A draw in the North London Derby is never a bad day out, but this one stings and feels a little like a loss. Dramatic? Maybe. We’ve gotten so used to dishing out home beatings to Spurs it’s become expected we’ll put them to the sword. But it wasn’t to be. The result, upon reflection, wasn’t far off fair and the blame for the dropped points fell squarely on Arsenal again.
We didn’t kill Spurs when we had a gluttony of chances.
We didn’t defend well enough at home, again.
Arteta didn’t have his best day out if I’m totally honest. Pre-game, we found out that we’d lost another key player to another soft tissue injury. Leandro Trossard limped out of training with a minor hamstring problem, it’s not going to be a monster layoff, but the fact he tweaked something isn’t good – because as you’ll know if you’ve read here for the last 16 years > soft tissue injuries are preventable because they’re usually attributed to fatigue / overtired players.
Thomas Partey (groin at training)
Martinelli (hamstring in the first half)
Trossard (hamstring in training)
Declan Rice (back tweak during game)
One of my biggest fears when we earned Champions League was how Mikel Arteta would handle three games a week. We know he likes to train like an absolute brute, he’s on record multiple times talking about the expectations he has on players to essentially man up and get on with the demands of the game. Well, that’s all well and good until you start getting injuries to key players inside 10 games.
Our players did not look up to the physical challenge, particularly in the second half. Eddie Nketiah, who had a horrible game, looked like he was running through treacle for the full 90 he was on the pitch. You can caveat that with ‘Spurs didn’t have a European game’, but for me, it’s deeper than that because of the injuries. We’re a very young squad, players have been signed for their robustness, and they are dropping like flies.
Declan Rice coming off at halftime also felt like a bit of a warning sign. This is one of the most robust players in the league, he played for West Ham who don’t tolerate wet lettuce behavior, yet he’s asking to be taken off at halftime in a derby game.
“He had some discomfort in his back,”
“He was telling us during the first half that he was uncomfortable and when we assessed him at half-time he could not continue, so we had to change him.”
“Hopefully not. We have to assess him. It’s strange when a player like him asks to come off because he’s uncomfortable. Hopefully not, but let’s see.”
People think I’m reading too deeply into this comment, but I promise you, this isn’t a concerned manager comment. This is Arteta thinking it’s odd that a player who merely has ‘discomfort’ would ask to come off at halftime. I will put money on it Rice is ok and this comment was directly aimed at him – not us. The manager expects everyone to be like Ben White, a player who’d be embarrassed to ask for a stitch if he’d cut his leg off in war, before demanding to be let onto the pitch. The problem is Arteta doesn’t really have empathy skills – we’d call him empathy-divergent in New York HR circles. We all love that in some moments, but the manager is getting a bit of a rep for being cold. There are memes going around that Arteta is going to get a second team dog to keep Win on his paws – it’s all good banter right now, but look at EtH getting beasted at United as players turn against his harsh ways.
Onto the game – it felt like an exaggeration of the problems we had last season. In the first half, we absolutely battered Spurs. We pressed them well, we set traps, the traps turned into chances, and boy did we have some chances.
Gabi Jesus struck across goal from the back post and was well denied by Vicario
Eddie sniffed out a chance but instead of cutting back to Vieira he shot and it was saved
Gabriel Jesus picked Madders pocket through the middle, powered into the area and blazed the ball over
We weren’t calm when making the final action and we only ended the half with one goal instead of 3.
To make matters worse, we had a bit of a team calamity before the half ended allowing Spurs to level.
David Raya was too short to catch a looping chip to his back post, he scooped the ball into the path of Son, Son shot and it was saved. Maddison picked up the ball, Saka lunged and missed, he was turned, the #8 powered into the area, found Son… bang. One chance. One goal.
Arsenal didn’t really arrive for the second half despite changing Rice for Jorginho and Vieira for Havertz. We did get a penalty, Romero handballing a Ben White shot. Saka scored with a simple down-the-middle strike.
