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The Emery fighting spirit, Xhaka the liability and the positives & negatives from Arsenal’s draw with Spurs


In this piece, we take a look at some of the key positives and negatives to be taken away from Arsenal’s comeback draw with Tottenham.

Arsenal vs Tottenham

Unai Emery’s men welcomed their fierce rivals to the Emirates a short time ago, for the first North London Derby of the season.

Both sides headed into proceedings desperate for an immediate bounce-back performance, having fallen to respective defeats last weekend.

Hosts Arsenal were put to the sword by 3 goals to 1 at Liverpool, before Spurs fell to a shock loss at home to Newcastle.

It was the former, though, who entered this afternoon’s matchup as favourites in the eyes of most.

The Gunners’ defeat at Anfield had been widely-predicted, with Emery’s outfit having actually put up a worthy fight for lengthy stretches over the course of the 90 minutes.

This came after Arsenal had picked up victories over Newcastle and Burnley over the first two weeks of the campaign.

Tottenham, on the other hand, were forced to come from behind to beat Aston Villa, before somehow salvaging a draw at Manchester City, ahead of their loss at the hands of Newcastle last time out.

In addition, the away side this afternoon were without key summer signing Tanguy Ndombele.

Arsenal secure share of the spoils

The early exchanges at the Emirates, though, saw Mauricio Pochettino’s men come to within seconds of taking a 2-goal lead into the interval.

A series of calamities at the back for Arsenal with 10 minutes on the clock eventually resulted in Christian Eriksen slotting home on the rebound, after Bernd Leno failed to deal with a tame Erik Lamela effort.

The visitors then went on to double their advantage half an hour later, as a moment of madness from Granit Xhaka saw the Swiss midfielder take out Heung-min Son in the Gunners’ box, before Harry Kane slotted home the ensuing spot-kick with minimal fuss.

Arsenal, however, were not willing to go down without a fight.

And it was this spirit that allowed Emery’s men to drag themselves back into the clash as proceedings wore on.

First, Alexandre Lacazette pulled one back for the hosts on the stroke of half-time, taking Nicolas Pepe’s delivery into his stride and smashing brilliantly beyond the helpless Hugo Lloris.

Strike partner Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang then drew the Gunners level 20 minutes from time, diverting home Matteo Guendouzi’s devilish delivery to send the Emirates into raptures.

Arsenal huffed and puffed over the remaining 20 minutes, but, in the end, were forced to make do with a hard-fought point.

As such, on the back of a manic evening in north London, below we take a look at some of the key talking points from a Gunners perspective, in the form of both the positive and negative aspects of the club’s comeback display.

Fighting spirit

First up in terms of positives for Unai Emery’s men comes the spirit showcased by Arsenal’s stars in fighting back from 2 goals down.

Despite having looked largely-disjointed over the course of the opening 45 minutes, and seen Spurs’ 2nd of the evening come against the run of play, the home side never gave up.

This constant pressure eventually led to Tottenham being forced into mistakes, the first of which resulted in Lacazette’s crucial finish on the stroke of the interval.

The pride and spirit of the Gunners over the 90 minutes in London proved the catalyst to their comeback, and will also prove crucial to the club’s fortunes moving forward.

Guendouzi the leader

The next couple of positive takeaways for Arsenal come in the form of the impressive performances of individual players.

The first of these came from Matteo Guendouzi.

Arsenal’s second-half onslaught today was largely driven by young midfielder Guendouzi.

The 20-year-old showcased poise and character befitting of a player much his senior throughout proceedings, charging up both his teammates and the Emirates faithful.

Matteo Guendouzi celebrates after Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang latched onto Guendouzi’s pass to score their second goal to equalise 2-2 during the match between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur at the Emirates Stadium in London on September 1, 2019. (Photo by Ben STANSALL / AFP)

Crucially, though, Guendouzi was also superb in possession, setting Arsenal’s attacks in flow from deep with neat and tidy passing, and even creating his side’s crucial equaliser with a pinpoint delivery from the middle of the park.

While he is still unquestionably raw, Arsenal’s young midfield general no doubt has a bright future ahead of him.

Kolasinac is back

Next up on the list of positives for the Gunners today was Sead Kolasinac.

Bosnian stopper Kolasinac, who endeared himself to the club’s fanbase late in July in fighting off an attempted armed robbery of Mesut Ozil’s car, proved a constant threat for his side this evening, with his lung-busting bursts up and down the left-flank.

