With our Champions League fate TBD over the next month plus away fixtures at our two London rivals plus Old Trafford, and after the manager himself called his players out, today was the first glimpse into just what this season might yet produce. The answer was promising.
Both teams had ample opportunities—Arsenal the better in the final third of the first half, Spurs the better in the second half of the second. Wimmer gets the blame but in truth it was the end result of several sequences where the Gunners had the better, including Walcott hitting woodwork and Iwobi shooting straight on Lloris. One moment of Dembele brilliance created the equalizer and both Eriksen (twice) and Kane could easily have produced the winner.
Poch channeled Antonio Conte and produced the right set-up—Kyle and Danny both did their job—harassed their opposite numbers, pressed forward, and got back when needed. Dier for once limited his giveaways, Vertonghen played quite well, and Wimmer, after the horror show of an early yellow and an unfortunate own goal, recovered quite nicely and was near-perfect the remainder of the game.
The big difference from Wembley and most of our recent fixtures was in the middle of the field. The Wanyama-Dembele pairing will clearly be the manger’s first choice for the rest of this season—the former was typically solid in the middle, and the latter reminded all of us just how valuable he is with possession, creativity and, in this case, the decisive run to get us the result. A clear MOTM.
But as one who has been quite critical, I must also single out Christian Eriksen, whose second half was his finest of this young season. He almost scored twice—the first just inches too narrow or Cech would have been beaten, the second a wondrous free kick that somehow didn’t have that one bounce or turn of luck needed to get to net. The Dane was great today—finally. Son was active and dangerous throughout, and while ‘arry looked a bit rusty, the penalty was taken with supreme confidence and just his presence on the pitch made others better around him.
No Dele, no Toby, no Erik—but a squad with purpose today. Play this way over the next month and the likes of Monaco and CSKA will be defeated and so should United. The Battle of Stamford Bridge—Round Two—will be something to behold. It is a tough league, but nobody has beaten this particular Spurs side yet. We have the grit and spine that has been missing in recent years, and today there was desire. It’s a good start to a month of definition.
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