There wasn’t anything particularly surprising about Arsenal’s defeat to Tottenham. The performance was typically lethargic and exemplified the Gunners’ deficiencies across the pitch, while a recurrence of a thigh injury for Thomas Partey simply added to the nightmare that Mikel Arteta is overseeing right now.
Arteta’s team are dysfunctional when it comes to league games this season. Taking away the victory over Manchester United at Old Trafford one month ago, the Spaniard has struggled to leave a successful tactical imprint on his players that works. Without the impressive FA Cup run which saw superb wins over Manchester City and Chelsea, the mood would be very different.
Arsenal produced 33 crosses in the recent defeat to Wolves. Arteta said after the game that if that record continues then “we’re going to score more goals.” Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that and the 44 crosses against Tottenham only found an Arsenal player nine times. 69 per cent possession didn’t work in their favour either, as they were kept at arms length by Jose Mourinho’s side all game.
The flawed tactics on display at Arsenal aren’t working because he doesn’t have the players he wants. He’s consistently said over the past few weeks that he wants to overhaul the current squad – and who could blame him. They weren’t terrible against Spurs and dominated possession throughout the game, but Mourinho’s team know how to win, and possess the knowledge to maintain a lead once they take it.
Son Heung Min’s beautiful curling effort to give Spurs the lead was a great goal but could have been prevented. Hector Bellerin was guilty of not getting back in time and Bernd Leno’s positioning could have been better, although it will go down as a wonder striker from the South Korean star. He’s now scored as many goals as Arsenal this season.
Partey’s injury came at the most unfortunate time for Arsenal as Tottenham hit the Gunners on the counter attack. Arteta could be seen pushing the Ghana midfielder back onto the pitch as the attack unfolded, but he quickly stopped running after what looked like a recurrence of his thigh injury. Was it the wrong decision to start him in a game after he hadn’t played a competitive match for a month? Those close to Partey told football.london that the summer signing felt good before the game and Arteta admitted that he “pushed” to start at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
The Gunners have had the fewest second half shots of any of the 92 Premier League/EFL teams this season and while they tested Hugo Lloris with Alexandre Lacazette’s header in the second half, they couldn’t penetrate Spurs and score the vital goal to get themselves back in the game.