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Three Things We Learned from Arsenal 2 – 1 Tottenham

If you hadn’t already heard or were living in cave somewhere, Arsenal won the North London Derby 2-1 coming from behind to beat bitter rival Tottenham. The win highlighted the continued improvement of the Gunners under manager Mikel Arteta and hopefully acted as a momentum builder to launch them into a successful close run of the 2020-2021 Premier League season.

The match was enjoyable for so many facets and covering just three things to discuss is hard but we’ll try. So, without any further ado, here are Three Things We Learned from Arsenal 2 – 1 Tottenham.

Mikel Arteta Impresses

“Are you not entertained?” – Maximus, from the movie Gladiator

You’d have to be a miserable sod to no enjoy that match and not walk away with the sense that things are moving in the right direction under Mikel Arteta. The funny thing is, there are people out there who supposedly support Arsenal, that aren’t impressed and don’t think we’re moving the right direction.

However, due to who we beat, the fact it was a derby we’re not going to let their sour pusses rain on our parade. Think for a second what Arteta has had to overcome:

  • A squad that was shred of any confidence under its former manager,
  • Cults of personality running the dressing room,
  • Coming down with COVID-19 (and subsequently saving England),
  • Managing a team recovering from COVID and during a global pandemic,
  • A team with poorly managed finances,
  • A team with poorly managed contracts limiting the ability to bring in the right talent,

All that and more, while being essentially a first-year manager. But it hasn’t deterred him and staying true to his vision for Arsenal he is now seeing them slowly claw their way to respectability with the win on Sunday being the last evidence of that.

In that time, he has managed to beat just about every big-name manager in England right now. He’s seen Arsenal beat Pep’s City, Klopp’s Liverpool, Rodgers’ Leicester, Solskjaer’s United, Bielsa’s Leeds and now Mourinho’s Tottenham. The only name on the list is Thomas Tuchel and that’s only because they haven’t played each other yet.

The fact is those results are no fluke. Those results are coming from a manager who is studious and has his team prepared to play against those teams. It is also a result of the squad finally buying into his philosophies and style of play.

Sure, there are hiccups. The biggest being players’ inability to sustain concentration for a full 90 minutes and bury chances they are being given in a match. More than anything the opponents are doing, Arsenal are doing themselves in.

That still doesn’t diminish the improvement being seen. Arteta set about first repairing the spine of this team. He’s got as good a centre-back tandem in Luiz and Gabriel (supplemented by Holding and Mari) as we’ve had in a while. With the cover of Partey and Xhaka in front of them, the defence has let in the 4th fewest goals in the league (tied for 3rd overall.)

With the spine fixed the attention has been to improve the attacking play. You only need to look at the two different matches against Tottenham to see an improvement in that department.

When we played Tottenham in December the possession, we had was substantial but without purpose or intent. Today, with players like Emile Smith Rowe and Martin Odegaard driving the team forward, the possession was focused and threatening every time the Gunners got on to the ball. It was a marked difference.

Like all things at Arsenal, it still isn’t perfect but it is getting better under a manager widely regarded by his peers. A manager who had no significant experience beyond being Pep’s assistant. Sure, he will make mistakes and sure things won’t always work but he is confident of his vision for Arsenal and if given the support and time needed it will likely come good. What that means for the Gunners is unknown but its starting too look like it could be a fun ride.

A New MO Rises

Mesut Özil in his prime was a sublime football player with exquisite vision, a touch the envy of millions and the passing sense of no one else. When he delivered it was sight to behold. When he came to Arsenal, we got to enjoy three years of that before his career trailed off.

The German had been on Arsenal’s radar before he ever wound up at Real Madrid and wouldn’t it have been glorious to have had more years of him when he was in his sublime prime?

While Martin Odegaard is not Mesut Özil, seeing a young creative player with excellent movement and touch and vision play in the red white makes you yearn for him to find his form for us.

