Arsenal’s Tendency to Quickly Lose Their Swagger is an Issue That Needs Resolving

February 12, 2018 by   Filed under: Arsenal FC, Premier League

Arsenal travelled to Wembley on February 10 to face Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham Hotspur side, with something of a swagger. The demolition job of Everton the previous weekend hadn’t cured all ills, but this was an Arsenal side with fresh blood, renewed vigour, and based on the 5-1 win over Everton, a strut that had been missing for quite some time.

The debut of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang gave Arsenal an irrepressible feel in attack. All speed and movement and of course a 37th-minute goal that might as well have been the 90th minute for Everton, such was the feeling of finality for the visitors’ afternoon.

But in midfield Arsenal were all-encompassing. Aaron Ramsey and Granit Xhaka were excellent, particularly Ramsey who scored the first hat-trick of his career. In front of them, Alex Iwobi’s solidity was complemented by new signing Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Mesut Ozil who looked like a new signing.

There is no better feeling for a player than to know he is wanted. And there is no greater endorsement than a £350,000-a-week contract. Ozil played with a fluency that if replicated regularly, would secure his legacy as a very fine Arsenal player.

In Mkhitaryan, Arsene Wenger has another player who appeared to be playing with new found freedom. The creator of three of his side’s goals against Everton, the former Manchester United player could do little wrong. In a new environment, the Armenian flourished. Weighted passing, acute crossing, and displaying innate craft in attack, who is to say Wenger had not got as good a side of the bargain as Jose Mourinho did.

Despite all this, though, Tottenham were still seen as the probable winners in the North London derby. With four points between the two sides before the game, a home win would have seen a pretty clear break between the top five and the rest of the Premier League. The caveat, of course, being that within that top five Manchester City are seemingly uncatchable, reflective in their odds-on favourite tags with the likes of William Hill.

But any certainty of a win for Pochettino’s side was challenged by the fact that on the previous nine occasions Arsenal had been at Wembley, they have won. Spurs, though, need not have panicked. The Everton win was not necessarily a false dawn, but against Spurs, they had the opportunities to at least equalize, but simply did not take them.

A fine headed goal by Harry Kane was enough to see Spurs win. If the first half lacked life, the second half was brimming with it. And it was Spurs who illustrated that for any excitement in the build-up following the debuts of Aubameyang and Mkhitaryan the week before, the reality of Spurs general superiority as a team was evident.

Spurs were deserving winners of the 195th derby meeting of the two sides, and it was a reality check for Arsenal. A Champions League place has not slipped completely from Arsenal’s grasp. But without a consistent run of high-quality performances, the 2018/19 season could see another stint in the Europa League.


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