Arsenal Picked Off In Derby Disappointment

Online Ed: League Cup run ends at home to Spurs

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It was no surprise when Laurent Koscielny did not start last night, but it was something of a surprise that Granit Xhaka was selected as one of the two central defenders. Part of a back three at Southampton, two goals were conceded there before he moved into central midfield in a tactical shuffle. I’m not laying the blame for the Carabao Cup exit at Xhaka’s door, but in terms of defensive solidity and understanding, you have to wonder. He was not up to the mark as a holding midfielder, so he is hardly going to be good enough as one of the backline.

At least, either side of the central defenders, there were players more familiar with the full back position, in the form of Monreal and Maitland-Niles. Guendouzi and Torreira were included, whilst the switch to a back four enabled Ramsey to start, alongside the three other attacking starters from the defeat at Southampton. It meant Alex Lacazette remained on the bench and Mesut Ozil was not even on the bench. For tactical reasons, Unai Emery explained before the game. Hmmmm….

The attacking selections indicated Emery was taking the tie seriously and his team started the game well. Certainly, over the course of the 90 minutes, Arsenal fashioned more chances, but the bottom line is that Spurs were more clinical. It was summed up in two one-on-ones in the first half, both of which should have been converted, but only one was. Mkhitaryan was clean through but failed to beat Gazzaniga in the Spurs goal. Perhaps if it had been Gazza between the sticks, he might have scored. At the other end, Son showed how it should be done by putting his side 1-0 up. Aaron Ramsey’s shot was tipped onto the post as the home side responded, but it was not to be.

Still, Arsenal are never ahead at half-time right? Always come good in the second half? Not this time. Koscielny came on for Mkhitaryan as the team reverted to three at the back, and Lacazette followed soon after for Iwobi. Not many Arsenal players had good games last night and sad to say, Iwobi was one of them. He is a busy player, but too often he loses possession, or plays gets the wrong weight on his pass. The club do need a quota of domestically developed players, but let’s face it. Much as we want Iwobi to succeed, he isn't at the level the club need to return to the glory days of old. Ainsley Maitland-Niles is a year younger, and perhaps there is more to come from him as he gets more first team exposure, but his delivery from wide last night was disappointing. Arsenal did hit the woodwork again in the second half, but it was one of those nights. Spurs doubled their lead as once again, a high backline was exposed and Dele Alli lobbed Petr Cech. It pretty much killed the game off.

Spurs managed to control Arsenal’s threat and this felt like one game too many as, despite the backing of a full house, the players were unable to create many clear cut opportunities. The defence has looked vulnerable all season, even when it was made up entirely by actual defenders. Against better teams, they are going to be punished more severely. So then it's down to the ability of the attacking players to bail them out. Spurs scored two in the Premier League game recently as well. No problem, Arsenal scored four. Last night, Spurs scored twice again. Different result.

Unai Emery has certainly brought a lot of changes to the club, but he needs to come up with a solution to the flow of goals against. They have only kept clean sheets in three Premier League matches so far this season. So the recent defensive injury crisis provides an element of mitigation, but the underlying problems are the same. Arsenal get caught out too easily, especially when the backline is high up the field. It needs to be sorted out, or the season will end up no different to 2017-18.

Fans are not expecting to see miracles overnight. But progress is key. In some respects, this has happened. The team do seem to get the ball forward more quickly and the manager is far more pro-active during games. But it’s all for nothing if they are to continue conceding with the frequency they do.

It’s bad enough losing the derby – and we should appreciate that his is only the second such defeat at home since 1993. But unfortunately, the throwing of a bottle at Dele Alli lumps Arsenal fans in with the recent unfortunate incidents involving Chelsea and Spurs fans. Granted, the throwing of a bottle at a player who happens to be categorised as ethnic minority can’t be classed as racist, but even so, I’d like to think Arsenal fans are above such behaviour. The reality is that, like at all clubs, there is good and bad in the stands. It’s a sorry incident that doesn’t reflect well on Arsenal. Doubtless, the perpetrator, if identified, will be banned. But the damage is done.

Back to the football, and in the greater scheme of things, it’s two matches in January that Unai Emery probably doesn’t feel like he needs. The League Cup is the least of Arsenal’s priorities every season and let’s face it, if they had won last night and avoided Man City in the last four, we’d probably have had another losing final in February. Unlike Arsenal, City’s defence has been improved by Pep Guardiola, although even there, it took time, and changes in personnel. This might be what Emery needs, time will tell.

Arsenal need to recover, and get two wins under their belts either side of Christmas Day. The next issue of The Gooner went to press before last night’s match, but after the defeat at Southampton. The cover line is ‘We Go Again’. And that is what Arsenal need to do. They recovered well after two defeats at the start of the season, and put together a good run. They need to do the same again, and stop shipping as many goals.

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  1. The Man From UNCLE

    Dec 21, 2018, 08:51 #112719

    As others have said, it is indeed going to take time and at least Dick appears to have that luxury, and we are willing to cut him some slack. But, only 5 months into the season and I see a pattern emerging; miss 1 or 2 gilt edged chances in the first 10 minutes, go a goal down, either equalize in the 44th minute or go in a goal down, storming 2nd half come back with much improved performance - unless you're playing one of the top 4. Those first half scenarios HAVE to change if any meaningful progress is to be made this season.


    Dec 20, 2018, 19:20 #112718

    I can't believe all the wailing & gnashing of teeth going on the world of Arsenal today. Emery is apparently rubbish at his job & old Carlo & the trophyless Poch etc. etc. are so much better! Thanks to Dick we have over performed so far with a weak squad lacking real depth. No amount of first class coaching will overcome that reality. It's going to take time & Stanley has to clearly demonstrate that he is NOT the owner from hell that I still believe him to be.

