Arsenal vs Tottenham
Sunday’s marquee Premier League clash would play out a short time ago.
Said game pitted Arsenal against Tottenham at the Emirates in the first North London Derby of the season.
The two sides headed into the match in contrasting form, with Arsenal winning their last two and Spurs losing their last two league clashes.
However, both sides will have been well aware that form goes out the window in games like this.
But, it would be Arsenal who dominated the early proceedings and opened the scoring after just 12 minutes.
Bukayo Saka created space on the right to slot the ball into the Spurs box. A static Tottenham backline then failed to pick up the incoming Emile Smith Rowe, who had no issues sliding the ball past Hugo Lloris.
Smith Rowe then turned provided shortly before the half-hour mark, slipping in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who made it 2-0.
Arsenal’s dominance continued and the game was out of sight after 36 minutes when Harry Kane gave the ball away and allowed the Gunners to break and make it 3-0.
“The youth is shining through for Mikel Arteta!” 🌟
Harry Kane gives the ball away and Arsenal capitalise!
Bukayo Saka puts Arsenal three goals up in the first half!
📺 #ARSTOT on Sky Sports PL
📲 https://t.co/AmympGmLP2 pic.twitter.com/LzAnTwdwxf
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) September 26, 2021
Heung-min Son did pull one back with 12 minutes to go, but it was too little, too late. Said result means Arsenal have now moved up to 10th in the table, one place above Spurs.
Here are five things 101 learned from the match.
Granit Xhaka maintains faith of Mikel Arteta
Granit Xhaka has been a key figure at Arsenal for several years now. This comes despite the Swiss international being a fairly reckless player who has all but burnt his bridges with the Arsenal fanbase.
The latest installment of Xhaka’s poor judgment came just three games in to current Premier League season.
The midfielder was shown a straight red card after just 35 minutes vs Manchester City, a decision that put an end to any hope Arsenal had of getting back into that tie.
Xhaka then contracted Covid-19, with that and his three-game suspension seeing him miss out on Arsenal’s las two Premier League ties and the League Cup clash with AFC Wimbledon – all of which Arsenal won.
Yet, despite the 28-year-old once again proving he is a reckless player and Arsenal’s form improving without him, Xhaka was straight back into the starting line-up against Tottenham, showing that, for whatever reason, Arteta clear still trusts the midfielder in his side.
In Arteta’s defence, Arsenal would win on Sunday, but Xhaka was once again fairly reckless and lucky escape without a booking. Will Arteta’s faith in him cost Arsenal against better sides?
Arsenal have finally found a solid backline
Arsenal under Mikel Arteta have generally had a decent defensive record.
However, one thing they had been lacking at the opening of the 2020/21 season, which saw them concede nine in three league games, was a stable backline.
This was in part due to Covid-19 and injury issues. However, following the return of Ben White and Gabriel, the Gunners look to have settled on a solid centre-back pairing, with Gabriel in particular seemingly playing a key role in Arsenal’s defence improving:
📊 Arsenal have won the last 7 PL matches that Gabriel has started, conceding only 2 goals
This is Arsenal’s youngest line-up (average age 24y, 258d) in a PL North London derby since Oct 2011 pic.twitter.com/55jyZ3NBdG
— Sky Sports Statto (@SkySportsStatto) September 26, 2021
Elsewhere, the fairly defensive-minded Takehiro Tomiyasu has slotted seamlessly into Arsenal’s backline.
The Japanese defender, who can be used as a centre-back, is the perfect fit for the Gunners’ asymmetric back-four, which generally becomes a back-three in attack, allowing the reliable Kieran Tierney to bomb down the left flank and add some creativity.
Shot-stopper Aaron Ramsdale also looks to have breathed new confidence into Arsenal’s defence, with the former Sheffield United man now seemingly ahead of Bernd Leno in the keeper pecking order.
Start Saka on the right
One of Arsenal’s most effective attacking options on Sunday was Bukayo Saka.
The Englishman caused Sergio Reguilon all sorts of issues and would set up Smith Rowe for the opener.
Said assist was Saka’s first goal contribution in the PL this term and just so happened to be only his second start from the right this season – the other being a 45-minute appearance vs Man City.
The majority of Saka’s goal and assists in the league last term, barring one goal and one assist, would also come when he was used as a right-winger.
So, though it does seem fairly obvious to say, Mikel Arteta clearly needs to start Saka from the right at every given opportunity as, whilst he can do a decent job on the left, he is clearly much more impactful from the right.
20 – Aged 20 years and 21 days, Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka is the youngest player in Premier League history to score and assist in a North London derby (previously Cesc Fàbregas in September 2007). Catalyst. pic.twitter.com/ttaC1obMiX
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) September 26, 2021
Tottenham’s midfield needs a revamp
Nuno Espirito Santo would start both Dele Alli and Tanguy Ndombele in midfield vs Arsenal, with the pair operating in a double 8 pivot in front of Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg.
This trio, especially the former two, proved incredibly ineffective during the opening half vs Arsenal.
Neither of Alli or Ndombele looked at all interested in tracking runners or making interceptions, leading to Arsenal running riot in midfield, especially for the 1st and 3rd goals.
And whilst it is the most basic, Roy Keane-Esque take, midfielders, especially in huge games like this, need to give it their all and run a lot more than both Ndombele and Alli did.
Even before Sunday’s game, though, the Alli experiment as a no.8 has not worked well at all, with it becoming increasingly obvious that Nuno needs to revamp his midfield soon.
And, not too surprisingly, Alli would be hooked at half-time for Olivier Skipp, with Ndombele then making way around 20 minutes later.
Harry Kane’s mind is elsewhere
Harry Kane would, of course, see a potential move to Manchester City over the summer fail to materialise.
On the back of this, Kane has looked a shadow of the player that finished the 2020/21 season as the Premier League’s top scorer and top assister.
Following Tottenham’s loss to Chelsea last weekend, it was revealed that Kane had failed to score in his first four Premier League appearances of a season for the first time since 2015/16, with the striker having attempted just four shots in his opening four PL games of 2021/22:
4 – Harry Kane has failed to score in his first four Premier League appearances of a season for the first time since 2015-16, with the England striker attempting just four shots in this current campaign. Ghosting. pic.twitter.com/VBJLFcNnCR
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) September 19, 2021
And vs Arsenal, we once again saw a very similar story. The striker looked completely disinterested and, as well as giving the ball away ahead of Arsenal’s 3rd goal, managed just one touch in the opposition box during the first half:
It’s 1-1 in the touches in box game for Harry Kane so far. #ARSTOT pic.twitter.com/RjhaSVZUHk
— The Analyst (@OptaAnalyst) September 26, 2021
With Kane at Spurs until at least January, Nuno must do everything he can to get his star striker, who has not scored a PL goal in five outings now, firing as soon as possible.
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