Tottenham Hotspur 1 – 0 Arsenal
The moment summed the afternoon. Alexandre Lacazette found himself clear but scuffed his shot under Lloris and the ball bobbled wide.
And then it got worse. A contract making him the highest-paid player in the club’s history demands Mesut Özil assert himself on matches or when the big moments arrive, he delivers. The German did neither today when his free-kick in the final seconds hit the wall to sum up our afternoon.
But they are incidents in a match. We should be talking about our heaviest north London derby defeat in thirty-odd years. Tottenham had the chances and were it not for Petr Cech rolling back the years, the scoreline wouldn’t have flattered Spurs. As it is, it flattered us; we were lucky to get nil.
Kane’s winner carried a hint of controversy for the Premier League Generation. Kane impeded Koscielny, they claimed. Anyone who watched football when it was a contact sport knows the incident was just good centre-forward play. Even Arsène admitted afterwards, there was nothing in it. Certainly no defending.
It was capped off a mad minute of poor defending. Cech produced the tricks to foil Kane but slipped as he cleared the ball. Tottenham recovered possession, Arsenal played out of defence; Özil lost the ball with poor control off his chest and the resulting cross saw Kane score.
Within ten minutes, Petr Cech justified his inclusion with three saves – two from Kane, and Eriksen’s free-kick – which kept an air of barely deserved respectability on the scoreline.
It took just fifteen second-half minutes to undo the work of the opening forty-five. Not that the first half but it was effective. The object was to go into the interval level and that was achieved.
While we kept the scores level, a hard-working opening spell quickly descended into a morass of overhit passes and underhit crosses. The lack of penetration in attack as we became one-dimensional in looking to play on the counter but failing to provide the ammunition for Aubaemyang. As the half wore on, he became an increasingly peripheral figure.
Typical of our performance were Wilshere’s mishit shot and a two-minute spell where Özil declined the opportunity to shoot from the edge of the area and Bellerin subsequently did. The latter’s went over the ball while the former’s pass to Monreal saw the move peter out.
What was apparent to most of us beforehand and is now obvious to all, is the false dawn effect of the signings of Mkhitaryan and Aubameyang. It isn’t their signing, that was good business by the club. However, the notion that they would immediately improve our fortunes was preposterous.
The inherent weaknesses within the XI remain; we don’t have a strong defensive ethos nor a leader on the pitch; Tottenham exposed both of those this afternoon.
After the defeats at Bournemouth and Swansea, I understand the cautious approach to the game but it would be nice if that came off some work in training to shore up the defence. Too often we saw defenders caught out of position or possession sloppily conceded.
A team with genuine aspirations for a top-four finish works hard on those weaknesses and most definitely signs a centre back in a transfer window. Instead, we try to cajole a club into doing a last-minute deal at half the value they want to sell for.
We don’t. We flit between a back three and four, never convincing with either formation nor looking like the players believe either will improve matters.
Down and Out in Paradise
And here we are. The top four is almost out of reach and a Burnley win today sees them just five points behind us. We’re looking over our shoulders as well as into the heavens but producing lacklustre performances. We face Manchester City in a fortnight; we’ll need to be significantly better if we’re not to leave Wembley battered and egos bruised.
I’m not singling one player out for criticism; they all deserve it. Even the substitutes got in on the act with Lacazette’s confidence shattered and Iwobi being…well. They all looked toward the bottom of the barrel of mediocrity, lifted the wood and dug further into the earth below.
Losing to Tottenham is never a good thing but seeing a performance where the team don’t care is something else. The only passion came at the final whistle with Wilshere and Lamela squaring up for handbags at two paces. Where was the fight in the ninety minutes?
It’s not good enough and you would be brave or foolhardy to claim that it was.