Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Spurs 0-2 Arsenal: Gunners win the game, they lose their minds

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Now that’s how you win a North London derby. You play the opposition off the park, somehow your goalkeeper is the man of the match despite their overall and quite obvious inferiority, and in the end their fans have lost their minds to such an extent that one of them assaults said keeper.

“Nobody wants to see scenes like that,” except, you know, I kinda do. Obviously I don’t want Aaron Ramsdale to be hurt, but I want their fans to be furious and miserable, demented by despair. That fan will rightly receive punishment, and I think Richarlison ought to be looked at very closely for his part in those last minute antics, but that was the culmination of an Arsenal performance which thoroughly warranted all three points.

The team was as expected. No surprises from Mikel Arteta. The initial couple of minutes were a bit cagey, as with any big game, but we got on top quickly and stayed there. There was a nervousness about Spurs and their vastly experienced goalkeeper which was apparent in the first big chance of the game, this time Lloris saved well from Eddie after making a mistake. A bigger clanger was to come though. Thomas Partey released Bukayo Saka down the right, he ambled into the box with Sessegnon happy to show him onto his right foot, not thinking his keeper would fumble a cross into his own net, but that’s exactly what he did. And I laughed.

I did mention Ramsdale being man of the match, which doesn’t necessarily tally with my impression of the game as a whole, but he was so important for us yesterday. Spurs are really just a moments team because of their quality up front, and they had some. Son’s smart movement presented him with a good sight of goal but Ramsdale saved with his legs. It wouldn’t be the last time he thwarted them. Thwart is such a good word. He saw, he saw, he thwarted the absolute shit out of them.

We almost had one of the greatest North London derby goals of all time when Partey’s sensational volley cannoned back off the post, but it wasn’t long before the lead was doubled. Lloris booted it, Saliba monstered Kane in the air (he did that all day), Saka took it on, played it inside to Odegaard to fired into the bottom corner. It’s one of those that looks almost unsaveable in real time, but on the replay you wonder if the keeper should have done better. Maybe a better keeper would have done better, like when Ramsdale saved from Kane right at the end of the first half. Just before Hojberg threw himself to the floor to try and cheat a penalty out of the ref who, to be fair, was having none of it despite the commentators putting the shits up us for a few seconds. Stupid Tyler, stupid Neville.

When you’re 2-0 down at home in a derby, you expect the players will get a bit of a rocket in the dressing room, and there was more about Spurs in the second half. More is relative though. When you set the bar that low in the first half, marginal improvement looks big. Ramsdale was the man again though. Kane tried, Ramsdale saved. Sessegnon had a great chance and I think this was the pick of the saves from our keeper. Watch the replays again as Ben White literally screams at the Spurs player to try and put him off. It’s very funny.

Ramsdale wasn’t just about saves though. There was an assurance to his game, safe hands if you will. The nervousness that spread from their goalkeeper to their team was obvious; at the other end he gave us a measure of calm from set-pieces and crosses that was so important. Not to mention the fact that this back four, compared to the one that started in May, is a real unit. The centre-halves, oof. White superb again (with 8 clearances to his name), and while Zinchenko has these odd moments in games that someone of his technical ability should avoid, he is just such an incredible footballer. I swear he had spring-heeled boots for some of the aerial duels with the much taller Kulusevski, and on the ball he’s just so smart.

Eddie, who worked really hard all day, had a great chance to make it 3-0 from a Xhaka pass but the first touch was just a bit off. I don’t think that should define his performance though. He contributed a lot to our dominance of the game, held it up well when needed, won us some good free kicks from their clumsy defenders, but he’ll have had that one going around in his mind as he went to sleep last night, no question. He’ll just have to score a couple against United next weekend.

There was a bit of Spurs pressure, some head tennis in the box, a Richarlison shot which was as tame as his tough man nonsense at the end. Tomiyasu came on but the gig was up. Spurs knew it. Arsenal knew it. Just avoid any nonsense and it was won. The nonsense came at the end when Ramsdale was set to take the final kick of the game, laughing at Richarlison who can’t take that. He’s always been thin skinned, but when you combine that with being a Spurs player, he’s like a walking Durex with a crap haircut (and no goals in the Premier League all season!).

I mentioned the fan who kicked him, and look, obviously that sort of thing is completely out of order, but football fans are sensitive. They spent the whole game baiting Ramsdale, and when they got a tiny bit back at the end of a game when they were deservedly beaten, they couldn’t take it. Let the relevant authorities deal with it. The footage of Mikel Arteta on the pitch, clocking Granit Xhaka going back towards a potential melee was pretty hilarious though. The boss was never the quickest player in his day, but there was a Walcottian turn of pace as he went back to make sure it didn’t kick off any further.

The Arsenal players took it down to the other end, celebrating with the travelling fans who were in great voice all game. And why not? After what happened here last season, it laid a ghost or two to rest, not to mention the fact that after the result in the Manchester derby, the win put us eight points clear at the top of the table. Don’t think for one second that the manager will allow them to rest on their laurels or get complacent. The one game at a time mantra will be reiterated, but there are some performances and some results that merit a bit extra and this was absolutely one of them.

Afterwards, Arteta said of our first win at White Hart Lane since 2014:

I’m very happy for two reasons. One, because I saw a team with a lot of courage, determination and quality, and that really wanted it today, to come here and win the game. And the other one, because we have a job where we are really privileged that we can make a lot of people happy and when you have this opportunity, you have to try to do it.

So the enjoyment of sharing the victory with the fans was a great feeling and then everything that we do, all the suffering, the hours of work, it makes a lot of sense when you have moments like this.

Our league position and what remains of this month is certainly something that warrants deeper discussion, but not today. Sometimes you need to just bask a bit. I’ve said this before about this season: I am determined to enjoy it as it’s happening. There’s a lot invested in the potential final outcome of course, but regardless of everything else, the very best thing we could have done this weekend was win this game of football … and we did.

What Arteta has done with this team is phenomenal. Yes, we can have some worries about certain things, that’s entirely normal, but don’t let that preclude the enjoyment of a statement North London derby win. It was three points, but it felt like something more. Luxuriate it in for today, or however long you want. I’m not here to police anyone’s celebrations, unlike some.

That was brilliant. Important. And a whole lot of fun.

Right, let’s leave it there for now. James and I are recording the Arsecast Extra for you later on this morning. 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 should have the podcast for you around lunchtime. Until then.

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