Arsenal 0 – 2 Tottenham Hotspur
Arsenal crashed out of the Carabao Cup with a defeat which raised more questions than giving answers. A strong line-up was outplayed by a Tottenham side which was more clinical in its finishing and better organised in its defending. The victory was as well-deserved as Arsenal’s three-weeks ago.
To cap it all, some moron threw a plastic bottle at the head of Dele Alli. You’re not big, you’re not clever, you’re just f***ing stupid. With the amount of cameras around, you’ll be found out and then what? Banned from the stadium and up before the beaks. Hire the same firm the Tottenham fan used; they somehow convinced magistrates he didn’t throw a banana in a racist attack. You’ll need that kind of legal mind on your side.
Unai Emery pointed to attacking efficiency – or the lack of it – as the root cause of the defeat. It was more fundamental than that: poor defending at key moments. The first goal stemmed from a flawed offside trap. Nacho Monreal tried to play Son offside but didn’t keep in line with the centre-backs.
The second was just dreadful. A long punt from the goalkeeper found Kane in too much time and space while Alli ran untracked from his own half. Given the time and space, Kane produced a great pass which eliminated the isolated Koscielny and Alli a good finish.
Being Arsenal, of course, that might have been the equaliser. On 11 minutes, Mkhitaryan found himself in the clear in the area but wasted the moment. Trying to beat the goalkeeper at the near post robbed himself of aiming at most of the goal. Not good enough by a long shot.
The Armenian used all his goalscoring luck for the week up at St. Mary’s, obviously.
Central Defensive Bypass
Ramsey, by contrast, found himself the victim of Gazzaniga’s good fortune. The Welshman’s shot struck the post then the goalkeeper’s head but flew wide. Just before half-time, was it a sign of the second-half onslaught to come?
Not really. Lacazette hit the post, Aubameyang fluked a cross onto the bar but overall, we huffed and puffed with not a lot of end product. We didn’t deserve to win but then again, when has football ever been about deserving victory. That notion is as, in the instance, the preserve of the vanquished as a mental justification for defeat.
Questions are asked about the team selection. Granit Xhaka isn’t the best left-back in the world but he’s even less effective as a centre-back. Injuries and Koscielny’s lack of fitness meant he played there in a back four. It was car-crash football; the night demanded a back three if Xhaka made up the numbers.
Indeed, with a back three, his presence would have been more valuable in midfield. Or play Jenkinson there with AMN in midfield? We had options and alternatives with Lichtsteiner on the bench. I’ll qualify that with the ‘it’s easy to be wise after the event’ proviso.
However, I’m struggling to think of positives from the performance. A less congested January and February? Avoiding a final hammering from Manchester City? Avoiding a semi-final battering from Chelsea? Everything which springs to mind sounds defeatist.
However, at least I don’t have to witter on about how the draw was rigged as City drew Burton; Craig Bellamy, that’s all I’m saying.
Unai was clear afterwards that we needed to be more clinical in our finishing:
We created chances in the first half to score, but today the efficiency was not good for us…We worked for 90 minutes and in our moments we didn’t take our chances.
What Do You Do With A Problem Like Mesut?
The elephant in the room is obviously Mesut Özil’s absence. Bournemouth were too physical for him and Tottenham too tactical. Unai is running out of excuses for his absences; next, the grass will be too long and then too short.
Emery is too discreet to answer the direct questions about the German’s future but following Özil’s dismal cameo at Southampton, his absence was no surprise.
The issue is that we’re losing Ramsey next summer, a player more productive and consistent than Özil and retaining others such as Mkhitaryan and Iwobi whose end-product is not as “efficient” as the Welshman.
It’s easy to leap to conclusions over Özil’s future and I am going to do just that. Quite simply, it’s not at Arsenal under Emery. It’s been a turbulent six months for Özil, I fully accept that. Maybe there is still some fall-out from the summer’s row over his relationship with Germany and Erdoğan, along with the racial under – and overtones which came with it.
I seem to recall Arsène saying Özil needed to feel the love but I guess right now he isn’t. But then his form isn’t creating the environment for him to receive the love.
Don’t get me wrong, I think he is wonderful footballer. In a team which is playing well, he is a joy to watch. When he is on top of his game, he can be unplayable. But those moments are not often enough, certainly not in Emery’s Arsenal.
If I’m honest, Özil is one of the players who is struggling to adapt to the new footballing philosophy. For that reason, I’d take the money Internazionale are rumoured to be ready to offer and cut our losses.
Where Do We Go From Here?
There is also an element of ruthlessness on Emery’s part. He’s still stung by Neymar’s preferential treatment at PSG, I’m sure. Mesut Özil isn’t getting the same at Arsenal, the Spaniard is making sure of that.
It’s speculation at this point but this is a scenario with which we’re very familiar. We’ve seen players ‘disappear’ immediately before they leave before and this is no different, by the looks of it.
We need to strengthen the squad so the question is whether Özil is the sacrificial lamb, bringing in much-needed fees as well as shaving £350k and more, off the weekly payroll?