When the dust settles on the latest episode of Arsenal vs Spurs, we might see that the 1-1 result is not as bad as it felt after the match and, in fact, during the match (once we gifted Spurs that equalizer, we never looked like regaining our lead).
Playing a draw, on any ground, against a Spurs team that beat Pep’s Manchester City so easily about a month ago and challenged so strongly for last season’s title should ordinarily not be seen as too bad a result, but what upset me (and, I’m sure, most Gunners) was the nature of the draw and the sense of a missed opportunity to be top of the league after the City result, and the chance to put clear daylight between us and our bitter rivals.
It was obvious before the game, judging by our recent record of draws since Poch took charge and their very good defensive record, that the game would be very tight. Indeed, scoring a goal from a set-piece and via an own-goal should have reinforced that fact. Hence, to concede a very careless and needless penalty to a poor Spurs side was very upsetting and deflating, especially after our recent highs.
WHAT DOES THIS RESULT DO TO OUR TITLE CHANCES?
There’s the popular football cliche, especially from the book of the Toxic One, Mourinho, that goes:
“If you can’t defeat your title rivals, make sure you don’t lose to them.”
So, in the context of the league table and our title chances, not much damage has been done – provided we get at least a draw at Old Trafford. Losing that match would have a worse mathematical consequence than yesterday’s draw, and the psychological damage – losing to a team whose mental hold on us we are just starting to overcome and a Mourinho one for that matter – would be devastating. It would bring back the old ‘fragile Arsenal’ cliche and Wenger debates, and this might just dent our confidence and derail our chances irredeemably.
In summary, we are just 2 points off the top, having played another one of the games against a title rival where you know that points could be dropped. It’s not a bad place to be as long as we continue to garner maximum points in games against the rest of the league. Next up after the Old Trafford game are Bournemouth and Westham – a draw and two wins from these 3 games should be the minimum.
If we had beaten Spurs yesterday, we’d be 6 ahead of them and 8 ahead of United, but lose at Old Trafford, suddenly we are just 3 ahead of them and level with Spurs, if they win their own game.
DID THE OCCASION GET TO YOUNG ALEX IWOBI?
I admit it is unfair to scrutinize our hitherto superb youngster, Alex Iwobi, after a match where the established superstars were equally as disappointing. After all, it wasn’t Iwobi who needlessly brought down Dembele to earn them a Penalty kick.
Nonetheless, it is vital to examine why the youngster was so poor yesterday, the highlight being his very weak effort on goal in the first half when it seemed easier to score.
One of Iwobi’s greatest strengths since breaking into the Arsenal squad has been the ability to remain unfazed in any match, at any venue and against any opponent. We all witnessed how accomplished he was against Barca last season in one of his first ever matches for the senior side.
However, he seemed very nervous and ponderous against Spurs. His usual composed and precise playmaking in and around the 18-yard box was missing. Perhaps, the occasion got to him this time giving that he grew up in London and might have been too eager to impress.
Hindsight makes everyone wise, no doubt, but maybe the OX would have handled the occasion better.
RUTHLESSNESS AND HOME-FORM
I wrote last time out about how our home form could be the difference between us winning the title and not. And, once again, we have failed to win at home because we were not able to break down a fairly weaker team with an ultra defensive strategy.
We have played 11 games this season, dropped points in 4 of them and 3 of those have been at home. Our only loss has been at home as well. There is no doubt that we have to be more ruthless at the Emirates and find a way of breaking down defensive teams. Until our home form improves, we stand no chance of winning the league.
Could Sanchez and Ozil have been rested?
There are those who might argue that since fatigue appeared to be a factor yesterday, as we didn’t throw the kitchen sink at Spurs in search of the winner, the manager should be resting our key weapons, Ozil and Sanchez, more.
Perhaps they could have been rested against Ludogorets.
However, when you consider the need for us to top our UCL group and the fact that we needed a late winner against Ludogorets, you can legislate for Wenger playing them. After all, Iwobi and Theo who have also been a key part of our potent attack were rested.
The bottomline is, Arsenal 1-1 Spurs is not the worst result in the light of all the considerations, but the performance (starting with United) and especially our home-form must improve for us to keep standing a chance for the title.