27 September 2021

Arsenal 3-1 Tottenham: A Semblance of Order Restored.

There. Just like that, all questions regarding Mikel Arteta, all of those tranfers, and the season itself have well and truly been settle. What other conclusion is there to draw other than to say that we have our old Arsenal back? Three goals in just over 30 minutes in a pulsing North London Derby sure do go a long way towards re-establishing our dominance of the color of North London and also towards establishing our bona fides as title contenders. 

Erm. Well, let's maybe press the pause button here. For as thrilling and as convincing as this victory was, a bit of a reality check is in order. To put it mildly, this result revealed our own potential of while also exposing our opponent's frailties. Suffice it to say that we owe Nuno Espírito Santo a bit of a thank you for some of his decisions. Then again, this result does seem to be a bit of a bellwether signaling the resurrection of one club and the potential downfall of another.

It wasn't so long ago that Tottenham looked to be the new-look, flashy club. They had the visionary manager in Pochettino. They had the talismanic striker in Kane. They had a squad bursting with verve and engery, playing an attractive, attacking brand of football that got them to a Champions League final. Fast-forward a few years, however, and that same squad is looking, well, decrepit and more than a bit jaded. Harry Kane, whose summer transfer demands went unmet, is a shadow of his former self. Gone are stalwarts like Vertonghen and Alderweireld. On this day as on so many others, it was only Son Heung-min who looked like he was up for the match. However, Nuno's decision to field 
Højbjerg virtually alone in front of the defense was just one factor that allowed us to ran rampant and hit with such devsatating effect on the counter. A front three of Moura, Kane, and Son just isn't going to offer much in terms of tracking back, and Alli and Ndombele just didn't seem interested in or able to defend either.

Having said all that, our opponents' shortcomings only matter as much as we're able to exploit them, and, well, did we ever exploit them. Each of those three goals, not to mention numerous other scoring opportunities, came through lightning-quick, decisive, and devastating counter-attacks that unfolded in a matter of seconds via a bare minimum of touches. I do recall one backheel sequence being activated. It's been a while since we've seen some incisive, determined, attack-minded play, and we certainly reaped those rewards. There's a template there that we would do well to build on.  

Speaking of building on templates, we should certainly pay our respects to the fact that the heart of each of these three goals (plus numerous other scoring opportunities) came through three very young but very precocious players— Bukayo Saka (a goal and an assist), Emile Smith-Rowe (a goal and an assist), and Martin Ødegaard (okay, so no goals or assists, but instrumental all the same). This trio, playing behind a lethal finisher such as Pierre Emerick-Aubemayang, looks like it could very well revive the best of the Wengerball era. Their desire and ability to get the ball up the pitch, into scoring positions, and find teammates was, if only on this day, unparalleled. It's displays like this one that augur well for the future. With Saka as an inverted winger playing in from the right, Smith-Rowe bombing forward on the left, and Ødegaard pulling strings through the middle, we have what feels like a devastating trio. It's almost enough to make us overlook how stalwart the defense was, and we're running out of room to applaud Tierney, White, Gabriel, and Tomiyasu.

If this kind of performance keeps up, well, we'll we writing our own ticket for continental competition. Let's not get ahread of ourselves, though. After all, lads, it's Tottenham.