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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