Arsenal 2-2 Tottenham: Poor Performance. Spoils Shared.
Final Result: Arsenal 2-2 Tottenham (Romero OG 26′, Saka 54′ | Son 42′, 56′)
Arsenal XI (4-3-3): Raya; Zinchenko, Saliba, Gabriel, White; Rice (Jorginho 46′), F. Vieira (Havertz 46′), Odegaard; Saka (Smith Rowe 97′), Jesus (Nelson 77′), Nketiah
After all the speculation regarding who would play between the sticks, Mikel Arteta all but confirmed that David Raya would be his No. 1 going forward with the Spaniard getting the nod ahead of Aaron Ramsdale for the North London Derby with Tottenham. Fabio Vieira got the nod ahead of Kai Havertz and an unfortunate injury in the warmup saw the in-form Leandro Trossard lose his place in the starting lineup to Eddie Nketiah.
Tottenham played very well from the onset with Ange Postecoglou sticking to his guns of playing his own game, and they drew first blood when Heung-Min Son scored from some passing play involving Pape Sarr and Yves Bissouma, but the offside flag spared Arsenal’s blushes. Arsenal had a glorious moment when Bukayo Saka found Gabriel Jesus on the back post but his attempt on target was saved by Guillermo Vicario.
The pressure was getting to Tottenham as Destiny Udogie played a mistimed pass to Nketiah that saw him bear down on goal, but his near post shot was saved by Vicario. Nketiah had the option of blasting to the far post or providing a cut back to Vieira, but he did neither. This turned out to be his only telling contribution of the match, as he struggled badly in the game.
Saka continued to be a thorn in the flesh of the Tottenham defense, as he made Udogie receive a booking early on, but he played a role in the opening goal of the match when his attempted effort on goal was deflected by Christian Romero to his own net. The goal brought the wind to Arsenal’s sails and the Gunners should have gone two goals up when Jesus robbed James Maddison with a good press and was one on one with Vicario, but he chose power instead of precision as his shot sailed over the bar. Had he showed the same composure he had in the latter minutes of the Manchester United game, Arsenal would have given themselves some daylight in the fixture.
Martin Odegaard, fresh from his new contract extension, failed to impose himself on the game but helped a lot on the press with his defensive contributions, but he had an attempt that was saved by Vicario, after receiving a pass from Saka. At 1-0, Tottenham were still in the game and almost equalized when Brennan Johnson’s tame shot was clawed away from goal by Raya. The save was so good that his counterpart, Ramsdale, was sited on the dugout applauding the effort.
Sadly, the Gunners lost the lead just before the break thanks to some comical defending. Raya made a save from a Johnson shot and Declan Rice cleared the ball. Maddison received the loose ball and waltzed past Saka with consummate ease before providing a cut back that was finished by Son. However, that pass from Maddison came in between three Arsenal players and I was bemused with how Son managed to get the ball ahead of them.
At the start of the second half, Arsenal showed up with two new players, with Havertz coming in for Vieira and Jorginho replacing Rice. While the Vieira sub was deemed ‘tactical’, there are concerns around Rice’s substitution, as he has suffered an injury,
“He (Rice) had some discomfort in his back, and he was telling us during the first half that he wasn’t comfortable. When we assessed him at half-time, he couldn’t continue, so we had to change him.”
Arsenal garnered some control at the start of the second half and Romero’s bad game got worse when he handled the ball in the box for a penalty. The VAR check took an eternity but Saka maintained his nerves of steel to convert the spot kick. We were still basking on the euphoria of getting the lead when Jorginho dallied on the ball, loosing it to Maddison and with Gabriel out of position, Maddison teed up Son who equalized again.
That was such a monumental error in the game of this magnitude. The goal also sucked the wind from Arsenal sails as Tottenham gained a stronghold of the game and dominated proceedings. The visitors almost had a chance to get the lead and it took a Gabriel intervention to keep the stalemate intact.
Late on, the fourth official raised his board and 10 minutes were indicated but Arsenal didn’t have it in them to break Tottenham down for the match winner. Even the introductions of Emile Smith Rowe and Reiss Nelson did nothing to change the outcome. Nelson actually came on as a sub for Jesus, instead of Nketiah, which bewildered many Arsenal fans as Nketiah was having a stinker.
Arteta has shown his ruthlessness with several positions, with Raya usurping Ramsdale being the latest in these series of major changes. However, I believe it’s high time Arsenal delves into the transfer window to get a better striker than Nketiah. Ivan Toney is one that comes to mind, as I believe he will be available for a transfer in January. With Jesus’ fitness issues, as well as other factors, having an upgrade on Nketiah will be beneficial to Arsenal’s title charge and a forward like Toney or Dusan Vlahovic will offer that.
All roads lead to the Carabao Cup clash with Brentford, and I would expect wholesale changes, especially with the latest injury concerns, as well as giving the likes of Nelson, Tomiyasu, Kiwior and Smith Rowe chances to feature on the side.
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