Davinson Sanchez looked lost throughout proceedings, as ‘Kola’ time and time again picked up space towards the end-line, before drilling dangerous deliveries across goal.

With Nacho Monreal having departed, and Kieran Tierney sidelined, Arsenal will need Kolasinac to perform on a weekly basis moving forward, and today’s display was certainly a positive sign of things to come.

Arsenal keep up incredible home streak in NLD

Finally, the point picked up by Unai Emery’s outfit this evening saw their incredible run of results at home versus their fiercest rivals continue.

Arsenal securing a share of the spoils means that Spurs’ last 27 visits to the red half of north London have seen them bag 3 points only once, back in 2010.

While this may not appear overly-significant in the grand scheme of things, it is important for Arsenal to do their utmost to maintain this record moving forward.

First off, the psychological aspect for both sides is crucial.

Any club heading to the ground of their direct rivals on an annual basis in the knowledge that they have for so long struggled to pick up points will inevitably feel added pressure to come away with a result.

This, in turn, as long as the trend continues, will only see Arsenal filled with further confidence that they head into the derby, at least at home, as favourites.

In addition, with Arsenal and Spurs likely to go on battling it out for a top-4 berth over the coming seasons, the former continuing to take critical points away from Mauricio Pochettino’s men will only boost their chances of returning to the Champions League.

Xhaka the liability

On an evening where the Gunners will no doubt come away the happier of the two sides, however, there were also plenty of negative aspects to the club’s latest performance.

First off, Granit Xhaka continues to cost Arsenal when it matters most.

Despite having been solid in possession, as he so often is, through the 90 minutes at the Emirates, a trademark moment of madness on the part of the Swiss international so nearly cost the hosts dearly.

His challenge on Heung-min Son to give away a spot-kick late in the first-half was as dangerous as it was needless, with the ball having actually gotten away from the Tottenham attacker by the time Xhaka had made contact.

The 26-year-old also gave away countless other unnecessary fouls over the course of the clash, to put his side under pressure.

For the umpteenth time, Xhaka proved that his ability to play-make from deep does not make up for the complete lack of tact and rash tendencies possessed by the former Basel man, traits unlikely to change any time soon.

LONDON, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 01: Giovani Lo Celso of Tottenham Hotspur is challenged by Granit Xhaka of Arsenal during the Premier League match between Arsenal FC and Tottenham Hotspur at Emirates Stadium on September 01, 2019 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Emery’s questionable team selection

This leads perfectly on to the next disappointing aspect of Arsenal’s comeback draw this evening – the XI opted for by Unai Emery.

Spanish tactician Emery’s decision to start with a midfield trio of Xhaka, Matteo Guendouzi and Lucas Torreira, behind a front-3 of Nicolas Pepe, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette, for the most-part, didn’t really work.

The lack of a link between midfield and attack saw the capital outfit’s attacking potential limited throughout the opening 45 minutes, with a stouter back-line than that of Spurs likely to have held out until the interval without conceding.

Dani Ceballos’ introduction to the fray helped to change things in the second-half, as the Spaniard neatly kept things ticking over, all whilst adding such much-needed guile to the midfield ranks of the Gunners.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang also looked far more comfortable after being moved into a central role after the hour-mark, leading to Arsenal levelling things up.

Unai Emery’s ideas and motivation have certainly been evident in his side’s opening to the new campaign, but, based on both this evening’s outing, and last week’s defeat to Liverpool, the former PSG boss still has a lot of figuring out to do with regards to his starting XI.

Impulsive Arsenal

Last up on the list of negative takeaways from Arsenal’s comeback draw was the impulsive nature of so many of their key players.

Spurs’ opener came after Sokratis stepped too far out of the hosts’ backline to attack a header, leading to David Luiz being caught in no man’s land, and Bernd Leno eventually gifting a tap-in to Christian Eriksen.

As outlined above, the away side’s 2nd also came as a result of a needless rush of blood, on the part of Granit Xhaka.

Perfectly showcasing just how error-prone the north Londoners have been since Unai Emery took charge, meanwhile, is the below statistic:

Arsenal need to cut down on these kind of errors, and fast, if they have plans to reestablish themselves as a top club in the near future.

Whether this means shaking up the options at the disposal of Emery, or shifting the club’s overall mindset, though, is down to the Gunners’ boss to figure out.

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