Odegaard’s performance yesterday was another building block into providing proof to Arsenal that they need to make his loan deal a permanent one.  He had the second highest pass success rate (90%) behind Granit Xhaka. He completed 5 passes into the final third, made 5 progressive passes , completed the most passes into the box (3) and made most of the deep completions (4) that weren’t crosses. He also ended with the third most touches (72)  on the team  behind both Xhaka and Partey and surprisingly was tied with Cedric Soares for third most defensive actions on the team with 8

But beyond the metrics was what he brought to the game. With Partey and Xhaka creating pockets of space for him to move into, Odegaard would drop deep to receive penetrative passes which would negate any threat from Spurs’ defensive set up. Then with a touch that pretty much allows him to do whatever he wants, he would either drive forward or make a pass and continue the progression.



Odegaard’s heatmap from the North London Derby (Courtesy

The threat of him out right working with ESR on the left meant almost every attack into the Spurs defensive third resulted in a meaningful action. But don’t take our word for it, here’s what Mikel Arteta has to say on him:

“He’s got a real stamina and he’s so talented, but his work-rate is incredible. Not only that, he’s intelligent. The timing of his runs, when he presses, his body shape.

“I’m really impressed and he had an incredible performance today. He’s giving us something different and it’s making us better.

Harry Kane is a Cheating BLEEP!

In the most recent Episode of the You Are My Arsenal podcast I went on rant. The rant (actually there was two of them) was about Tottenham’s golden boy forward, Harry Kane.

If you listened or even if you didn’t and you were unclear of where I stood on him, let me be plain and simple – He’s a miserable, mouth breathing cheat.

We are all aware of the shoulder charge on Gabriel. I cannot fathom for the life of me why that isn’t a red for violent conduct. Now of course the golden boy Captain of the English Men’s National team won’t get any punishment for it but he should and it should be harsh and here’s why:

Specific to that incident, Gabriel has just passed the ball, he’s in fact more vulnerable because he’s landing on his foot on the follow through and looking away from the oncoming Kane. Kane comes in, not to seal off the defender or even to play the ball (which was already gone) he comes in with intent (he looks at him first) and drives his shoulder into the side of Gabriel’s head.


Gabriel is lucky he’s just a solid as the mouth-breathing Kane or he could’ve been seriously injured on this charge.

Just so you are grounded in the laws of  the game before I continue:

LAW 12: Fouls and Misconduct

Direct and indirect free kicks and penalty kicks can only be awarded for offences committed when the ball is in play.

 Direct free kick

A direct free kick is awarded if a player commits any of the following offences against an opponent in a manner considered by the referee to be careless, reckless or using excessive force:

  • charges
  • jumps at
  • kicks or attempts to kick
  • pushes
  • strikes or attempts to strike (including head-butt)
  • tackles or challenges
  • trips or attempts to trip

If an offence involves contact it is penalised by a direct free kick or penalty kick.

  • Careless is when a player shows a lack of attention or consideration when making a challenge or acts without precaution. No disciplinary sanction is needed
  • Reckless is when a player acts with disregard to the danger to, or consequences for, an opponent and must be cautioned
  • Using excessive force is when a player exceeds the necessary use of force and endangers the safety of an opponent and must be sent off

Since you can see clear intent by Kane, this isn’t careless, no, its either Reckless or excessive. I’d argue excessive because he’s charged him.

The thing is, this isn’t new. There are entire threads of Kane doing things like this, or diving, or checking his shoulder to see when a player jumps just to back into him causing him to fall over. Certain corners of England will applaud Kane because he purely puts goals in, but his goal tally cannot overcome the fact that he is purely a cheat.

In the end he will eventually get his Karma. It does all work out. Either he’s going to be on the receiving end of something similar to the point where it hurts him, or he is going to hurt someone so substantially doing these reckless antics that the FA will be forced to act in a manner that forever correctly taints him as a crooked player.

And we’ll all be here with our popcorn for it.

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