A couple of days after the disappointment of Saturday’s loss to Spurs, the reasons for our tame showing keep reverberating around my skull like a John Bonham drum fill.
On the off chance that you don’t know who John Bonham is, you need to look him up. And then buy yourself some Led Zeppelin records.
You can thank me later.
I think the main reason we lost, despite our recent good form, was obvious to all.
Spurs were just… better and they wanted it more.
You only had to look at Harry Kane’s reaction to the final whistle to see just how much winning this game meant to them.
Although Spurs have a real cup final to look forward to in a couple of weeks, you, I, we and even they know that this is the one they really look forward to every season. When the game finished, it showed.
We couldn’t live with the speed of their pressing game and, when you look at the composition of our midfield on Saturday, it’s kind of easy to understand why.
I’m not Theo Walcott’s biggest fan, but it beggared belief that Arsène would choose to replace him with Danny Welbeck. I like Welbeck, a lot, but to throw him into the intensity of this game when he’s just back from injury seemed counter productive to me, despite the run that led to Özil’s beautiful volley.
Yes, we know he’s going to work harder than Walcott, but he doesn’t have the same threat as Theo going forward.
Ironically, I think one of the reasons Walcott was left left out, his inability to retain possession, was a massive issue for everyone who played on Saturday. This left us way too deep and under pressure for much of the match, without the ability to get forward.
When you talk about an inability to play under pressure, with Santi Cazorla below the standard he has set lately, you can only look at the absence of the Ox and Alexis Sanchez as blows that essentially crippled us.
From the players available, Theo had to start.
However, had either of the Ox or Alexis been available well, to say Alexis was missed is self explanatory.
Eighteen goals in half a season is phenomenal, but it is Alexis ability to first retain the ball under the highest of pressure and then get up the pitch that was sorely missed at the weekend.
Likewise, the Ox has an ability to get out of the tightest of corners and turn defence into attack in the blink of an eye.
Without these two outlets, Aaron Ramsey having a bad hair day and David Ospina’s kicking possibly hamstrung by injury, the pressure we came under the first half was rarely alleviated.
Inexplicably, despite ridiculous fouls from Danny Rose and Ryan Mason, it took Atkinson until the 79th minute to book Mason, whilst Arsenal players were booked for the slightest infringements.
Mason committed seven fouls before going into the book- seven!
Can you imagine Flamini getting away with 7 (seven) fouls?
If he commits seven fouls, well, he wouldn’t because he would have been sent off after the second one.
I’m not saying the referee was responsible for our anaemic performance, but you can’t tell me Spurs would have been as in our faces with a couple of early yellows.
The major irritation for me is that Arsenal had largely weathered the Spurs storm.
To get in 1-0 up at half time was a minor miracle but once the equaliser had gone in, 2-1 to Spurs felt inevitable.
However, with 10 minutes left of the match we seemed in little danger but once Spurs had scored, you knew there was no way back for us.
I do wonder how long Harry Kane can keep this form up, it’s a little reminiscent of Aaron Ramsey in the first half of last season. Everything he touches is going in at the moment, but things can, and will, change.
That being the case, I don’t think there’s anything to get too alarmist about.
We know, every season, that Spurs away is going to be one of our toughest assignments. Sometimes, you’re gonna come up short.
Having watched this Arsenal side begin to grow over the last few weeks, I don’t feel desperate to condemn them for Saturday.
It was massively disappointing, undoubtedly, but it was one game. A game in which the other team happened to be better in than we were.
If I was a Spurs fan, I might even wish to question why it is my team seem unable to keep up this intensity of performance against the rest of the league.
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again- if Spurs could do that, they would walk the league every season.
But they can’t.
On Tuesday night, Spurs will go to Anfield whilst we entertain Leicester.
Without wishing to count chickens, I wouldn’t bet against us being back above Spurs by Tuesday night.