Going into the game, the expectations were high. It’s understandable: we were on a streak of wins, City dropped points against Villa earlier and, finally, we played Spurs.
However, one simple fact wasn’t quite taken into account, by yours truly too: we have a stretched squad which is also exhausted. For almost every player who started yesterday it was the third game inside a week. Debuchy and Koscielny were the only exceptions.
And so, when after the initial spark in the opening 15 minutes or so, Arsenal faded away, dominated by an organised and fresh Spurs side (which had the luxury of rotating in midweek), despair started to creep in. We had no one on the bench to change the course of the game.
When, on top of all that, Tottenham went ahead in the 32nd minute, despair turned into dejection. It was a simple move that led to the goal: Rose, who was given time and space, found Kane with the through ball and a grown version of Draco Malfoy (with an open mouth) bumbled the ball in.
The goal made me want to pull my hair out for two reasons:
- I knew Arsenal haven’t been good lately at chasing results. We are fabulous at holding onto a win, but not so good at making comebacks
- The move which led to a goal was really simple, textbook stuff. One pass was all it took to bypass our entire defense.
I have been thinking quite some time about this goal and came to the only plausible explanation as to why it occurred: Koscielny’s mistake. Not entirely the Frenchman’s fault, but mostly his. He committed the same mistake he made a week ago, one which Gabriel fell prey to in midweek: trying to spring an offside trap. On the first occasion Bellerin saved us from a certain goal. This time around the Spaniard wasn’t on the pitch.
However, we responded. It took us till approximately 60th minute to get back into the game, though when we did, we could have won it. The momentum shifted, Spurs were there to be taken, but a draw is probably a fair result. Both teams dominated the game in stretches.
As always, I’ll go over some individual performances. Starting with…
All eyes were on the Frenchman before the game. He had a decent game against Bayern after the Sheffield Wednesday debacle, question was, could he build on this performance?
Yes. Yes, he can. Though Debuchy’s passing remained off (30/44 passes, 68% pass completion), everything else was up to scratch. I haven’t checked both teams, but Debuchy definitely leads Arsenal in tackles made (9/10). 9 successful tackles! In 77 minutes, mind you. That’s more than Kos and Mert combined (6).
The Frenchman also made 7 ball recoveries, 2 interceptions and blocked two crosses. In short, Mathieu managed to keep both Rose and Eriksen quiet, which is quite an achievement, especially since the same Debuchy was repeatedly skinned by Rose in the Capital One Cup.
While Bellerin will likely be reinstated straight away after the break, we’ve seen a marked improvement from Debuchy. Hope such a performance gives the Frenchman a boost to stay and fight for his place.
For Joel things look worse than for Debuchy, unfortunately. The Costa-Rican was hauled off with around 15 to go and you could see why: hard as he tried, Rose got the better of our young winger.
In his (not inconsiderable) time on the pitch Campbell completed only 18 passes, created one chance and wasn’t successful with any of his dribbles or crosses. He also wasn’t much of a help in defense, competing just 1 tackle, 1 interception and recovering the ball 4 times. In simpler terms, he basically left Debuchy on his own against Rose and Eriksen and thank God Debuchy coped.
If Ramsey and Oxlade return after the break (which they should), Campbell is likely to slip down to 3rd in the pecking order and yesterday you could see why.
I’ve seen a lot of criticism going the Frenchman’s way after the game and I’m not sure I understand why.
Giroud was massive yesterday. He won everything there was to win in the air, held up play brilliantly and, on a night when no one seemed capable of producing a goal he was a constant threat. On top of all that, Ollie knocked down the rat Vertonghen.
Also, Giroud took five shots. I hear you screaming “But he put of these off target, he missed two big chances!” Now pause for a second. Out of these 5 shots, 4 were headed efforts. Which means all four were hotly contested. Fifth, by the way, was from a corner.
Out of these 5 shots, 4 were from set pieces. If you think it’s easy to score from a set-piece, think again. Yes, Giroud could have done better with his chances. But I’m not inclined to bash him, simply because he didn’t miss any of these by much, there are mitigating circumstances as to why he missed and, finally, he showed enough craft to get into good shooting positions. Something few our players accomplished.
I saved the best for last. Ozil was really magnificent once again. I would even go as far as to say he outdid himself.
Ozil created 7 chances, 4 of these from set-pieces and got an assist for his troubles. It was his 10th assist in 11 league games. This assist was also 6th in consecutive games. Both are new Premier League records.
Moreover, of 7 chances Ozil fashioned for his teammates, 6 were in prime areas. Insane. In a game where we really struggled to do anything, Ozil was the fulcrum and it can be argued we should have won given his contribution.
What I really liked is how Ozil was prepared to dig in for the team (ran 10.5 km, tops all Arsenal players). Also how he kept the ball and manipulated space, in a game where both were hard to come by. The German basically pulled Arsenal by the scruffs of the players’ necks.
Arsene was also full of praise for the German:
“He was outstanding again. He has grown into a very great player as he has added commitment, leadership qualities and responsibility and I’m very pleased with his development.”
Wrapping it up
I’ve heard a lot of Gunners last week saying how they’d agree to take 4 points from the next two games with such an exhausted and threadbare squad. Well, here are the 4 points. Sign here.
Given the circumstances (high level of exhaustion, hell-bent Spurs side on a good run, demoralising defeat in midweek), I’ll take the draw. The way the game unfolded, we could have been bemoaning a loss right now.
That we don’t is down to the character of our players. At 1-0 down, exhausted, they dug deep, found the resources and produced a performance which could have seen us win the game. So I’ll say: “Well done, boys”.
The point sees us stay in second place, level with City. Now we have an international break to get through, which right now seems a welcome thing. It allows some of our players to catch their breath and it gives our walking wounded the opportunity to recover. Phew.
Over and out from me
Russian Gooner. No, it’s not always cold in my home country 🙂
A staunch Arsenal supporter since 2004. Started writing about the Gunners in 2013.
Currently in London to get a degree in journalism.