterday in matches which, like Arsenal, they were expected to triumph. There will be more weekends like this before next May; it’s up to the manager and players to ensure they are kept to a minimum.