  3. mbg

    Dec 20, 2018, 18:38 #112717

    Bob Bayliss, good post there, and you can trace our defensive fragility right back to wenger and his ego.

  4. mbg

    Dec 20, 2018, 18:30 #112716

    Yes we could have won it if our luck had of been in (although it's begining to finally run out) especially if Ramsey had of put that chance early on away, that turned the game i think, it brings me back to what i said a few weeks ago we have to start taking our chances and at the minute we're still not. Regardless of that fact we're still not good enough and need major investment, and quickly, four top players (not wengers type) and the same ammount being shown the door, a forward/striker who is going to put these chances away if what we have can't, midfield, and certainly the defence it's top priority there.

  5. markymark

    Dec 20, 2018, 18:06 #112715

    It’s good to see that the daily mail had to temper its Arsenal anti Semitic chanting story with an inclusion that Arsenal supporters actually protested at the idiot. It’s extremely important for all of us not to standby if you get idiotic chanting particularly hate speech . There will always be idiots but the sane majority having a word can self regulate to a strong degree.

  6. Don Howe

    Dec 20, 2018, 17:41 #112714

    Kevin, we are above such behaviour, but I am afraid that in excluding traditional working class support through overpricing (so that Mezut can sit on his delicate wounded bottom at home for £300k a week) the club has let in people who have no sense of what it means to be an Arsenal Fan. Bottle throwers. The people who sit next to the idiot who did that will doubtless know exactly who he is. Let's hope he has a trip to Highbury Mags and a civil claim by the club for the loss and inconvenience caused to them by his actions. Enforce the resulting damages by taking the moron's house and let everyone know you have done it and it won't happen again in our stadium. More widely, the hatred of Spurs thing is at bottom infantile. Their hatred of us holds them back. That is the first time in 10 years they have beaten us at Arsenal. They should let it go and we should beat them to it.

  7. markymark

    Dec 20, 2018, 14:57 #112713

    Well I went along last night and would suggest the following Czech’s distribution is getting worse with goal kicks now regularly going out of play as well as his attempted clearances. This broke up momentum on a few occasions. Maitland-Niles tried he really did , but the felt a stage too high at this point . His application should though help him develop. Iwobi was high on effort but little reward. He looks a typical young player with dipping performance. I might be tempted to sell. Miti could have changed the entire match early on but failed to take a very good chance . My only issue is he does tend to score quite regularly. Bring on the January window !

  8. Bob Bayliss

    Dec 20, 2018, 11:40 #112712

    There has been progress under Dick, which is broadly in line with what we could reasonably have expected. But I have come to the conclusion that, so far, we have NOT got our Arsenal back. Arsenal teams throughout my lifetime have been typified by rock-solid defences, above all else. The first, great double team; (briefly) the team under Terry Neill which reached four cup finals in three years; most famously the George Graham era which extended into the first part of Wenger's reign. It is only since the invincibles era that we have become defensively fragile. Torreira is a good signing, but arguably we need another ball-winning midfielder and pretty much an entire new defence (including a goalkeeper). It isn't fair to judge the manager until he has had a couple of transfer windows to sort this out. It took Klopp a couple of seasons to sort out Liverpool's defensive frailties. But Emery's cv is a worry: as others have said, he has not excelled in assembling formidable defences. By far the best fit for Arsenal's tradition would have been Diego Simeone. Sadly, Wenger left the club out of the Champions League and he was therefore out of ours.

  9. Exiled in Pt

    Dec 20, 2018, 11:29 #112711

    Always harder to take a defeat to the scum than anyone else even if it is in the mickey mouse cup ! Under Dick we are seeing improvements quicker than we expected but i do think the last 2 games he has got it wrong with team selection . Miki although his work rate was better last night than usual just does not look like the player everyone wanted before United brought him and Iwobi has gone backwards in the last 6 to 7 games . For every one good run he loses possession way to easy and at the moment does not seem capable of trapping a bag of cement , his first touch has been that of a local parks player ( probably unfair to most local park players) . As for Granit at center back i really do not get it . Will be interesting to see if we can get rid of Ozil in January and can spend some money to strengthen .If we can get a good solid CB and maybe call Nelson back i do think we still have a good chance for 4th place just, need to get back to winning ways against Burnley . On a funnier note will be amusing to see Le Fraud and Maureen fighting over all the top jobs in European football , i don't suppose Maureen's phone has stopped ringing...........

  10. Bard

    Dec 20, 2018, 11:12 #112710

    We werent clinical with our chances and in the end it was a comfortable victory for the Spuds.If Mikky had scored when he was through on goal it could have been different. I actual think in the long run a few losing performances might be a good thing as will put pressure on the transfer team to come up with some acquisitions. What is obvious is that we dont have enough quality either at the back , in midfield or out wide. You can only go so far running around like lunatics. We are over reliant on Auba. Im in agreement with the comments on Iwobi. He seems to freeze when he gets into the final third.

  11. John F

    Dec 20, 2018, 10:55 #112709

    I keep reading that Dick will sort out the defence when his record in Spain suggests otherwise, conceding an average of 50goals a season.He is known for his attacking and hard working teams that attack at speed not defending. Unfortunately he has inherited a team that has no natural wide players to be able to carry his out his style of play,he should recall Nelson..He has done a remarkable job with the players he has got so far but I am worried that some strange decisions such as playing Xhaka at the back ,not starting with Lacazette and playing Mikki and AWOEbi will undo all his hard work.