Draw With Spurs Gives Reason For Optimism

Some have a different take on Sunday’s North London Derby

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Guendouzi – Constant Threat

I was surprised at the reaction in some quarters to Sunday's derby, with a number of fans I have come into contact with seeming pretty down about the match. They spoke about the defensive errors, Granit Xhaka's madness, Unai Emery's team selection and most importantly the team's failure to beat their local rivals. While all the points raised are certainly valid, and by no means topics that should be ignored, I came away from the game with a sense of optimism.

Not beating Spurs is always a disappointment and after 44 minutes Arsenal were staring at a humiliating defeat that could have sapped much of the club's early season excitement. Thankfully, Arsenal came back into the game and it is the way they did that which has left me feeling so positive going into the first international break of the season.

It is clear that Emery hasn't quite landed on a cohesive line up or setup this season and is still getting to grips with the players he has at his disposal. He has often been accused of conservatism and pragmatism and while I am comfortable with such a philosophy, or lack of, at this stage of the season, fans want to see a clearer style of play going forward.

Against Tottenham what was so promising was Arsenal's desire to be the protagonists, as Emery would say. In both halves Arsenal looked to impose their game on Tottenham, push them back and create chances. While there wasn't quite the understanding between the front three or the connectivity between the thirds of the pitch, the intent was clear.

Despite their shortcomings, they created more chances and had more possession. Hugo Lloris made good saves from Nicolas Pepe, Matteo Guendouzi and Dani Ceballos, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang looked a constant threat.

Spurs' goals were both the direct result of mistakes and while they did have other chances, they were never able to pen Arsenal in. On the other hand, Arsenal passed out from the back with confidence and in the second half especially Guendouzi and Ceballos began to build on their promising understanding that we first saw against Burnley.

With players to come back and midfield balance to find, there is room for improvement but also the potential to take a step forward. In midfield, I think a double pivot with a number ten ahead of them is the best fit for this squad. This formation suits Lucas Torreira, Mesut Ozil, Guendouzi and Xhaka perfectly, while Ceballos and Joe Willock seem to have the range of skills that allow them to fit into either a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1.

Kieran Tierney and Hector Bellerin are a clear upgrade on what we have had at full back so far this season and if paired with a more balanced midfield, they can contribute as much going forward as they can at the back.

It has been an intense start to the season and Arsenal have already faced two sides that many observers would expect to finish in the top four. Despite this tough start, they still have more points than both Chelsea and Manchester United. If Arsenal address the weak points about the Spurs game, but continue to show the qualities that allowed them to get back into the game, a place in the top four is in their hands.


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  1. markymark

    Sep 6, 2019, 18:28 #114830

    Bard, I agree that Unai might be the “Deschamps” of Arsenal. Possibly even a Bruce Rioja . I do though have a bit of faith in Raul. I like the fact he appears a bit of a bastard. We need a few more of them.

  2. Exiled in Pt

    Sep 6, 2019, 18:08 #114829

    Bard- I tend to agree with everything you said, I just hope we are proved wrong by Dick and the team. I honestly believe a back four of Belerin, Tierney, Chambers and Holding is the only way forward this season with DL as a DM in front of them but they will need time to settle and I do not believe Dick will do it he will stick with Sokratis and DL with maybe Holding as a back 3. I just can't be bothered to moan about it anymore so just going to sit back for the ride and see where we go. I certainly do not think we will go down the route of a big time coach, after Dick I put my money on Freddie or Silvinho from Lyon... At least I have one game to go to in the EL and hopefully might make the trip for the NLD at the shit hole...

  3. Seven Kings Gooner 1

    Sep 6, 2019, 15:46 #114828

    There is a better balance to the side with Pepe playing as he gives the team genuine width in a 4 3 3 formation, however if we play 4 3 3 away from home we will get badly beaten by the top 6 teams. I believe Emery will continue with an attacking formation because he just has not inherited a team with any real class defenders or players vocally strong enough to manage a defensive game on the pitch.

  4. Bard

    Sep 6, 2019, 07:47 #114827

    A bit of a Graham Perry article. Some fans seem to have fallen for the Josh K b******t about progress and competition. The reason he came out with this stuff is because he and the board are afraid of fan discontent because it hurts the brand. Silent Stan is in this to make money not compete. He needs to do enough to keep fans on side. Sadly he doesnt need to do much to reignite hope in some fans. Its very painful to accept that the club have slipped a long way from competing. We neither have the personel nor the type of manager to take us to the next level. Dick is ok but we need a revolutionary to create a winning culture and that requires more than good coaching. You need someone with a massive personality like a Klopp or Pep. All the really successful clubs in our memory had it. Shankly, Stein, Clough, Revie et all. They were more than coaches, they shaped the club. Dick is a water carrier no more. None of the managers I have mentioned would tolerate the kind of mistakes we made against the Spuds. And none of them would have bothered with Luiz who is fulfilling every prediction we made about him. He is a calamity waiting to happen.

  5. markymark

    Sep 6, 2019, 07:17 #114826

    Ron2 - you are right on the character front. Old Wengo liked a quiet dressing room and it’s never really been sorted . Unai worries me as though PSG sounds a nightmare it appears he may have made the situation worse by letting Cavani and Neymar akin to it. He ended up losing his own authority though not taking a stand . I like Willock I think he’s got something about him. Wilshere could have if he’d been reigned in. Part of the problem as well, wasn’t the captainship always offered to players who wanted away . A reward for lack of loyalty complete foolishness.

