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Arsenal need to break the pattern if they're to be title contenders

arsenal tottenham north london derby match preview 2016

Match Review: Arsenal 1 Sp*rs 1 - Premier League 06.11.16

Another season, another draw against Sp*rs at the Emirates. Another game leaving the stadium frustrated and disappointed and another two points dropped that leaves us in fourth instead of first. It's not a disaster, but it is a setback and a missed opportunity to beat a Sp*rs side in poor form and with players missing. Title winning teams get over the line in these games and we need to find a way to do that before we can finally work our way back to the top of English football.

It was mainly positive news on the injury front, as Monreal, Bellerin and Walcott returned and Xhaka also came back into the starting line up following his suspension. Cazorla missed out, but both Ramsey and Giroud were on the bench having come through the game against Ludogorets. Tottenham's formation was a surprise, as Pochettino opted for a 5-2-1-2 with Rose and Walker as wing backs. Harry Kane returned suspiciously quickly from injury to start, having not even made the bench since his injury. Son played as the other striker and Wanyama partnered Dembele in midfield, with Eriksen in front.

To be honest, the match was pretty cagey from both teams, you could see the apprehension in the players. The match didn't exactly flow and chances were pretty scarce. Harry Kane had a chance with a glancing header that went wide, whilst we came close to breaking through their back line a couple of times. Towards the end of the first half though, we started to get on top of them and Iwobi should have given us the lead after a brilliant counter attacking move. Unfortunately his finishing let him down and he shot straight at the keeper.

Counter attacks were proving fruitful and we came within inches of scoring on another as Walcott hit an absolute rocket against the post with Lloris beaten. It was beginning to look like we wouldn't get the rewards for our dominance, but then Kevin Wimmer intervened. The Sp*rs defender seemed to panic slightly as Özil whipped a brilliant free kick into the box and in attempting to head the ball clear, he planted the ball beautifully into the far corner.

Half time probably came at a bad time for us, as we were in the ascendency. In true Arsenal fashion we came out like a wet fart after the break and let Tottenham take control. Five minutes in and again, in true Arsenal style, we let Dembele waltz through the midfield, throw himself against Koscielny and earn a cheap penalty.

I can’t really decide whether or not it was a penalty. Maybe that in itself suggests it was, as I am looking through my Arsenal tinted glasses. It was inarguably a very soft penalty, but Koscielny was clumsy. Having said that though, Dembele only had one intention and that was to throw himself down and try to buy a spot kick and Clattenburg, of course, couldn't resist the opportunity to flamboyantly point to the spot. You can argue all you want about the penalty, but the fact of the matter is, it was a self inflicted wound as we should have stopped Dembele well before he got to the box.

Another big disappointment was the way we reacted to their equaliser. Heads seemed to drop and only Mustafi seemed intent on trying whip up some fight amongst the players. There were some very nervy moments directly following the goal and Cech made a good save to keep it 1-1. We started to put a bit of pressure on as we got towards the end of the game, but Giroud was the only one to test Lloris and that was with a tame header straight at his international team mate. I would go into Oxlade-Chamberlain’s cameo, but I want to keep this post semi family friendly and to be honest wasting words on it just wouldn’t be worth it.

We are only eleven games into the season and we are up amongst the top teams, so there should be no reason to be downhearted or doubtful about where we stand at the moment. But all the familiar signs are there; opening day defeat, morale boosting win against a title rival, dropped points against a beatable team, draw with Sp*rs.

Last season it was West Ham who beat us first up, we thrashed Man Utd by the same scoreline we beat Chelsea and we drew 1-1 with Sp*rs on the 8th of November instead of the 6th. The only thing that didn’t tally was a draw in a winnable home game, which was offset by the fact we lost away at West Brom last year. I don’t want to be negative and maybe I’m reading too much into it, but you have to say that those are some eerie similarities. However, there are also positive ways to look at it, for example we took only 17 points last year from the same fixtures we’ve taken 24 from this year*. You can also say that after 11 games last year we had 25 points, one more than this year.

The only way we’ll truly know whether the team has improved or not, is whether we are still in the title race come March time. The only league table that truly matters is the one after 38 games have been played. However, there are good indicators and acid tests and with one having passed us by, another looms large.

After yet another terminally boring, unnecessary, pointless, infuriating, god awful international break, we travel to Old Trafford to face Mourinho and Man Utd. We are a better team than Man Utd at the moment, hands down. However, the bookmakers' odds are quite even and we managed to find a way to lose to David Moyes’ Man Utd and were stunned by van Gaal’s cobbled together, injury hit side last year. When you factor in our record against Mourinho, I fully expect us to get beaten, our record at Old Trafford is shocking and United relish humiliating us on their turf. If we’re to really mount a challenge (I seem to say this every year) we need to get something from games like Man Utd away. Until we start getting rid of these repetitive results, I remain cautiously pessimistic that this side has what the ones before it haven’t.

wimmer own goal north london derby


Arsenal (4-2-3-1)

Cech, Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny (Y), Monreal, Coquelin (Ramsey 65’), Xhaka, Iwobi (Giroud 70’), Özil, Walcott (Chamberlain 71’), Alexis
Ospina, Gabriel, Gibbs, Ramsey, Chamberlain, Giroud, Elneny

Sp*rs (5-3-2)

Lloris, Walker (Trippier 80’), Vertonghen, Dier (Y), Wimmer (Y), Rose, Wanyama, Dembele, Eriksen, Son (Winks 89’), Kane (Janssen 73’)
Vorm, Nkoudou, Janssen, Trippier, Onomah, Winks, Carter-Vickers

Player Ratings

Cech - 7/10 - Made a decent save in the second half and almost got to the penalty
Bellerin - 7/10 - Had a pretty solid game
Mustafi - 6/10 - The Kostafi partnership seemed a bit shaky dealing with two strikers
Koscielny - 6/10 - Mostly solid, but really should have avoided giving away the penalty
Monreal - 7/10 - Looked pretty comfortable with Walker all day
Xhaka - 7/10 - Excellent tackling, didn’t offer a huge amount offensively though
Coquelin - 7/10 - Gets a lot of hate but did his job well
Iwobi - 5/10 - Looked a little off the pace all game, out of position a lot
Özil - 7/10 - Lovely delivery for our goal, could really have used Giroud to cross to though
Walcott - 6/10 - Had one excellent effort, but failed to make an impact beyond that
Alexis - 6/10 - Frustrated and nullified by playing against three centre backs
Ramsey - 5/10 - You get good Ramsey and bad Ramsey and this time it was bad Ramsey
Giroud - 6/10 - Had one half chance and couldn’t do much with it
Chamberlain - 1/10 - Let’s just not shall we?

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