It wasn’t enough though. Before I could even type DON’T DO ANYTHING DUMB we had performed a remarkable piece of jawdropping dumb. Jorginho, one of our most ball-secure players, was isolated as the last man in defence. He dithered, turned, Madders took the ball away from him, charged at goal, laid in Son, and the rest is history.
The game finished 2 apiece and that was probably fair considering some of the chances Spurs missed.
We deserved what we got. 2-2 isn’t a shocking result in an NLD. But it should feel like 2 points dropped considering how well we did in the opening 35 minutes.
Some concluding points…
Arsenal lack blood lust – when there’s hemoglobin in the water, we’re like a captive goldfish… not one of those killer orcas out in the wild fucking up small fishing boats whilst killing sharks as a side hustle. Part of that is a lack of experience – part of that might be a talent issue. We’ve tried plenty of options, but it still doesn’t feel title winning. We’re a 90+ goal a season team – but the problem right now is where and when those goals come. In a North London derby, they’ve got to come early, so you don’t get stung. Against Fulham, the same thing, if you miss big chances, you leave the game open.
City don’t really do that – they kill. Because they have an ocean monster upfront.
I don’t like the aggressive slander of Eddie. He had a bad game, sure. There’s no defending the decision he took early on in the game. It was selfish. But this is a player who was legitimately keeping out Gabi J a week ago / landed an England call-up. There’s no player in the team that falls from grace quicker – and that’s really unfair for a striker that is a rotation option. Still, he has to raise his game and keep up the pressure with goals when he gets the chance. He wasn’t really a threat today despite it being a really open game.
Arsenal needs a different type of striker at some point and I hope it’s someone like Ivan Toney. We need someone that can occupy defenders, hold the ball up, offer an aerial threat we don’t have, and give us a bit of nasty up top. There’s no way Arsenal will not compete for his signature in January, especially considering him purring at us on that podcast, and the fact he’ll be reasonably priced due to the 18 months left on his deal.
Defensively, we have a problem at home. Players switch off. We do silly things. We concede a lot of goals. It can’t be the atmosphere, but it’s something Arteta is going to have to get to grips with. You shouldn’t need to score 3 goals to win at home. But that’s how it feels at the moment.
David Raya is clearly the new Arsenal #1, but based on what he offered today, it didn’t feel like an upgrade on Aaron Ramsdale. It just felt like more of the same. Arteta made a big decision to ruffle the squad feathers with a move for a new keeper, it made sense, but we need to see a better offering than the one we saw against Spurs. The kicking was the bit that wasn’t clicking for me. 66% pass completion wasn’t great, it was at about 50% at around 60 minutes. We didn’t upgrade for that type of output. The goal wasn’t his fault, but in the first phase, when he scooped into danger, it’s hard not to apportion that as a mistake. Arteta said he was going to rotate keepers this season – will Aaron get into the Bournemouth game if he has a worldie against Brentford? Doubt it. Arteta knows a keeper needs 20 games to settle – but he better hope that was a blip, because Aaron’s career didn’t die for that performance today.
There is a tendency to go off at the deep end after every result that isn’t perfect. Kai Havertz seems to bear the load after any sort of issue. He’ll come good. It’s a struggle to see it at the moment, but there’s too much ability in there for him not to click. The thing that’s missing is output in the final third. The rest of his game is great. But fans don’t want to have to tune into a tactico nerd blog post to find out if a player had a good game. They want to see incisive passes and shots on target. Kai isn’t giving that to us right now so the doom merchants are calling time on him like they have done nearly every player in our squad.
Perspective FC has us one point worse off than where we were last season. There’s a lot of change going off in our squad and there are a lot of games left to play. A draw against Spurs doesn’t feel sexy, but the most important thing was not to lose. We have two games to get back into shape. Brentford will be one for the fringe players, then we have Bournemouth away, Lens away in the CL, followed by City at home. Worth noting that City has 4 away games in a row… we’ll be the 4th.
We should have a decent squad to choose from for that game. So don’t get too upset about players missing. No one will be out for a serious amount of time. The City game should be our best players against there best players.
Ok, short one today, get on the latest podcast.