Let’s start with something good that happened yesterday – the print version of The Gooner managed to raise enough subscribers to continue for another season. Our thanks to everyone who committed to get us past the 1,000 mark (although not by much, it has to be said – so we will be working over the coming weeks to raise more, not least because of the loss of matchday sales that is likely to continue for a while). On that note, the new issue has gone to the printers – the final one this season, produced specifically because we have the subscribers who paid over a year ago to receive six issues over the course of the 2019/20 season.
Obviously we won’t be selling copies of the new issue at Arsenal matches as we’ve managed to do since 1987. So if you normally buy one at the game, you can buy one online by the end of tomorrow (Tuesday), pay the normal £5 and get it posted to you for free on Thursday (UK addresses only). Click on this link to buy your copy of the new issue, or if you have PayPal, simply send £5 through our PayPal me link - https://www.paypal.me/goonerfanzine - please remember to put your name and address in the note with the payment.
Ok, so we can’t avoid the events of yesterday. Let’s look for small mercies, at least Gooners who would have been able to secure tickets for the first North London Derby at the new Spurs ground (unless you count the victorious women’s team) did not have to suffer the sight of a poor Arsenal display in person, and the journey to and from the swamp.
Pepe came in for Saka, which was understandable given that Arteta does not want to overplay the teenager, but there is no question it weakened the team. Pepe is turning into a bit of a Theo Walcott Mk II – high hopes, but only rare flashes of genuine talent.
There were early errors at the back for Arsenal, with David Luiz most culpable. Emi Martinez performed well in goal and but for him the defeat might have been larger. We had early hope with a cracking goal from Alexandre Lacazette, but the joy was short-lived. What can one say about Sead Kolasinac. Arteta plays him in the three at the back presumably because he wants a left footer on that side. Then the Bosnian plays a poor pass back to David Luiz on his wrong foot, putting his colleague in deep, deep trouble. Probably fed up of getting red cards, Luiz became a bystander as Son leveled the scores.
Kolasinac was the main culprit though. He had an easy pass on to Kieran Tierney yet chose to play it back. There is too much possession in Arsenal’s own half under Arteta. It’s no threat to anyone and when mistakes occur, they can be costly. Arsenal might think they are controlling the game, but not one they are going to have much chance of winning if they cannot be more confident in their ability to move the ball forward. The bottom line is that none of the three defenders who played central yesterday are good enough. Mustafi was brushed aside by Harry Kane in a reminder of why he became such a boo boy before he theoretically improved under Arteta. Old habits die hard.
So we had a match in which Arsenal dominated possession (63% v 37%) but Spurs had more goal attempts. This is Mourinho football, a contrast to what the regulars at the Lane are used to, but they’ll settle for it if it means winning derby matches in the short term. Aubameyang should have put Arsenal ahead in the second half, but in fairness, Spurs also hit the woodwork. For all their possession and control of the game, the Gunners were toothless too often. There was some spark, but the conclusion of the match was simply depressing as Arsenal’s vulnerability to set pieces as exposed again.
They had an extra two days to prepare for this match, but the bottom line is that, tactically, Arteta was given a lesson by Mourinho, a manager who is supposed to have shot his bolt.
For all the hopes around the new head coach, there is, with the Manchester City decision at CAS this morning (and no doubt a few of the decision makers there have benefited nicely from that outcome), even Europa League qualification is in the balance now. As one of City, Chelsea or Manchester United will win the FA Cup (it sure isn’t going to be Arsenal who will be dispatched with little resistance in the semi-final), the three places in the Europa League will go to the teams finishing between fifth and seventh in the table. The current top five look nailed on with the only decision there who misses out on Champions League.
The teams from sixth to tenth have two European spots to compete for. Arsenal are ninth, ahead of Burnley on goal difference. If they fail to beat Liverpool on Wednesday evening, they will almost certainly miss out on Europa League, creating a £30 million hole in the budget. Mesut Ozil will be collecting more than half of that for sitting on his arse next year.
Mikel Arteta wants Arsenal playing like a Pep Guardiola side. Sadly, he doesn’t have the players to do it. He may have an element of George Graham’s personality in terms of his ‘non-negotiables’ that have seen Ozil and Guendouzi disappear, but he sure could use some of George’s ability to organize a defence. Because the lack of quality we saw yesterday was deeply worrying.