Sunday, September 26, 2021

Arsenal 3 - Tottenham 1

I wasn't especially hopeful going into today's game, even though Arsenal were on a 2 game win-streak (winning both by 1-0 margins) and Tottenham were on a 2 game losing-streak. Over the past dozen years or so, the Gunners have had a nasty habit of falling down against top teams, including their arch-rivals from North London. My low expectations made the pleasant surprise all the sweeter. It was the best first-half of football and full game of football, I've seen from a Gunner's side in a long, long time, 

I've been tough on Arteta this season, and not without good reason. But credit where and when it's due. Arteta fielded a young side, with just a couple of older players (Auba and Xhaka) mixed in for stability, with an excellent game plan that was executed with skill, fervor, and strength. The enthusiasm and energy-level of the players, and even the head man himself, were impressive and contagious. The crowd at the Emerites Stadium got it; and the energy they gave back to the team cannot be over-estimated. The three goals Arsenal scored - by Smith-Rowe, Aubamayeng and Saka - were the kind Arsenal fans grew used to seeing when giants like Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp strode the pitch. It was unfortunate that they gave up a consolation goal in the second half, but the fact that it did not rattle the Arsenal squad was a very good sign. Ramsdale was brilliant in goal. In particular, he made a great leap and stretch to tip onto the crossbar a ball that already was behind him. Gabriel was as gigantic in defense as Odegaard was brilliant in midfield. Every single player in the squad worked his ass off, and must revel in the victory (while remembering that it is just one victory). 

Today's game is an object lesson not just for the players on the pitch but for the manager: Enthusiasm and hard work are the keys to victory not only in big games but in every game. And there is no reason why Gunners fans should not expect that such a young squad will muster the same energy and work-rate in every game they play. Arteta clearly had the team prepared to play that way today. The question has been, why has he not gotten the best out of them from the start of the season, when the players more or less reflected the manager's lackluster demeanor. 

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