Arsenal lose the NLD as Harry Kane’s second-half header gives his team a boost in the race for fourth. The Gunners are now seven points behind Spuds and five behind fifth-place Chelsea, who have a game in hand.
Well, let’s begin the inquest.
Arsenal Lose the NLD: What Happened?
The Plan Was Working
Arsene Wenger set Arsenal out in a more defensive system than normal. While the team sheet showed a 4-3-3 formation, the Gunners on the field were closer to a 4-5-1. This allowed the team to stifle any creative play through the middle, forcing the Spuds out wide.
Mesut Ozil did a wonderful job tracking back and helping Hector Bellerin cover the right flank. In the early salvos, Tottenham focused their efforts there, no doubt mindful of Nacho Monreal on the opposite wing.
However, new signing Henrikh Mkhitaryan was far less impressive on the left wing. He tracked back far more slowly, allowing space and time to Hots***, making life much more difficult for Monreal.
Despite dominating the match through the first 45, the home side were not able to exploit this defensive weakness.
Pochettino set his team up to press Arsenal in his usual emphatic style. He had his midfielders and defenders play long balls throughout the first half, pushing the Gunners’ back line deep.
Once the visitors were pinned back in their own half, Tottenham changed formation. Eric Dier fell back into the defense, allowing the full-backs to push high and stretch Arsenal’s back line.
While Wenger’s system held firm in the first half, it didn’t take long for the inevitable to happen.
Until it Wasn’t
With so much pressure heaped upon them, the Gunners’ midfield eventually broke. As per usual, it was a lapse of judgement which afforded the opposition a chance.
With the full-backs being pushed higher and higher, Granit Xhaka once again found himself out of position. He allowed his man some space, tempting Ozil to pick him up.
With Davies free on his left flank, and both Mustafi and Koscielny struggling to contain Kane, the two Tottenham men combined for the goal. While Koscielny should have done better in the air, it was the midfield which allowed the move to start.
The team, of course, had two chances to level at the end of the match, however, substitute Alexandre Lacazette could not convert them. It is worth noting he looks severely short of confidence.
Arsenal lose the NLD with just one shot on target to their name this time.
Where the Blame Lies
Given the benefit of hindsight, a few changes would have helped the team on the day. For example, Mkhitaryan should not have been allowed to be so care-free in defense.
Danny Welbeck, meanwhile, has done good things with his pressing and back-tracking from the left flank this year, see the 0-0 to Chelsea in September. Probably bringing him on at the half would have given the team a chance to keep a clean sheet.
Granit Xhaka also gave away too much space at times, so perhaps dropping him would yield better results. Ainsley Maitland-Niles is inexperienced, however, is also a natural CM, perhaps that change would have affected the score?
It is difficult to say one way or the other, but with the team in dire straights now, something must change.
Not for me. While there is little doubt which side is in the ascendency, we’ve seen this from both teams before.
Just like last season, Arsenal are all-but relegated to the fact that there will not be a St. Totteringham’s Day this year. However, also just like last year, there is nothing to say if Spurs will ever lift a major trophy, even with such a talented squad.
They face Juventus in the Champions League, have no hope of the Premier League and face a very long road to the FA Cup.
Meanwhile, the Gunners are in the League Cup Final later in February and have only a few real rivals for the Europa League.
Arsenal lose the NLD, however could finish with more sivlerware than Spurs.
The odds say that if one team will win a trophy, it is more likely to be the Gunners. It is very difficult to say one team is better than another when the other wins silverware instead of Derbies.
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