Arsenal losing to Tottenham stinks. There was so much riding on this one - bragging rights, probably St. Totteringham’s Day, possibly a Europa League place (mercifully, CAS might wipe away Manchester City’s penalty and remove that bit) - and Arsenal couldn’t get it done. 62% possession overall, 76% in the second half and nothing to show for it. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang fluffing a gilt-edged chance in the first half and rocketing one off the bar in the second. So many near-misses. So many what-ifs.
That’s been the story of the season for Arsenal. A constant stream of what could have beens. 21 points dropped from winning positions this season, 15 under Mikel Arteta. It feels like things are so tantalizingly close, yet Arsenal keep finding ways to blow it. Actually, they keep blowing it in the same few ways over and over again, which makes it all the more frustrating. Arsenal were undone once again by a horrendous defensive miscue (Sead Kolasinac’s woefully misplaced pass) and a set piece (they’ve given up 45% of their goals from set pieces, most in the Premier League). Arsenal could really do with a dedicated set piece coach to fix that particular problem (and maybe to help them get more out of attacking set pieces as well).
At the same time, the nearly’s and the almost’s paper over some of the massive deficiencies at the club, which were very much on display today. Arsenal don’t create enough chances and are too reliant on individual brilliance to bail them out. The middle of the pitch in the attacking third is an utter void. Arsenal don’t get players on the ball there and when they do, nobody has the creativity to make something of it. You can’t expect Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to score in every match to save your bacon. As we saw today, sometimes he doesn’t convert his chances. Nicolas Pepe had a few moments today, but you need more than “a few moments” from your club-record signing. And having the top earner at the club unavailable, for whatever reason is actually keeping Mesut Özil out of the matchday squad, is a drag, too.
The defense is still bad. That’s it. That’s all that needs saying.
There were a few bright spots on the day. Emi Martinez had another fantastic match. He commands the area well, is quick off his line, and made an absolutely stunning save on a Ben Davies screamer in the first half. When Bernd Leno returns from injury, there will be a genuine competition to be the number one keeper. That’s a good problem to have.
Dani Ceballos was strong again today. He faded as the match went on, but I think that’s in part because of all the running he has to do to cover for Granit Xhaka’s limited range. Ceballos is making a fair case for Arsenal to bring him back next season. He’s sneaky good defensively as well.