Old defensive frailties returned to haunt Arsenal, as they were beaten 2-1 away at Tottenham Hotspur in the north London derby on Sunday night.
It was a familiar script playing out all over again, as the Gunners finished on the losing side despite bossing large parts of the game and having 80 per cent possession in the second half.
Arsenal went ahead through Alexandre Lacazette’s stunning strike in the 16th minute but a mistake by Sead Kolasinac saw Spurs draw level through Son Heung-min three minutes later.
Slack defending has been the Gunners’ undoing for long and although Arsenal’s defensive game has shown signs of improvement under Mikel Arteta, the defeat in Sunday’s north London derby shows that there’s still a lot of work ahead of them on that front.
Having lost their one-goal advantage, the Gunners came out determined in the second half. However, despite largely keeping possession to themselves, they failed to make it count.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang hitting the crossbar was the closest they came to scoring after the break. However, much against the run of play in the 81st minute, Toby Alderweireld headed home from a corner, thereby ensuring that Tottenham had the bragging rights at the end of the derby day.
This has sadly been a familiar story for Arsenal over the last few seasons. After the much-publicised exit of Arsene Wenger, former Sevilla boss Unai Emery arrived with the promise of fixing the Gunners’ defensive woes.
However, not much changed under him. After a run of poor results, Emery got his marching orders and the mantle passed to former Arsenal player, Mikel Arteta.
Having assisted Pep Guardiola at Manchester City, it was expected that Arteta would implement some of the lessons learnt under the tutelage of the former Barcelona boss.
However, while Arsenal’s overall game and finishing ability has tangibly improved under Mikel Arteta, defensive shortcomings have continued to haunt them time and time again.
Mikel Arteta assesses Arsenal’s loss
Terming the derby defeat as a “massive blow” to their chances of featuring in the Europa League, the Gunners boss said his players must learn from their mistakes.
When asked to voice his thoughts on the game, Arteta said,
“We have to learn, in every game something happens. A little margin here, a little margin there. But I’m sure we’ll get there.”
However, commending his charges for a workman-like effort, the Spaniard said,
“I’m proud of the players because I’ve never seen them play like they did today. I’m sorry for the fans, I know how much it means to them. If we minimise the mistakes we do and play like that we’ll win many, many, many football games.”
But the good words apart, the numbers don’t make for a pretty picture as Mikel Arteta has now seen his team lose 15 points from winning positions since taking the Arsenal job in December.
“There’s been a few things that have cost us games. Some errors, sometimes game management, sometimes a set piece and individual errors.”
On Mesut Ozil sitting out yet again, the Gunners boss said,
“He is still in the same position (as) he was two weeks ago. And we said we would manage everything internally.”
On slipping to the ninth place in the Premier League post the derby defeat, Arteta said,
“Point-wise, it is a massive blow because we know the results this weekend. But we will keep trying while we have hope: one way in the league, the other way in the FA Cup.”
However, had Arsenal’s defence been in shape and if the men they trusted to marshall their backline did their job, the outcome of the north London derby could well have been different.
But then, will the Gunners ever learn?