Arsenal had 70% possession and lost 2-0 to Tottenham.
Before a ball was kicked, how this game would pan out was etched across the entirety of north London. Jose Mourinho has a style that is now firmly Tottenham’s. Arsenal would see plenty of possession, push and probe, Spurs would see less of it, soak up and strike.
Both their goals came as a result.
Son Heung-min scored the opener on such a break, although the quality of the strike you can’t account for.
If the hosts’ gameplan wasn’t already in motion, it was now.
The pattern that followed was pre-scripted, with Arsenal being exactly where Spurs wanted them. Nothing in the way of penetration was forthcoming until Bukayo Saka picked up central areas, while Thomas Partey, showing signs of rustiness, was left to do everything in the centre of the pitch in both halves.
A late flurry before half-time brought with it optimism. Genuine optimism, at that. Arsenal had the Spurs centre-backs sitting deeper and deeper, when poor structure presented the hosts with a four-on-two scenario. Partey hobbling off midway through, despite Mikel Arteta‘s efforts to physically force him back on, didn’t help. However, you can’t walk off in that position, injury or not. Even if you can’t move, just stand there.
If Arteta needed to pull a rousing team talk out of the bag, it was now.
Seeing the lion’s share of the ball after the break with Dani Ceballos able to speed moves up with the space he had, counts for little. This wasn’t Arsenal pegging Spurs back, it was Spurs inviting Arsenal to be pegged back.
44 crosses were flung into the box on Sunday, a Premier League high this season. Only nine reached a teammate.
There comes a point when something smells so strongly you taste it. You could genuinely palate Arsenal’s desperation with the number of crosses being attempted. Deliveries that, even if successful, would fall to players incapable of converting them. It’s a weak tactic that doesn’t cater to any one player in the side.
Arteta is searching for answers in a darkened room, but he must be wearing sunglasses if he thinks that’s the solution. We know this squad is painfully lacking in creativity, and ultimately quality, but the amount of dominance tells us nothing.
Spurs allowed it. Arsenal misused it.