Things just seem to be going from bad to worse for Arsenal, as they slumped to yet another defeat in the Premier League, this time, at the hands of their bitter rivals, Tottenham Hotspur in the North London Derby, marking Arsenal’s third defeat in four games in the Premier League and leaving them winless since the start of November.
A stunning midweek display at home to Rapid Wien was enough to give Arsenal fans hope heading into the crunch match, but the old problems were soon laid bare and what looked like an ideal scenario at the beginning of the season, is starting to look more and more like a bad job as the weeks rumble on.
There was a boost heading into the match as Thomas Partey was declared fit following his hamstring injury prior to the match and there was also a return for Alexandre Lacazette, following his brilliant performance on Thursday.
Arsenal started positively and managed to contain enough of Tottenham’s attacks, but as is so common with José Mourinho, Arsenal were unable to break down a low-block and were punished not he counter-attack. A superb move from Tottenham saw a delightful finish from Heung Min-Son, with a contender for Goal of the Season.
From there, Arsenal began to turn the stress on Tottenham, but a distinct lack of end product and general failures in the attack meant that Arsenal were unable to pull one back or give Tottenham too much to worry about.
It was therefore not too unexpected to see Tottenham race up field again in another stunning counter attack for Harry Kane to rifle home Tottenham’s second, which all but eliminated Arsenal’s chances of getting back into the match.
Though the second-half saw a much more dominant display from Arsenal and a more openly creative half than we have seen for a while now, it was punctuated by yet another period of staggeringly poor end-product, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in particular looking throughly disappointing in front of goal and the Gabonese forward looked as relieved as any as the final whistle blew.
It was yet another stunning display from Arsenal, this time in polar opposite to their match on Thursday. Though Arsenal were slightly more creative against Tottenham than they had been against Wolves and Leeds United, it was yet another game in which the game passes Arsenal’s strikers by.
Aubameyang looked utterly woe-begone and incapable of even simple trapping, he struggled to create space for his teammates and looked uninterested in chasing down loose balls, unlike Lacazette, who knows that he is fighting for his place more than his captain.
However, while Arsenal’s poor performance in front of goal didn’t help, it seemed a though Mikel Arteta must shoulder much of the blame.
Arteta has come under fire in recent weeks for his handling of certain situations and of his overall demeanour when addressing his players, but Sunday night was sure fire way of showing just how much the Spaniard still has to learn.
In terms of tactics, Arsenal were easily identified within two minutes as to what the plan was. in the absence of David Luiz, who is capable of pinging a 60-yard pass as though it were nothing at all, Arsenal decided to rely on Gabriel Magalhães, who is talented enough to work the tactic, but without David Luiz’s accuracy or discipline, which led to Tottenham sussing Arsenal’s ping the ball to Tierney tactic within seconds of the kick-off.
Elsewhere, the Spaniard will come under fire for his handling of Thomas Partey. Though the Ghanian was undoubtedly rushed back in a bid to have him fit for Sunday, there were still concerns that the former Atlético Madrid man may not be fully ready. Indeed, Partey soon began to show signs of injury and made to leave the field of play as Tottenham broke. This angered Arteta, who shoved the midfielder back on the field, which looked to have exacerbated the problem and will have earned the manager no fans in the dressing room or outside it.
A distinct lack of empathy or general care for the wellbeing of his player, shows the disconnect that Arteta seems to have of the players in his team. The former Manchester City Assistant Coach is still learning his trade and will likely have far harsher lessons than this one to learn from along the way, however, his treatment of Partey (who perhaps should have followed Premier League protocol and gone to the ground) shows that the pressure is getting too much for the manager and shows that his lack of empathy could soon be catching up with him.
It was not just Arteta who had a terrible night however, both Granit Xhaka and Héctor Bellerín had worried nights as well. Xhaka, who completed the game with a surprisingly high 92% passing success rate, enjoyed a torrid time against Tottenham, was slow in transition and seemed unable to pick his teammates out, despite his high percentage rate.
As for Bellerín, the Spaniard seems to have earned himself a place on the bench from now on. The former Barcelona man has committed five foul throws in a single season. For a professional football player to be unable to throw the ball back into play without breaking the rules, is a lot of worry for Arteta and his team and it didn’t stop there. Bellerín’s positioning led to Tottenham’s opening goal (though Rob Holding backing off didn’t help either) and the Spaniard shows a lot less desire to get back or to use the considerable pace that he has. It would not be totally surprising to see Bellerín dropped for Arsenal’s next game, a home match against Burnely (as he is unlikely to play against Dundalk on Thursday anyway).
Things seem to be going from bad to worse for Mikel Arteta and his team and it’s looking likely that Arsenal will be facing yet another season without Champions League football, unless their form picks up soon.
1.) Bernd Leno
2.) Héctor Bellerín (Nketiah 75’)
16.) Rob Holding
6.) Gabriel Magalhães
3.) Kieran Tierney
18.) Thomas Partey (Ceballos 47’)
34.) Granit Xhaka
7.) Bukayo Saka
9.) Alexandre Lacazette
14.) Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (c)
13.) Rúnar Alex Rúnarsson
20.) Shkodran Mustafi
15.) Ainsley Maitland-Niles
25.) Mohamed Elneny
8.) Dani Ceballos
28.) Joe Willock
30.) Eddie Nketiah
1.) Hugo Lloris
24.) Serge Aurier
4.) Toby Alderweireld
15.) Eric Dier
3.) Sergio Reguilón
17.) Moussa Sissoko
5.) Pierre-Emile Højbjerg
23.) Steven Bergwijn (Rodon 91’)
18.) Giovanni Lo Celso (Davies 72’)
7.) Son Heung-Min (Lucas Moura 88’)
10.) Harry Kane (c)
12.) Joe Hart
14.) Joe Rodon
33.) Ben Davies
8.) Harry Winks
27.) Lucas Moura
9.) Gareth Bale
45.) Carlos Vinícius