Arsenal (1) 2 Tottenham Hotspur (2) 2
Emirates Stadium, Drayton Park, London N5 1BU
Sunday, 1st September 2019. Kick-off time: 4.30pm
(4-3-3) Bernd Leno; Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, David Luiz, Sead Kolašinac; Lucas Torreira, Granit Xhaka, Mattéo Guendouzi; Nicolas Pépé, Alexandre Lacazette, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Substitutes: Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Dani Ceballos, Mesut Özil, Calum Chambers, Reiss Nelson, Emiliano Martínez, Joe Willock.
Scorers: Alexandre Lacazette (45+1 mins), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (71 mins)
Yellow Cards: Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Granit Xhaka, Alexandre Lacazette.
Arsenal Possession Percentage: 57%
Referee: Martin Atkinson
What drama! Such passion! Unbridled emotion! This North London derby, the first of the new season, had absolutely everything; except, of course a win for Arsenal, whose second half performance more than deserved the winners garland at the end of the match.
Almost from the start, the match got into gear with heavy tackles and shots on both goals. Amazingly, and unbelievably, Arsenal gifted the visitors the first goal of the game after just ten minutes. Erik Lamela’s shot was parried by Bernd Leno, and the weakness of the save was seen by Christian Eriksen, who wasted no time in opening the scoring for Spurs from point-blank range.
We now saw the problems in our own side; using a 4-3-3 formation, the midfield was one-dimensional with nobody available to unlock the opposition defence, and to make matters worse, every time Spurs came forward they completely split the Arsenal defence asunder, and at some points in the first half, it seemed not beyond the realms of impossibility that they could add to their lead. However, having said that, Arsenal started to show resilience along with fine character, and our overall strength started to pay dividends almost immediately. That was, at least until five minutes from time, when Granit Xhaka appeared to lunge thoughtlessly at Son Heung-min inside the Arsenal penalty area; Harry Kane converted the penalty, and it looked as if we were going to go into the break two goals down, and had it not been for a brilliant piece of individual play by Alexandre Lacazette two minutes into injury time, it undoubtedly would have been. He jinked around the Spurs defenders, touched the ball past Jan Vertonghen and blasted it home. Never has a goal been so well received at The Emirates for quite a while.
How a half-time break changes things; whatever Unai Emery said to the team, it certainly worked, and worked well too. Arsenal completely controlled the match and time and time again, wave upon wave of our players simply ripped Spurs apart and created some excellent chances, all to no avail, unfortunately. Then a moment of sheer inspiration from the manager. He took off a highly-charged Alexandre Lacazette (who had already been booked for a pointless offence) and replaced him with the much-maligned Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who, despite some vocal objections from sections of our crowd proved his worth within minutes of his arrival.
The formation up-front completely changed us for the better. The now-liberated Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was able to play in the central role he most desires, and this paid off with the equalising goal with just nineteen minutes left on the clock. Mattéo Guendouzi (one of our unsung heroes on the day) slotted an inch-perfect pass into the Tottenham six-yard box, and just when it looked as if a whole lot of nothing was going to happen, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang simply moved into position behind the hapless Jan Vertonghen and gently touched home the ball to equalise the scores.
Unai Emery had already brought on Dani Ceballos for the fatigued Lucas Torreira, and all things considered, Arsenal went for broke, and were extremely unlucky not to grab the winner in the time remaining. It was a thoroughly exciting match, and at times we played extremely confidently, but yet again, our defending must be surely brought into question if we are going to seriously challenge for a top four position.
Remember everyone, keep the faith, get behind the team and the manager, as this season is going to be crucial for our future success in all competitions. Stick with the winners. Our next match: Watford at Vicarage Road on Sunday, 15th September at 4.30pm (Premier League). Be there. Victoria Concordia Crescit.
Too Dearly Loved To Be Forgotten: Arsenal v Racing Club de Paris 1930-1962 by Steve Ingless (Rangemore Publications, ISBN 978-1-5272-0135-4) is now available on Amazon.