Arsene Wenger bemoaned a lack of creativity as Arsenal missed the chance to move to the Premier League summit with a 1-1 draw against Spurs at the Emirates. Expectations were sky high among the Arsenal fanbase going into this game; Tottenham had not one in their last six games and had scored just one goal from open play in that time. However, Wenger’s side struggled to press home their advantage a produced a rather patchy and sporadic display. Kevin Wimmer’s first-half own goal gave them a halftime lead, but Moussa Dembele’s driving run drew a foul from Laurent Koscielny inside the box and the returning Harry Kane converted the penalty. Both sides came close to a winner; Christian Eriksen bringing a fine save out of Petr Cech and striking the post with a free kick, while Olivier Giroud planted a header straight at Hugo Lloris. Speaking after the game Wenger said:
“It was a game of high intensity where I felt in the first half we looked always like we could score every time we crossed the halfway line and in the second half we looked a bit more flat physically, a bit more less sharp and we couldn’t find the creativity, the fluency around the box nor the vision we are used to.
“I think our level dropped and we were a bit too stretched as well. Spurs defended well on some crosses in the final 10 to 15 minutes, I feel there were some balls where the fact that despite three tall players we couldn’t make enough of corners and we missed some crosses as well.”
The key problem for Arsenal in this game was their positioning without the ball. The Gunners have markedly improved their pressing this term, but struggled to disturb Tottenham in possession yesterday. Pochettino’s decision to switch to a back three seemed to confuse Alex Iwobi and Theo Walcott, who weren’t sure whether to go back with Danny Rose and Kyle Walker or push onto the outside centre backs. The result was that Spurs kept finding an ‘out ball’, be it to the wing backs, the trickery of Dembele or the pace of Heung Min Son. Arsenal couldn’t pin them back as they normally do to opponents at the Emirates, and therefore couldn’t create the waves of pressure that create momentum.
Elsewhere, club legend Robert Pires has expressed his desire to return to Arsenal as a sporting director. Pires is still close to Wenger and trains with the club regularly at London Colney. Regardless of whether the role goes to Pires or anyone else, the idea of restructuring the football side of the club after Wenger’s departure sounds a good idea. Finding another manager who can hold so much power for so long seems a fanciful prospect. Manchester United have found out to their cost the vacuum that can appear when such an influential figure departs. Clubs like Southampton have shown that taking some responsibilities away from the manager can reap rewards.
Finally, Zlatan Ibrahimovic will miss Manchester United’s clash with Arsenal at Old Trafford after the international break after picking up his fifth booking of the season at Swansea. The former Barcelona striker ended his goalscoring drought at the Liberty Stadium, but some will suggest his absence is bad news for Arsenal. His static and immobile presence up front has caused United a few issues, and the prospect of Marcus Rashford up top could alter Arsenal’s plans considerably.
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