✅ Breaking News – Unai Emery has given Arsenal genuine steeliness as Spurs draw proved

Arsenal fans know this script It’s the one where you play pretty football in front of the penalty box and yet the opposing back four are immovable, a robust unit of fighting men Then, despite being the better team, despite dominating the game and possession, you somehow find yourselves trailing There seems no justice and yet there it is: football allows this kind of abominable illogicality That was their signature performance for much of the later Arsene Wenger years

They won all the points for style; none for the actual end result So read into this what you want but against Tottenham at Wembley the boot was firmly on the other foot Share this article Share Arsenal are no longer the lightweight, effete artists of the Premier League They’re doing to others, deliciously in this case to their north London rivals, what clubs have been doing to them for years Here they conceded possession, they set up to battle and they almost accepted that the opposition were essentially a better side There was no Mesut Ozil, until the 72nd minute, and that was no surprise Under Emery, Ozil is a luxury item who can be risked against an open, footballing side like Bournemouth but not against serious contenders It’s a pragmatic approach, the anti-Wenger, as was confining Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to the bench This was a game for scrapping; not for all-out attack Lucas Torreira’s red card in the 95th minute pretty much confirmed it; had he been any higher on Danny Rose he would have been in the realms of a karate contest And they almost got away with it; they almost stole away with three points It was there for the taking in the 89th minute as Aubameyang, on as a sub, stepped up to take a penalty As is traditional in a backs-to-the-wall-breakaway performance, the penalty was both late and the softest of awards by referee Anthony Taylor, Davinson Sanchez lightly touching Aubameyang on the back, who collapsed This was the moment to sneak away with extraordinary victory Aubameyang’s penalty though was weak and at the exact height which made it simple for Hugo Lloris to save Still, the ball fizzed back into the six yard back and Aubameyang, three yards out, only had to touch it to score Suddenly Jan Verntonghen appeared to direct the ball away from the striker’s feet and high over the cross bar Tottenham fans celebrated as though a trophy had been secured; the schadenfreude probably felt almost as good Vertonghen’s appearance seemed extraordinary; it was actually explained by the fact that he had encroached at least six yards into the penalty area as Aubameyang struck the penalty Arsenal are a difficult side to analyse at present

Just over a fortnight ago at Bate Borisov they produced what many considered to be their worst performance since the Wenger era began in 1996, an aimless, toothless display in what is, for them, as second-rate competition Yet two wins in the Premier League since then and two defeats for Spurs meant that had Aubameyang tucked away that late penalty, they would have been just a point behind their much-vaunted rivals Maybe Arsenal have progressed under Unai Emery They are indeed a more flexible side and – leaving aside an awful afternoon at Anfield – seemingly more cohesive unit Tactically they’re smarter, if not betterEqually, you could argue that this is what it has come to: that they go to north London rivals and accept, despite having a wage bill significantly higher than their rivals, that they aren’t as good and set up to battle instead Even in Arsenal’s best moment of the game, there was a degree of superficiality a hint of underlying problems, to come For, as good as the counter attack goal was on 16 minutes, it raised as many questions as answers So high is the line that Tottenham play – on this occasion the last defenders were well inside the Arsenal half – that they will be always be vulnerable to the kind of direct long ball Nacho Monreal played when Harry Kane was robbed whilst in the attack What really killed them was Davison Sanchez failing to control it, Alexandre Lacazette flicking it on and Aaron Ramsey then running from the half way line to round Lloris and score It was a text book counter attack goal, rehearsed on the training ground and a vindication of Emery’s methods But where does it leave Arsenal? The scorer, the man clearly preferred as the pivotal attacking midfielder, will be at Juventus next season because the budget for his contract was all spent on the man sat on the bench and who can’t be trusted for games like this Yet Arsenal had moments of genuine steeliness on Saturday day Their back line was muscular and obdurate Their defiance was typified by their keeper, Bernd Leno, who produced an astonishing double save just before half time As Tottenham moved the ball slickly from one side of the pitch to the other, they set up Eriksen from close range, which the German did well to block Yet he then leapt to his feet to tip over Moussa Sissoko’s strike from the rebound That summed them up It’s working for now

Next season’s problems can wait for now   Share this article Share

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