The North London Derby had a little bit of everything, as usual, a penalty, a sending off and a host of other talking points, but perhaps the most significant thing about Arsenals 2-1 victory over their rivals Spurs was the last-minute changes made by Mikel Arteta.
The Spaniard benched Aubameyang and pushed Smith Rowe out on the left to combine with Kieran Tierney, this allowed Odegaard to be on the same side and doubled their creative options. Arteta then had the instinctive skills of Saka on the right with a free-flowing Cedric, a move that balanced both sides, and a central pairing of Xhaka and Partey which certainly suffocated Spurs in the middle.
? Arsenal extend their unbeaten home PL run v Tottenham to 10 games
? The Gunners have won 6 of the last 21 PL North London derbies when conceding the 1st goal
? Jose Mourinho is beaten for only the 2nd time in 19 PL games v Arsenal pic.twitter.com/062wHMzrF0
— Sky Sports Statto (@SkySportsStatto) March 14, 2021
The Spaniard must have enjoyed the way Spurs’ left side was continuously ripped apart by Smith Rowe and Tierney, in a similar way that Arsenal’s right side had been so cruelly exposed by Kane and Son in the previous fixture. On the evidence of this performance, Bellerin might find it difficult to make his way back into the side because of the effectiveness of these pairings, but Saka’s unfortunate injury has certainly opened the door for Willian or Pepe.
If I were Arteta, I’d certainly look at continuing with the formation used against Spurs, with Odegaard establishing himself, Partey assuming control in the midfield, and Xhaka playing the role of an upgraded sidekick. Arsenal may just need three or four additions in the summer with what they already have, what’s out on loan, and what’s coming through from the academy, there are several exciting options.
If Edu could get Odegaard on a permanent deal instead of Ceballos, it would be a masterstroke because the Norwegian could be a massive player in two or three seasons from now. All the signs are that the Real Madrid loanee has a wealth of talent at his disposal, but he could also add goals from the midfield which is something Arsenal have been missing.
I’m excited by some of the things I’ve seen recently and although the results haven’t always gone our way or reflected the performances, something is growing at Arsenal, something that needs time and patience, just look beyond this season and a series of disappointing results.