You can look at this games in terms of the title and our typical November, and be pleased with a point but not joyous, or you can look at the state of Spurs today, add in the context of a midweek CL game for them against a hard team and be pretty disappointed we didn’t put them away.
I’ll take the point, November is a black month and the stat we’ve been bemoaning all month is our average points total come the end (see table above). We need to take 8 to have a 20% improvement on our usual and I’d say a draw against United with wins at Bournemouth and Southampton would be a very good haul for the month. Anything more would be excellent.
1-1 isn’t a bad result, it keeps Arsenal in the mix in the league, it keeps confidence high and it’ll be an important point when you look back at the season if we’re close. No one will look back and say we lost it here. What it does do is place extra pressure on us winning the smaller games. It’ll also pile on pressure for the United game we play next week, because a loss against Jose will dial up the ‘same old Wenger’ temperature up a few notches as we start to realise that perhaps we’ve been duped again.
We set up fairly defensively. No Cazorla meant Wenger opted for Xhaka and Coquelin pinning the midfield. That didn’t look too exciting going forward, Xhaka is no Cazorla and we all know the limitations of Coquelin who managed 25 passes and just one successful tackle today. Compare that to Xhaka, who people complain isn’t defensive enough, who made 5 tackles today from 7 attempted as well as 10 ball recoveries.
I wondered if our fairly unaggressive approach to the opening 45 was tactical, let a tired Spurs side run themselves into the ground in the opening 45, contain them, then hit them hard in the second half with our superb bench. It looked that way, we didn’t really threaten Spurs too much in the first half. Our best move came from a lovely counter attack with Iwobi duffing his chance straight at Lloris. Joke of our attack today was our goal was scored by a Spurs player. Wimmer, who took at yellow in the opening 5, nodded home an Ozil freekick. The taste of flicking on an Ozil too delicious to resist for anyone it seems!
We let them back in early in the second half with a penalty. Dembele played for it on the edge of the box as he mazed his way into the box off balance, but Koscielny ate up his presentation of the ball, sticking his foot out allowing him to tumble. It was soft, but to be honest, a centre back of Koscielny’s experience didn’t need to go for the ball, so it was soft our side. Harry Kane slipped his penalty down the middle and that was that.
Wenger admittedly tried to improve our chances of doing something of interest in the second half, he took off the head shaking Coquelin on 64minutes. He injected the energy of Ramsey, Chamberlain and the striking presence of Giroud. It didn’t work. If anything, it set us back, the energy levels dropped for a bit, the players didn’t seem to know what they’d been brought on to do and we reverted back to scenes of last season, pinging aimless crosses into the box in the hope Giroud might land one.
The game finished with a point. We had less possession than Spurs, and we only managed 2 shots on target. Not very impressive on the face of it, but then again, you have to accept Spurs are a good team managed by a good manager on the only unbeaten run in the league this season. They also set a record unbeaten against us, which will probably mean that game is heading for the DVD shortly.
I still think this team lacks a ruthless edge. Spurs were weak today and we didn’t know how to gun them down. Poch did a good job keeping us relatively quiet and no amount of personnel could change that. Wenger would have been surprised by 3 at the back and probably didn’t prepare for that, the irritating thing about his management is he doesn’t really have an answer for that sort of shock. He just ploughs on. Our lack of killer aggression feels particularly pertinent in light of Liverpool opening a can of destruction on Watford just now.
I know a lot of people have been saying behind closed doors they have the fear with Mustafi. Remember when we were all saying Chambers was the next John Terry after 10 games? Mustafi has looked very good at times, but he’s a bit of a hot head. He wasn’t very good today, and he made quite a few basic errors… the alarming thing for me is that even the good bits he does have a touch of the Vermaelen’s about them. Hopefully he can learn quickly, because my fear is that he’ll get found out hard in the second half of the season. The positive is a lot of his dangerous play comes from interceptions, he made 8 today… he only made one tackle though. Feel he needs to find a balance and he doesn’t always need to attack danger.
Arsene Wenger continues to not rotate effectively and then complains of physical issues in his side.
“We looked flat, physically.”
We did. There’s a reason we looked flat, that’s because we went to Ludogorets and played most of our key players again. Wenger rotates the fullbacks, but really, when we’re missing the electricity of Cazorla, there should be some thought given to how we can make sure Ozil and Alexis are on fire. Playing them in that game was a massive risk for this fixture and Wenger paid for it… though not with full force.
This problem is only going to become more prominent as the season clocks up more game minutes. Instead of complaining about it, maybe he should take decisive action? We’ve lost Ramsey and Santi to bad fitness decisions, my fear is, what happens when we lose one of Ozil or Sanchez?
My fear is, Santi is still injured… just like Ramsey was and we’re paying a similar price to last season. Why wasn’t the Cazorla issue addressed this summer, because we knew Santi would be mismanaged and an injury problem.
Sure, it’s not the 3 points we wanted. But don’t convince yourself that result was a shocker. The league is about points per game. If we have an 5 point month, we’ll be more than on track. Hopefully we can better that by tanking Jose next week (who just found form right before us).
Right, see you later.