ARSENAL LOOKING TO CONTINUE THEIR GOOD RUN WITH DEFLATED SPURS THE VISITORS AS OVERWHELMING CIRCUMSTANCES DOMINATE DERBY
The North London Derby. Tottenham vs Arsenal. Two of the “big six” going head-to-head…but hold on. Spurs sit 7th while Arsenal languish in 13th. Both clubs are mirroring each other’s results but in the reverse direction.
🗣"Everyone knows how important it is."
— Football Daily (@footballdaily) September 23, 2021
Nuno Espirito Santo’s side won their first three games 1-0 each, before suffering consecutive 3-0 defeats. On the other side, Mikel Arteta were the butt of the jokes as they opened their campaigns with three losses and no goals scored. They have turned it around since then, barely, with a pair of 1-0 wins against two clubs in the relegation zone.
🗣"We will be ready."
Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta previews the North London derby against Tottenham. pic.twitter.com/04DLyEIvVz
— Football Daily (@footballdaily) September 23, 2021
This fixture has always evoked passionate emotions and charged up crowds given its history, with this time set to have the stakes even higher.
FAR FROM IDEAL BEGINNINGS
It is fair to say that preparations for the new season have been hardly great for each club which has been reflected in their results. Spurs were rocked by the whole transfer saga surrounding Harry Kane, who was consistently linked with a move away. That did not materialize and some feel Kane retaliated by reporting to training later than mandated.
The last matchday shows us how @HKane staying at @SpursOfficial ⚪ has been catastrophic 😨 to all the parties involved in his the failed transfer move this summer ❌https://t.co/kyEnPoB99c#Spurs #Tottenham #harrykane #MCFC #ManchesterCity #PremierLeague #COYS
— FootTheBall (@FootTheBall) September 21, 2021
Whatever has been the case, it has certainly hampered his form as he is yet to get off the mark in the Premier League. Heung-Min Son has stepped up to the mantle but their defence has been ripped apart, conceding six goals in the last two games. Emerson Royal is still taking time to settle in while Sergio Reguilon looks average at best in his defensive duties.
Japhet Tanganga’s red card against Crystal Palace further compounded matters and there has been no fixed partner to Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg in the midfield.
4m 48s – There were only four minutes and 48 seconds between Japhet Tanganga's first and second yellow cards against Crystal Palace. Lunge. pic.twitter.com/yiI4MBTAxO
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) September 11, 2021
Meanwhile, the transfer activity of the Gunners has left fans divided to say the least. Six players were brought in, all aged 23 or less. After that dismal beginning, calls for Arteta’s sacking grew louder and shots were also taken at the board for their youth-based approach.
✖️Lost in PL by a 5+ goal margin for the 1st time since Mar 2014 (6-0 defeat at Chelsea)
✖️Lost opening 3 League games for the 1st time since 1954-55
✖️Failed to score in opening 3 League games for the 1st time since 1953-54 pic.twitter.com/EMjlMawNFA
— Sky Sports Statto (@SkySportsStatto) August 28, 2021
That forced Technical Director Edu to reveal the thinking behind the transfer policy in a tell-all interview over the international break. Granted, they had also been struck with absences of senior players as Arteta repeatedly pointed out. Their backline was breached almost too easily, as their defenders struggled to contain attackers.
🎙 We sat down with our technical director this week to reflect on a busy summer transfer window…
✍️ Summer signings
🔄 Our transfer strategy
🌍 The international break
➕ Much more!
Don't miss our exclusive interview with Edu 𝗻𝗼𝘄 👇 pic.twitter.com/cAF8c6MGZz
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) September 4, 2021
The arrival of Takehiro Tomiyasu has stabilized the right side while Martin Odegaard has slotted seamlessly into the side. Their recent upturn in form, though a good sign, cannot make them too comfortable as they were against Norwich and Burnley respectively.
TACTICAL INEFFICIENCY TO BLAME?
It will be too much of an oversight to blame only the players for not living up to their form and potential. Santo started the season with 4-3-3 with Son playing through the middle.
That worked just about during the winning phase but Crystal Palace brutally exploited Spurs. Wilfred Zaha was too much to handle for the fullbacks while Odsonne Edouard’s star turn was made easier given the gaping holes in their backline.
4 – Harry Kane has failed to score in his first four Premier League appearances of a season for the first time since 2015-16, with the England striker attempting just four shots in this current campaign. Ghosting. pic.twitter.com/VBJLFcNnCR
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) September 19, 2021
Kane had a historic game, as he failed to register a shot in the Eagles’ penalty box, much less get a shot on target. That forced Santo to change the formation to 4-1-2-1-2 to provide additional steel in the midfield against Chelsea but his other plans backfired. The match-up of Son against Thiago Silva faltered badly while Kane cut a forlorn figure playing from the left flank.
🗣 "Harry Kane's body language today, oh my goodness."
Roy Keane was not happy with the way #THFC played against Chelsea and highlights Harry Kane's performance
— The Spurs Web ⚪️ (@thespursweb) September 19, 2021
He was hardly effective throughout the game and they never looked like taking the game to Chelsea. Marcos Alonso toasted Emerson on the right while defensive ineptitude cost them the other two goals in a lacklustre second half.
Coming to Arsenal, as already mentioned, their right side of defence was a problem. Cedric Soares and Callum Chambers were given the runaround in the first three games while the centre was not much better either. Pablo Mari was outmuscled by Romelu Lukaku while Granit Xhaka’s red card did not help matters against Manchester City.
Pablo Mari made the most tackles in the match vs Chelsea, but had a tough afternoon against the Blues.
— AFTV (@AFTVMedia) August 22, 2021
Arteta’s specialty is the 4-2-3-1 and Emile Smith Rowe becoming a key player, Odegaard has been pushed back to accompany the other defensive midfielder. It is worth noting that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is back to playing as the central striker which can provide more goals in the long run.
— Arsenal FC News (@ArsenalFC_fl) September 17, 2021
A surprising omission has been Alexandre Lacazette, whose contract talks have been dragging on for a while. The Gunners have some good young talent to develop over the season, but the backline remains a worry. Norwich and Burnley are hardly major threats to your goal but other teams will be.
SACK SEASON IS COMING
Though both managers have the backing of the owners for now, a string of poor results can quickly change their thinking. Daniel Levy is notoriously trigger happy, which is not that great news for Santo. Spurs threw away a two-goal lead against Wolves in the Carabao Cup before just about squeezing through on penalties.
“Penalties is not luck. We practiced them and we did really well.”
🗣 The thought's of Nuno after tonight's win at Wolves… pic.twitter.com/AweLsPhAs0
— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) September 22, 2021
Suffice to say, a loss there would have increased the pressure significantly. The cost surrounding the sacking of a new manager will be steep but Levy is no stranger to taking hard financial decisions.
With Edu providing a show of support to Arteta and stressing that he is not too worried about the final position come the end of the season, the pressure seems to be off for Arsenal. Not sure the fans would agree however, as Arteta’s continued appointment remains to be a thorny issue of contention.
— Mirror Football (@MirrorFootball) September 18, 2021
There are not a lot of candidates in the market either who would like to take on the managerial role at the Emirates given how far they have fallen in terms of European standards.
In this backdrop of plots and subplots, the derby will be adding one of its most pivotal chapters to its storied history yet.