Arsenal 2 – 0 Tottenham Hotspur
The ghosts of Arsenal past nodded their approval. Arsenal hassled, harried, and hustled Tottenham out of their stride; talk of a ‘power shift’ was awfully premature in the lead-up to the match and so it proved.
Weakness is ingrained into their psyche. When a moment of destiny presents itself, the Sunday roast is served on a punctured beach ball.
Arsenal thoroughly deserved the win. You can point to statistics all you want but it was a match which underlines just how meaningless they are beyond the final score and the Premier League table. The visitors were overwhelmed physically and so bereft of belief as the match played out, that they could not take advantage of Francis Coquelin’s introduction for Alexandre Lacazette.
So bad was their afternoon that even the post-match bleating went against them. Mike Dean was the centre of attention and on the receiving end of the White Hart pain.
It wasn’t a foul on Sanchez by Sanchez, Pochettino mumbled. It was; as soon as his arm went across Alexis’ chest as they were running for the ball; he gave flakey Dean a decision to make and we all know how good he is at that.
Mustafi and Lacazette were both offside; their arms were beyond the last defender, he said. Sadly, arms and hands don’t count when deciding if a player is offside (Law 11, Laws of the Game). Sad for Tottenham, that is.
Not for Arsenal. Mustafi’s header was excellent, landing against the inside of the post and rolling along the onion bag. I bet it made that satisfying whirring sound a ball always makes against the wet netting. It had to, just to rub salt into Lloris’ wounds.
Fortune Favours the Brave
Perfectly placed, the header came from a well-timed jump. You wonder why we don’t do that more often when these moves work out. Steve Bould looked on approvingly from the bench.
Less than five minutes later, Alexis sealed the win. Graeme Souness called Lloris “not a brave goalkeeper”; a fair comment given he failed to challenge the Chilean as he slammed the ball into the roof of the net from inside his six-yard box.
Where this performance differed is that it’s impossible to criticise any of the players for their efforts. Hard work, diligence, and tenacity; all missing on a regular basis were evident in every position for the whole 90 minutes. Yes, there were mistakes but you won’t criticise them because you know that ten seconds later, another player was covering for it.
Everything we want from the team, we got. The question now is why can’t they produce that intensity in every performance. If they did, we’d be a damn sight closer to the top of the table than we currently are.
If you go through each member of the team, there is a lot to credit. Cech for an excellent save from Dier late in the game, not just clawing the ball away from goal but putting it to safety. The full backs for marauding displays up and down the touchline in support of the attack and when they got to the final third, for delivering a pass rather than hitting the brakes, or hitting the bloke in row 28 full in the face and breaking his glasses.
Thinking Man’s Football
The central defensive trio were outstanding. Koscielny led by example, not putting a foot wrong. If he was injured or feeling any effects of his Achilles, it didn’t show. Monreal, so consistent, was uber-consistent on the day while Mustafi put in a Man of the Match performance. When not scoring, he threw himself into every challenge.
The trio marked Kane out of the game, for the most part, while quelling the threat of Comical Alli. For once, the defence combined to make the penalty area a fortress. Yes, Tottenham had chances but every team will during a game. We minimised those opportunities with a sheer determination missing on so many occasions.
Why? This was the performance level champions engage every week. Getting a point at Stamford Bridge with determination, beating Tottenham more comfortably than the 2 – 0 scoreline reflects, shouldn’t be the highlights, they should be the norm.
Granit Xhaka took a yellow for the team and then stayed out of trouble, staying on his feet yet tackling tenaciously. Bravo, sir; now for that every week, if you don’t mind. Ramsey and Sanchez flew forward in support of Lacazette while the former also maintained a presence in midfield in support of the defence.
Özil, voted Man of the Match, left the field to a standing ovation. Deserved it as well and put in a shift reminiscent of the cup semi and final; every week for a £42m player ought to be the standard, not a one-off that we’re desperate for him to put in.
I Find Myself in Reverie
Every member of the starting line-up showed us what they are capable of, now it’s up to Wenger to get that consistently from the players. It’s in their, like a shy alter-ego which needs cajoling out. A few more of these performances and the contractual mess we’re in would not be an issue.
If, buts, and maybes; the hallmarks of Wenger’s second decade. It elicits a wistfulness which ought not to be the case but it is.
So for the moment, I shall enjoy the reverie this victory has brought, as well as the playlist on Dad’s Jukebox where 2009 is the order of the day.