Monday, November 28, 2022

Arsenal 3-1 Sp*rs: Everywhere they go …

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On the 7th day, the Lord said: Lest the Tottenham go on their travels, it shall be known to all men and women that they will get battered, regardless of their destination. And lo, they did get battered.

Psalms 3:1

I need to point out that this post-game blog is being written quite early on a Sunday morning and I haven’t yet had a chance to see very much in the way of highlights and replays. So forgive any errors or misremembering of both stuff and things.

Mikel Arteta brought back Oleksandr Zinchenko and Martin Odegaard, and Thomas Partey’s availability was a boost. I thought we played pretty well in the first half, especially as we were the only team trying to play. We know the way Sp*rs operate, but their approach yesterday was just so dour – get 11 men behind the ball and deny Arsenal space.

Which they did to reasonably good effect … until Partey’s superb opener. We’ve seen him take that shot more than once, and most times it doesn’t trouble the goalkeeper, but this one nestled in the top corner to break the deadlock. A fantastic hit and an already pumped up stadium went crazy (except for the guy sitting behind me who just sat there looking straight ahead).

I felt like our lead lasted a bit longer than 10 minutes, but that’s all it was. Some sloppiness at the back resulted in Gabriel fouling Richarlison, the referee pointed to the spot, and the inevitability of Harry Kane scoring a penalty was so obvious I never even considered the idea that he might miss. 1-1, and we had a bit of wobbly period after that, but ended the half quite well. Gabriel Jesus’ twinkletoes saw him test Lloris, but I suspect Mikel Arteta was happy to get the team in at half-time to sort things out.

An early goal in the second half was just the tonic, this time Lloris wasn’t up to the test. Having saved the first effort, he let the ball squeeze underneath him and Jesus was there to knock it home. From where I was sitting, I worried a little that there might have been a foul on the keeper, but the goal stood and everyone went mental (except for the guy sitting behind me who just sat there looking straight ahead but with a slightly more furrowed brow).

Whatever wobble we had in the first half, we got it out of our system and were by far the better side in the second. I’ve seen one replay of the sending off, and while I don’t think there would have too many complaints if the ref had given a yellow, I can also see why it was red. I probably need to see it again to be sure, but what matters is they were down to 10 men and Richarlison fuming and being told to calm down by a grinning Granit Xhaka was lovely stuff.

Update: Just seen a few more replays, definite red.

The third goal came from a nice move with Partey and Xhaka involved in midfield, Martinelli gave it to Xhaka in the box and he was able to step inside the defenders and crack home a low shot to make it 3-1. The celebrations were bananas, lots of hugs and high fives (except for the guy sitting behind me who just sat there looking straight ahead, now struggling to keep a pained expression off his face).

At one point it looked like Conte was going to make all 5 subs at once, but he settled on 4 in the end. We brought on Tierney and Sambi, and in truth we could and probably should have scored more against ragged opposition. The game might have been in injury time when we made a mess of one opportunity, and Mikel Arteta went absolutely mad on the sideline – which tells you a lot about what he wants and what he expects. He wanted us to continue to batter them, and nobody in that stadium yesterday would have said ‘Stop it, they’re already dead’.

Afterwards, the manager said:

I’m really happy, it was a great performance, a great day with an incredible atmosphere to play in. I’m so grateful to all the people that connect with the team in such a special way. I’m really happy because it’s an opportunity to make a lot of people happy and proud and I think we have delivered that to all of them.

First things first, that was a game we deserved to win. Even with their relentlessly negative tactics, you still have to cope with that and it was interesting to see Martin Odegaard talk about how the Partey chance was something they’d worked on – making the correct assumption that they would just try and get as many men behind the ball as possible.

It’s often hard to single out individuals but Partey was excellent in midfield, he exerted an almost effortless dominance and the goal feels like it’s been in the post since he got here. I also have to mention William Saliba who was just outstanding again. Not only did he deal with Harry Kane, his assurance on the ball – in both boxes – was incredible, and his reading of the game was excellent. When a team looks to try and hit you on the break, or catch you out with long balls, that’s an important quality.

And look, I could wax lyrical about a few more. Jesus, Martinelli’s superb running, Xhaka continuing his fine form, but we’d be here all day. Individuals aside, it was a stellar collective effort and we sit on top of the Premier League as a result.

Finally, I know lots of people have made this observation, but this was my first home game of the season and everything people say about the atmosphere is spot on. From all sides there’s noise and support, the crowd again reacted to an opposition goal in a way to try and get behind the team, and you can feel the buzz and expectation very clearly. It’s palpable on the way in, on the concourses, in the stands, and certainly after a 3-1 win in a North London derby.

It leaves you wanting more, and the fact so many stayed behind after the final whistle tells you plenty about that.

Right, that’s your lot for this morning. It’s fair to say I might have a slight *boilk* this morning, so some coffee would be good.

I’m back in Dublin this afternoon, and James and I will be recording the Arsecast Extra in the early evening. Keep an eye out for the call for questions on Twitter @gunnerblog and @arseblog on Twitter with the hashtag #arsecastextra – or if you’re on Arseblog Member on Patreon, leave your question in the #arsecast-extra-questions channel on our Discord server.

We’ll have the pod for you later on. For now, have a good Sunday. Unless you’re the guy who was sitting behind me. Haha.

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