What is it with Arsenal? Last week there was talk of a refreshed new team as they swept aside Everton 5-1. You just knew it was a mirage, it always is.
The most frustrating thing for Wenger will be how good Arsenal were in the first half. They were diligent and dogged in defence and bright if a tad wasteful on the break. Son attacked Bellerin time after time down the left but refused the buckle. Koscielny and Mustafi had Kane under control, one 5 yard header aside, Elneny and Xhaka were organised in their screening roles.
They were unlucky with a Wilshere through ball to Aubameyang and a Wilshere miskicked chance. Tottenhams best chances came from a Kane header that he couldn’t keep down from four yards and an unlucky Eriksen looped header that didn’t have enough on it.
In short Arsenal were more than competitive in the first half.
What happened at half time? Absolute mystery.
Son and Davies had already combined twice in the first five minutes of the second half when the ball fell to Davies. The Welshman set himself and delivered a gorgeous left footed ball that arced into the penalty area. Harry Kane was on the move, he absolutely bullied Koscielny and buried a beautiful header into the bottom corner.
Now was a time for Arsenal to stay strong and regroup. But they look mentally incapable of that. Two minutes later, Trippier crossed in in identical fashion to Davies, this time however Kane’s header glanced an inch wide of the post. Barely another two minutes passed before Kane was in acres of space following a quick Eriksen break from an Arsenal offside. Kane’s volley from the edge of the area was driven hard but straight down Cech’s throat and he parried it away to safety. It only need a further two minutes for Arsenal to concede a free kick on the edge of the area. Cech again produced a great save to deny Eriksen’s shot curling into the top corner.
Arsenal had gone from gritty, disciplined and sensible to a pathetic shambles in the space of 15 minutes.Embed from Getty Images
Tottenham kept the pressure on with Dembele the fulcrum in midfield, all twists and turns into space, strong shielding and some wonderful probing passing, he along with Eriksen kept Spurs in control. A special mention also to Dele Alli. Alli kept buzzing around and drifting into space, occupying and confusing Elneny and the Arsenal centre backs. Even though his use of the ball was patchy at best he fully deserved his standing ovation when substituted late on.
Arsenal needed a lift and with 25 minutes remaining Iwobi and Lacazette replaced Elneny and Mkhitaryan. If last week saw the return of the mercurial, elusive Dortmund Mkhitaryan, this week showed him at his limp, Mourinho baiting worst. Both him and Ozil are both rightly lauded as magicians but today they only succeeded in a synchronised disappearing act.
If Wenger thought the substituted would lift his team he would have been incandescent with Lacazette’s first involvement. He was caught offside adjusting his socks.
Jack Wilshere was Arsenal’s best player and he tried a 25 yard curler but Lloris was equal to it. This would prove to be Arsenal’s only shot on target.
Tottenham pressed for a goal that would kill the game off but squandered even more chances as Son skied well over, Alli fluffed a chance wide when clear through and Lamela and Trippier both brought smart saves from Cech.Embed from Getty Images
Even at one nil Spurs looked comfortable especially with Arsenal’s new signing Aubameyang marooned out left. Indeed Aubameyang’s only involvement all day was an unlucky offside run and to be the victim of a cruyff turn by the imperious Davidson Sanchez.
However that comfort should have turned to despair in stoppage time as Lacazette wasted two glorious chances. The first and harder one ended up volleyed into row Z of the record Premier League crowd. The second and best chance came from an Iwobi through ball and left the Frenchman through on goal with only a sprawling Lloris to beat. Lacazette’s finish was like that of a rookie golfer bottling a putt to win the Masters. He didn’t commit to any real finish and the ball rolled wide.
With that Tottenham had won and leapfrog Chelsea into the top four and can look forward to a battle win Juventus in the Champions League. Arsenal look to be on a long trudge to the end of the season. If they lose at Wembley again to Manchester City in the League Cup final the Wenger era will end with a whimper, and this thoroughly predictable beleaguered defeat in the rain would be a sad if fitting epitaph to the Wenger era.
Man of the match: Honourable mentions to Kane and Sanchez but Dembele was peerless today. He was strong and commanding in defensive situations and elegant and progressive with the ball in attack as his 97% pass rate attests.
Spurs 4231 Lloris; Trippier, Vertonghen, Sanchez, Davies; Dembele, Dier; Alli (Wanyama 85), Eriksen, Son (Lamela 70); Kane
Arsenal 433 Cech; Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal; Elneny (Iwobi 65), Wilshere, Xhaka (Welbeck 86); Ozil, Mkhitaryan (Lacazette 65), Aubameyang.
Written by Gary Robinson.
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