by Don McMahon
Let me state at the outset that I am convinced Arsenal would have won the game handily one way or the other, as the Totts were outmanouvered, outplayed and out-thought for most of the game.
I also want to mention that Mike Dean seemed on the verge of losing control a few times and that he was out of his depth on occasion, but did a decent job otherwise. His biggest error was allowing the temperature of the game to rise quickly by ignoring Dier’s initial fouls and by failing to keep up with play. That said, here is my analysis of the game:
The lineups – Emery did not use Ozil and chose a back 3 that was very solid all game. Mustafi seemed the only defensive player to have trouble adjusting to Emery’s game plan. His remaining choices were spot on. Pochettino, on the other hand, seemed to be mystified by Arsenal’s energy and commitment all game.
The overall nature of the game – It was played with extreme passion by both sides but particularly by Arsenal. This is a stunning change from Wenger’s approach to Football, where the team was encouraged to play the beautiful game, involving intricate passing, and avoid being too aggressive or passionate.
In my opinion, this reflect Emery’s approach to Football; high energy, close tracking, quick transitions from defense to attack, playing the ball out from the back where safe but also using the long ball to force the opponent to track back. Emery’s energy on the byline is reflected on the field where Aubameyang ran his socks off, Torreira the terrier nipped at his opponents heels, Sokratis got ¨stuck in¨ like an old fashioned centre back,
Indeed the wing backs spread the play out so wide that the midfield was often free of Spuds.
Technical issues – this was an extremely technical game which the Totts tried to keep up with and they had their moments. They are clearly a skilful team but the Arsenal displayed an admirable and impressive set of technical skills working on and off the ball.
Arsenal played it back to their defense when under pressure and used their dominance of the midfield to slice through the Totts defense at will. Iwobi and Mikhitaryn teamed up well but it wasn’t getting the results so Emery wisely substituted them for Ramsey and Lacazette at halftime. This changed the level of the game and Arsenal began to once again dominate the midfield and shred the Spuds defense.
I noticed that Aurier and Dier were slow to react and Vertonghen looked completely lost as a centre back. Delle Alli was played right out of the game and Kane looked like he wanted to go home early. This was not lost on Emery and he had his team spread the play out even more on the wings which strecthed the Spuds defensive line to breaking point.
Tactical observations – Emery changed his lineup at half-time and used four at the back. He had Bellerin and Xhaka continue to spread out their play from the flanks and encouraged Torreira and Guendouzi to attack the Spuds high line, forcing them back to their penalty area.
The four at the back permitted a freeing up of space in the midfield and forced the Totts to commit numerous fouls, especially near the halfway line, giving the Arsenal lots of opportunities to attack in the Spuds half. Mustafi and Mikhitaryn were not as effective because they were slower and took too much time to get play going but they did position themselves very well. Holding was a rock and unafraid to get into the tackle, winning the ball regularly. What really struck me was the readiness for 2-3 Arsenal players to surround any Spud with the ball and often either win it back or force it out of play.
Leno – allowed a very poor goal but did well to distribute the ball throughout the match and make some crucial saves (6)
Sokratis – as solid as they come and much faster than I thought (7)
Holding – very calm and composed under pressure (7)
Bellerin – makes some careless passes but is deadly with crosses (6)
Kolasinac – not an elegant player but tough and determined (6)
Torreira – the MOTM as far as I’m concerned,great goal,great engine (9)
Xhaka – makes a formidable team with Torreira (7)
Mikhitaryn – had trouble with the pace but showed real skill (6)
Guendouzi – showed his usual energy but made some rash moves (6)
Ramsey – definitely has it in for the Spuds; hurt them all over the field (7)
Aubameyang – reminds me more and more of Henry (8)
Lacazette – the Spuds couldn’t handle him and PEA (7)
Iwobi – looked very lively on the left and is getting better each game (7)
The Totts supporters were leaving in droves with 15 minutes left because the trek back to 7 sisters Road is sooooooooooo long when you lose the London Derby!
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