A frustrating game and result. Here are my initial thoughts.
Starting lineup made sense to me on paper: Raya had been good in his two games, Vieira I think deserved a spot based on performances, and Trossard had picked up an injury.
For the first 40 minutes Arsenal were nearly perfect: pressing was amazing, they were stifled, all we needed were some finishers, which we don’t have. Arsenal’s starting front line had a combined 3 goals against Spurs in 23 combined matches. That doesn’t mean that they can’t do it, but they haven’t done it so far and other than Saka’s penalty (the OG doesn’t count) it looks like they didn’t do it again.
Eddie is very good in the press but once we stop pressing his main use is as a decoy/runner. When that happens he’s a passenger. That said, there’s fuck all that we can do about it now. Trossard is out injured, Jesus is crawling back out of the cave, Havertz couldn’t score in a pachinko parlor, Nelson is two or three levels below what’s needed, and the transfer window is closed.
I promise to never mention Kai Havertz’s off the ball work, ever again. Yes, he’s a good defender. That’s great. However, it’s not good enough and when we have both Havertz and Eddie in the same team it’s like we are playing 9 v. 11. I know that Vieira looked weak in the first half and was pushed off the ball too easily but Havertz was a non-entity other than skying one shot. And that 2nd half by Arsenal was diabolical. The levels we dropped after bringing on Jorginho and Havertz for Rice (supposedly injured) and Vieira (supposedly having a worse game than Havertz would have had, he didn’t) were astonishing. Once again, it looks like we don’t have anywhere near the squad needed to compete for the League. Not that I thought we were going to win the League this season.
After we scored, we went into sleep mode. This is literally a thing I have now seen from this Arteta side far too often. I think he’s trying to do some “periodization” by which I mean: we had expended so much energy (the press was frantic) early on that we needed a break. But there’s taking a physical break and there’s taking a mental break. Doing the physical break make sense but it looks to me like we are doing both and it continuously bites us in the ass. It did it again today: in the 41st minute we actually sprung a pressing trap but Eddie was reading Ivanhoe and didn’t wake up to it, so everyone was out of position and they hit us on the counter. Raya compounded it with some weird keeping and boom, they scored. It was a top quality goal from one of the best finishers in the league.
Speaking of Raya: other than the one save, he was poor. His kicks were way off today and I think he made a bunch of nervous errors. If Arteta is true to what he has been saying, he will rotate Raya out.
All players have a sell by date and Jorginho looks well past his sell by date. You could see the younger, more mobile Spurs midfield just eating him up today. I think his substitution was because of injury but the real problem is that we don’t have a player who can take his place: Partey is always crocked (and probably wouldn’t have been much better) and we have no other viable replacements.
And the worst part? Saka was injured in the 90th minute and had to limp around for 7 minutes before we subbed him off. It would be a draw that looks like a loss if Saka is out for any period of time. Though, if I look on the bright side it probably means that Smith Rowe will get to play some football? Maybe?