It’s happened again…it’s happened aagAAAAAAIN…TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR, IT’S HAPPENED AGAIN.
Okay, got that out of my system, and I even went with the less aggressive song. Now, we all know that we shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves, after all it is only November, but we are allowed to just soak this in for the week, right?
There is so much to say about this match, even outside of the football. I could write 1000 words on the emotional euphoria that was the North London Derby, but unfortunately that isn’t my job. My job is to discuss what we have learned from this specific match (admittedly, a pretty cool second to writing about the emotional euphoria). So, let’s get into it, shall we?
Arsenal Play Their Best Football…Without The Football
It’s no secret that Arsenal played brilliantly against Spurs, and it’s certainly no secret that I share that consensus sentiment if you read the first few sentences of this article. However there is a sort of consensus opinion that I disagree with…Wengerball is pretty, but it is not effective in today’s league.Well, not with this squad anyway.
Before you all freak out on me I will say yes, I remember Giroud’s goal against Red Star Belgrade. OF COURSE I remember that goal against Norwich, I can’t believe you would even have to ask. But, when Arsenal try to control possession against other Top 6 clubs it typically does not work out. Having said that, the way to go about playing is not necessarily to counter attack. We attempted to dominate Liverpool with possession. We had 539 passes and nearly 52% possession…but we lost 4-0. The approach didn’t work. Then against City, we did not try a possession based game plan. It appeared that it might be the case, you certainly wouldn’t be blamed for thinking such after taking a look at the starting XI for that match. Arsenal only managed 41% possession but still managed to get off 450 passes, and the match ended 3-1 in favor of Manchester City.
Now, a quick look at the stats from the NLD will show that Arsenal only had about 42% possession…very similar to the statistic against Manchester City but if you look a little deeper you will also see that Arsenal only completed 399 passes. Those stats alone would trouble you most likely, but in fact it shows that Arsenal were much more direct against Tottenham than they had been against Liverpool and City. Each pass had purpose and intended to penetrate the defense. So, maybe let’s stop worrying about the beautiful Wengerball and start getting behind a more direct style of play that helps us beat the Top 6.
Bellerin Has Indeed Been Working On His Crossing
So, maybe not solely his crossing, but dribbling, tackling, and passing…pretty much everything. Hector was the unsung hero of the North London Derby. To be fair the entire squad played out of their minds but Bellerin put in quite the shift, especially on the attacking front. This match made it clear that his vision is improving. From creating near chances to creating the chance that resulted in the second goal. With the improved attacking potency, comes the oppositions tendency to close down on him, which creates for space in the final third for the likes Ozil, Sanchez, and Lacazette. It started with this chance early in the first half.
Bellerin was left wide open on the outside and it resulted in a clear chance at goal that was barely missed. Now, in isolation, this is just a missed chance. But in the context of this match it taught Tottenham a lesson…don’t leave Bellerin open on the outside. So, they adjusted accordingly. Later in that half, this happened… Instead of letting Bellerin go unmarked like they did a few minutes prior, Eriksen attempted to close down on him. It was in the split second of uncertainty that Ozil began his run toward goal. Aaaaand Spurs got away with it again. Now Bellerin is a legitimate problem in this match. Then, we finally get this…
The Tottenham defense is now attempting to stop Bellerin from as far as midfield, and you can’t blame them for that. But, much like the second chance, the single moment of hesitation allowed Lacazette to run in behind Vertonghen, ultimately assisting Sanchez for the second goal. Keep it up Hector!
Mustafi Can Not Be Sold
We lucked out this summer when it comes to Mustafi. If you all recall, it was reportedly all locked up that Mustafi would join Inter on a one-year loan with a compulsion to buy next summer. If you also recall, it appeared that Johnny Evans would be the man to come in to fill the Shkodran-sized hole. While things may have not gone Arsenal’s way throughout the summer, we should be grateful that this deal did not happen. After all, can you imagine Johhny Evans doing this?
Nah, you can’t but that’s okay because Johnny Evans is still at West Brom and Mustafi still wears a canon on his chest. Thank god for that. Not only did he have a tremendous role in the goalscoring, but he also was a general in the defense. The effort was apparent, and the skill was put beautifully on display. Mustafi is under contract until June of 2021 and I hope Wenger reconsiders his stance on Mustafi. With Koscielny and Monreal both in their 30’s it is key to build on what we have in Mustafi, Kolasinac, and Bellerin. Enjoy this gif of Mustafi shutting down Harry Kane.
We Are In For A Rough Transfer Window
I did not want to lead with this point, and I also don’t want to close with it, but it does need to be said. There is no doubt that Ozil and Sanchez inspired the team to this win. I can’t recall a better performance from Mesut, and Alexis was even better than his usual self. But…there is a strong possibility, in fact a likelihood, that both of these guys won’t be here next year. Ozil and Sanchez (pssst and Jack Wilshere) can sign pre-contracts with foreign teams as soon as January. If they both sign pre-contracts it is kind of a positive because…at least they won’t be playing for a rival, right? On the other hand if they don’t sign any agreements that most likely means they will sign for another Premier League club, while also getting our hopes up that maybe just maaaybe they will sign an extension here at Arsenal.
Then there is the possibility of Arsene deciding to sell one of them, or both of them, in the January transfer window. But at this point, who would pay a premium for the services of a player they can get for free in six months? Maybe someone in dire need of said services. This would most likely be with the case with Ozil, which is still unlikely. I hope Wenger would prefer the services provided by Mesut rather than get a measly 20 million. But in Alexis’ case with the heavily-linked Man City sitting atop of the table, that probably won’t happen. So he is most likely to leave for free which means at least we get him until the end of the season.
Say what you want about the man, but we know he will leave everything on the pitch, even when it makes no sense…
Always Be Confident Against Spurs
This final “thing we learned” is a treat for everyone who has read the entire piece thus far. I would like to personally thank you, I appreciate you. So, as a reward I will disclose something with you all. I made a risky bet over the weekend. My fellow podcast host is a Spurs fan…is this rough to deal with? Yes. But I remain adamant that we are superior, and there is no such “power shift” in North London. However, I knew my friend would feel confident going into this match…so I proposed the following: whoever loses the match the respective fan has to wear the other’s team shirt.
WELL GUESS WHAT GUYS WE WON. So, here is my friend, miserable in an Arsenal shirt (Jack Wilshere to be specific).
So if we all have learned one thing…it is that we are better and will continue to be better in the future.
Love you all, goodbye.