  6. ArsenalMagna

    Sep 5, 2019, 23:34 #114825

    @Ron, if you haven't seen it already, you should watch on Youtube 'Keane vs Vieira: Best of Enemies', which I think you'd enjoy. Keane was asked why the best United XI he picked had so many players who had fallen out with Ferguson and he said that it was because you need independent-minded players to win titles. I do wonder if we can go a little far with the whole 'leadership' thing though. I haven't seen any real leaders at City the last few years bar Kompany, who has only been partly involved. Liverpool you could say Henderson and maybe VVD, but no others. Think you're right that the team lacks enough mettle which hits us away from home, but I think the biggest thing has been failing to develop a really good defensive and counterattacking doctrine, especially in the last few years.

  7. itsRonagain2

    Sep 5, 2019, 22:42 #114824

    Hi Marky. There probably is a tactical element to it as you say but basically it’s lack of character I think, esp in the middle of the field and centre defence. I d go right back to the days of Adams to find our team containing anybody with the fibre and backbone to harness and bolster the team when under the hammer. It takes a special type to relish being up against and still to prevail. Some would say Vieira. I wouldn’t. Great player but in my view he wasn’t a team bonding type. He set good example with his play but for me he wasn’t a particularly good leader. Basically he was self effacing and reserved. Not the type to lead in circs maybe when his own game wasn’t brilliant. Gilberto tried to lead but again, he was a really nice guy I thought and the same applied. The Utd side and Chelsea too this last 15 yrs were spoilt for leaders and it got them home more often than not when the teams weren’t playing great. I think it’s undiubtedly the case that we ve recruited far to many weak minded physically lacking players for years. I don’t think Wenger was ever confortable with strong willed players. I don’t think Emery is either. Sometimes you need a couple of guys who might not be the best technical players but who are invaluable for what they are on and off the pitch. Arsenal F.C. has been like a crèche for years. No manager on the pitch basically. Away games being such types to the fore.

  8. markymark

    Sep 5, 2019, 21:34 #114823

    It’s Ron Again - fully with you on the away form. From what I heard the great big end of season analysis told them they needed sharper transitioning / wing play to stop themselves being over run in mid field . What ever the answer they came up with . We still look defeated half the time in the first 30hr of a lot of our away games. I’ve just been hearing rumours btw that Mitty was told after the match he was going and that Unai had not been made aware prior . Seems odd if true. I did wonder why on Earth they bothered putting on against the Spuds.

  9. Andrew15xv

    Sep 5, 2019, 17:39 #114821

    GoonerRon - very valid reasoning, I will certainly reserve judgement on Emery until later in the season.

  10. GoonerRon

    Sep 5, 2019, 16:03 #114820

    @ Andrew15xv - we scored first in that game (Ramsey back flick from a Bellerin cross I think), so we were down to 10 and came back from 2-1 down. I agree Emery hasn’t established a set way of playing yet, nor a shape to settle on which he needs to do. I have a modicum of sympathy for him given a big chuck of our possible best XI (Leno, Tierney, Sokratis, Luiz, Torreira, Guendouzi, Ceballos, Pepe, Holding and Bellerin) have either been at the club for just over a year (or a number of weeks in some cases) or have been injured for 8-10 months. The building of the personnel has taken some time over numerous windows. He’s not had close to probably what he considers his strongest team available together yet. I’m hoping he’s got a clear idea of how this needs to be once most players have settled in and/or got their fitness.

  11. itsRonagain2

    Sep 5, 2019, 14:26 #114819

    Things would start to look rosier if they could cure the mental blockage about playing away from home. Its really odd and has been there now for a few seasons. Its at variance with the trend in that PL now for the better placed clubs. The last 7 or 8 years has seen those clubs in the main more or less play away how they do at home. Im pretty sure this has been helped by the fact that apart from 1 or 2 away venues, the atmospheres are poor and the away support is often the most encouraging and vociferous. In Arsenals case they've been melting away from home for a long, long time. Its as much the fault of the previous and the present Coach but its evidence of the flaky types who've played for the club for so long. Apart from Anfield when they get a head of steam on, particularly at a night match i cant think of 1 other ground that should give top players the jitters. Newcastle can get noisy but the home team is generally crap there. Goodison occasionally if they get a goal lead too, but their home crowd is fickle and soon turn on their own. Emery needs to get a grip on them or get some body in who can.

  12. Andrew15xv

    Sep 5, 2019, 11:14 #114817

    Didn't we come back from 2-0 down to draw away from home with ten men and Wenger at the helm a few years back tho? (Ramsey and Sanchez maybe?)

  13. Andrew15xv

    Sep 5, 2019, 11:14 #114816

    Didn't we come back from 2-0 down to draw away from home with ten men and Wenger at the helm a few years back tho? (Ramsey and Sanchez maybe?)

  14. ArsenalMagna

    Sep 5, 2019, 10:13 #114815

    Ozil? Thank god he has been dropped. His work rate is poor and he is vastly overrated. Ozil has only ever succeeded playing for teams that can dominate the game without him but who need his creativity with all the space they create for him. He can't create his own space and that is why he is almost always abysmal vs the top 6 and away from home. Torreira is too diminutive and has become less and less concerned with his defensive duties this calendar year. Xhaka is a great passer of the ball and long range shooter, but nothing more - a total liability in every other area. Luiz as DM, Guendouzi as a box-to-box/DM (flexible) and Ceballos at 10 is a perfectly good formula, with Chambers and Holding at CB. I said before that we only need that line up and to play balanced football and we're virtually guaranteed to finish 3rd, but only the latter will/has been happening, but may not last if Emery starts panicking about our points tally.

  15. markymark

    Sep 5, 2019, 06:14 #114814

    “It is clear that Emery hasn't quite landed on a cohesive line up or setup this season and is still getting to grips with the players he has at his disposal. ” I agree with the above comment , it’s pretty acceptable first 10-15 games into a new club but he’s had a whole season . Still not stamped a style of play, chopping , changing . When will he get a sense of the team?