Tottenham came to Arsenal, shorn of their best midfielder, missing their best defender, and with their best forward barely returning from injury, and they made a point. Their point was to shut up shop and they did: Arsenal’s only goal in a 1-1 contest was scored by Tottenham.
There will be no special edition DVD of this match because no one will want to watch Arsenal toil for 90 minutes and even the blindest of Tottenham’s supporters will have to admit that Spurs were as negative as a man voting for the worst possible candidate in the history of elections just because he wants to “see it all burn down.” Scorched earth was Tottenham’s approach to the match and sadly, it worked.
Spurs dominated possession but the vast majority of their passes were between their defenders. It was a soul-killing type of game, where Tottenham were simply not interested in playing because they knew that they were the weaker of two strong teams. On the rare occasion they got the ball forward their main threat was Kane and he had just one shot from open play: a header that just glanced wide.
Tottenham did have one genuine footballer in their side and they turned him loose for a grand total of about 7 minutes. Moussa Dembele dribbled six of six times, once even in the Arsenal 18 yard box, after which Koscielny lost his head and fouled him, giving Spurs a penalty and their only real chance of the game. Kane scored and then celebrated like England had just won the World Cup.
Dembele is a similar player to Arsenal’s Cazorla. He’s not a spectacular player like Özil, but you simply can’t win the ball off him. And he dictates play, creating the openings that others use to create the goals. If the tables were turned and Arsenal had either Cazorla or Dembele, I suspect that Spurs would have come unglued.
Arsenal came with a full contingent, missing only midfield maestro Cazorla, but their threat was blunted by the obdurate Spurs defense. Arsenal boasted the most efficient attack in the League coming into the match, 2nd in goals scored and holding the best finishing percent of any team. But Spurs boasted the best defense in the League and as organized as they were the Gunners were only able to create two shots on target, one in the 31st minute and the other in the 89th.
Wenger had an embarrassment of attackers to choose from and as the match wore down he threw them all on: last season’s starting forward, Arsenal’s most prolific attacking midfielder, and the in-form Oxlade-Chamberlain were all called upon, but they only created the one real chance, a tame header from Giroud which was saved easily.
It was an awful match. From an Arsenal perspective, Spurs came to negate the game and they did. In that sense, they bossed Arsenal. They dictated the type of game that were were going to watch and but for the lucky own goal, Arsenal could very easily have lost this match.
And from my perspective, Arsenal have work to do. They need to either get Cazorla back healthy or find another player from within the ranks who can carry the massive load he carries for us. Or if they can’t do that, find yet another way to play.
On a positive note, Xhaka was excellent yesterday and kept his temper completely in check. I suspect he will have further transgressions but it was good to see an all around positive footballing exhibition from him.