By the 35th minute of this enthralling North London contest, the result was beyond doubt with a rampant Arsenal annihilating a timid and toothless Spurs at the Emirates. The scoreline of 3-1 was a fair reflection of the Gunners’ dominance and perhaps, they were worth at least another two but it was the performance that was most pleasing.
Speed, fluidity, ambition, ruthlessness and resilience were key in the Arsenal v Spurs game as Arteta’s men finally hit their groove and put on the kind of show that was a frequent event during the glory days of Arsene Wenger in North London.
It was rather fitting that Thierry Henry was present in an Arsenal kit to enjoy the moment, especially when Aubameyang busted out an impersonation of the star striker by sliding on his knees with his arms aggressively out by his side. Henry was lapping up both the performance and occasion in the company of his son and Spotify co-founder Daniel Ek who is still very much a part of the Arsenal drama.
There was so much to admire that it’s hard to know where to start, but let’s firstly start with the growing unity of the group and in particular, the defensive unit led by Aaron Ramsdale. The keeper who has impressed in recent weeks was once again orchestrating operations from his goal line like he’s played in an Arsenal kit for about five years.
He chastised and praised when the opportunity merited either and wasn’t shy in expressing his opinion but it was a beautiful thing to witness. Not since Lehmann, has there been such a leading light at the back.
The cohesion was clear to see and there’s a growing feeling that this flexible back four or three are going to develop into a formidable force. All four were excellent, but White and Gabriel are suddenly starting to look the part, with the former Brighton man having his most complete performance to date.
Gabriel continues to look solid and for the second game in succession, one could see a strong and assured presence. Incidentally, White is a really good ball-playing CB who has an eye for a pass that could easily release Aubameyang or Saka.
The impressive Takehiro Tomiyasu is certainly catching the eye with his ability to attack and support, but more importantly, is his ability to head the ball out of harm’s way or execute a well-timed tackle while in reverse which is a standout.
Takehiro Tomiyasu had more touches (67) and made more ball recoveries (8) than any other Arsenal player against Tottenham.
He is yet to be dribbled past by an opponent in the Premier League this season. pic.twitter.com/hKY5AqxUVq
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) September 26, 2021
With the number 18 on the right and Kieran Tierney on the left, it’s a well-balanced back four and a formation that many supporters would keep. I’ve discussed the merits of the Scot many times and won’t subject you to more of the same only to add that he now has substantial competition in the form of Tavares, not that he needs motivation.
That brings us back to Ramsdale who has been a revelation between the sticks and it’s noticeable that the backline is communicating, even if it’s angrily at times. Ramsdale commands his area, is athletic and comfortable with playing out from the back and as he proved in the Arsenal v Spurs game, he can keep the ball out of the net with his particular brand of acrobatics.
The exchanges between the new Arsenal number one and his right-back were encouraging. Lots of fist-bumping and back-slapping and positivity, which implies the kind of tight unity you get from a group of players developing simultaneously.
Enough of the backline and if you are currently asking yourself “why is he predominantly focusing on them?” It’s because Arsenal have been incredibly vulnerable and unbalanced in defence for a decade and things won’t improve until all the problems are resolved in that key area.
Add Saliba to the equation and you have the makings of something special moving forward. Remember the Graham mantra about not winning anything without a decent defence, then at this rate, we could be witnessing the rebirth of the team under Arteta.
There were other performances to admire such as the quiet and understated class of Odegaard connecting the dots and using his intelligence in every possible way. The sublime engine and savvy of Thomas Partey managed to mop up and keep the momentum going forward.
Hale End is the best academy in England. I won’t have it any other way ❤️ pic.twitter.com/J0UNe6yD47
— Adam (@AFC_Adam7) September 26, 2021
Then there’s the willingness and penetrative ambition of Emile Smith Rowe in probably his best performance to date, the sublime skills of Bukayo Saka who looks ridiculously good on the right and the slick movement of the Arsenal skipper who now occasionally drifts out of his position of comfort on the left.
That only leaves Xhaka, who was solid and although he’s not my preferred option as a ‘Partey’ guest, he acquitted himself well minus another rash and poorly timed challenge which on any other day could have drawn a card. Yes, the win at the Emirates was welcome, but it now needs to be placed to one side in an effort to consolidate in the Premier League. It needs to be quickly celebrated and then consigned to history to allow the team to develop and grow.
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In December 2018, under Unai Emery, Arsenal produced an outstanding performance to come from behind to win 4-2, but you’ll recall that it was probably the last occasion where Arsenal resembled the team they once were under Wenger.
Premature songs such as “we’ve got our Arsenal back” filled the air, but that bubble was burst quickly. Arsenal could be on the verge of something very promising, but the road is long and not without the odd bump.
It was a fantastic and exciting game that had fans basking in the type of free-flowing football that once defined Arsenal but it was one match. Remember that! Up next, Brighton and the homecoming for former Seagull defender Ben White.
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