Monday, July 22, 2024

A hateful good result for Arsenal

Well, well, well. If that wasn’t a turnip for the books yesterday.

Man City could have closed the gap to 2 points with a win over Spurs, but instead they lost as Harry Kane fluked yet another goal. My normal routine of never, ever watching them unless it’s a derby fell by the wayside a little and I turned on for the last 30 minutes.

‘How will they Spurs this up?’, I thought, as I sipped my beer. ‘Which of the many inevitable ways they could let this game slip will come to pass?’

It’s barely a couple of weeks since they went 2-0 up on Man City and ended up losing 4-2, so this was based on practical reality. Instead, they held on for the win, although they seemed to spend more time kicking Jack Grealish than the actual football. I know we have many Danish readers, so no offence to them, but it’s quite something to see Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg play. It’s as if – when they were building the new stadium – they unearthed some DNA stored in a mosquito in amber, and via the wonders of technology and in a low-tech laboratory of some kind with some half-baked scientists, recreated Steffen Freund.

City’s record there is ridiculous. As in bad ridiculous. Five games, five losses, not a single goal scored. Which is actually quite extraordinary. It’s bordering on inexplicable that a team as accomplished as they are has this issue against them, of all teams. Sometimes you just have a bogey ground – and I guess it’s interesting that both City and Arsenal lost this weekend at stadiums they have a poor record at. Arsenal’s last win at Goodison Park was in 2017, City’s last win at White Hart Lane was in October of 2018.

Obviously the reasons for those defeats are based far more on tactics and performance than location, but it’s curious how often it happens. The turnover in personnel at Arsenal in particular means that our Goodison hoodoo shouldn’t be a thing that unduly troubles anyone, but we’re gonna have to wait until next season at the earliest to make it right.

I suppose the most interesting aspect of yesterday is the City performance. Once again they didn’t look quite right. Pep Guardiola has made some pointed comments lately about his players, and anyone who has watched the Premier League in the last few years can see there’s a difference between this City team and the ones that have won the title.

Which isn’t to take anything for granted, or to assume this is what they’ll be like for the rest of this season. Anyone who assumes they can’t just click and go on a run where they win 10 or 12 or 14 games in a row hasn’t been paying attention. They still have that capability, however, it just doesn’t feel as inevitable as it has in the past. That aura isn’t there right now, and perhaps there’s a need for a refresh in terms of playing staff. Maybe beyond.

More and more it feels like the two games between us and them will be pivotal in terms of the destination of the title. From the points on offer to the psychological impact of the results, there’s so much at stake in these games. We can talk about that in more depth down the line, because we’ve got Brentford to prepare for first, but imagine the final whistle next Wednesday evening and Bukayo Saka’s winner has given us three points. Oooof.

Anyway, after saying I’m not going to get ahead of myself, I’m already doing just that. Daydreaming a bit. But hey, that’s allowed. It’s also a bank holiday here today, so I’m gonna leave it there for this morning.

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.