As many pundits have noted, Arsenal are moving in the right direction. This was evident at the Emirates Stadium, when the Gunners managed to dominate a game against their local rivals Spurs, but still look vulnerable to the counter attack.
For their part, Tottenham looked ready to sucker punch Arsenal, who thew so much into attack that they looked inadequately prepared for any opposition threat.
To make matters worse, Xhaka and Sokratis leapt for the same ball, neither connecting, which led to the opening goal despatched by the want-away Tufty. The over-rated Spurs man deserved his goal for following up, but even he must have been surprised that Leno could only parry Lamela’s lame shot into his path. Quite how some pundits leveled the blame at Arsenal’s number 23, David Luis, is beyond me.
Xhaka, meanwhile, was intent on giving Arsenal an even tougher mountain to surmount, so leapt in with an idiotic challenge in the penalty area to concede a spot kick, which the lethal enemy of Arsenal duly converted.
Had it not been for Lacazette’s goal before half-time, all could have been lost for the Gunners, who started to look like they’d never score. Indeed, Arsenal could learn lessons by watching how Tottenham defend in numbers. Even when Lacazette pulled a goal back, there were eight Spurs players in the box, so they clearly understand the concept of strength in numbers.
Arsenal began the second half much like the first: metaphorically a house on fire seemed to fit the bill as they huffed and puffed and panicked but looked unlikely to equalise.
It was fitting that the impressive Guendouzi should supply the assist, which was despatched beautifully by Aubameyang, who applied the thinnest veneer to finish. Only a moment of brilliance like that could have unlocked the stubborn Spurs defence.
VAR denied Arsenal a deserved victory at the death, when Kolasinac’s leg hair was deemed to be offside. Sokratis’s goal did not stand and Spurs gratefully accepted a share of the spoils.
Overall, like the Liverpool defeat, there was much to admire in the new-look Arsenal. One fan asked what Xhaka adds to the team, and it’s difficult to answer. The word ‘liability’ comes to mind, although he did make some reasonably good passes.
The question is how many other current Arsenal midfielders offer more? Guendouzi covers every inch of turf twice over and passes better than Xhaka and, on one of his good days, Torreira has more about him than the Swiss, but is Ceballos really offering more? The highly-rated Spaniard had one good shot on target and offered little else except misplaced passes, reminiscent of his shockingly awful performance against Liverpool.
Meanwhile, attacking midfielder Mkhitaryan offers so little that his impact needs to be measured on a microscope. When Spurs mounted a dangerous attack, one player who seemed unconcerned about marking was the aforementioned. Even a half-baked Ozil provides more overall than the ex-United man, so it’s hard to justify the Armenian’s selection.
One player who did justify being picked to start was Kolasinac. The Tank’s marauding forward play had Spurs worried for much of the match and perhaps it can now be understood why Arsenal sold the ever-reliable Monreal to Real Sociedad.
Nevertheless, despite the scintillating forward three, Arsenal resemble a work in progress. Top three looks possible, but higher than that is unlikely, especially if the Gunners don’t take their chances.