Arsenal were completely outfought and out-thought in the North London Derby – the former issue lies with the players, the latter with the manager.
The feeling I got whilst watching the game was that this was a case of Deja Vu; we have seen this before the season.
The games at Anfield and St Mary’s were almost identical to what we witnessed on Saturday and it’s hard to recognise any change in our play to combat such opposition.
After a change of approach against Manchester City, many were quick to say that Arsene Wenger had turned over a new leaf and was now able to tactically outsmart rival managers.
As good as the performance was against the champions, it didn’t require much thought. Manuel Pellegrini is much like Wenger in the sense that he plays one way, but due to the quality he has at his disposal, he very rarely needs to tamper with his team to suit different opposition.
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What Arsenal did was replicated by championship side Middlesbrough days later, which suggested that the victory may have not been amazing as many thought.
It was against Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham Hotspur where the real test would come, a young vibrant coach who has caused Wenger problems in the past.
His high intensity pressing was always going to make Arsenal’s build up play more difficult, yet there didn’t seem any change in approach.
Wenger spoke of “technical mistakes” in the middle of the park after the game, but that was inevitable with the intense pressure Pochettino has been renowned for. Yet it seemed as though the team was happy to surrender possession after taking a fortunate lead.
For the boss, there wasn’t any tinkering. No switching to a 4-2-3-1 to have Santi Cazorla in the hole – which would’ve occupied one of Spurs’ central midfielder. No introduction of Theo Walcott which would’ve forced their back-line and allowed us more time and space in building up the play.
Just the inevitable, conceding possession and hoping they weren’t as clinical as we would’ve dreaded – yet they have the in-form striker in the league at the moment.
The jury is still out in terms of Wenger’s ability to go toe-to-toe with the more tactically astute manager in the division, with Brendan Rodgers, Ronald Koeman and now Pochettino all adopting similar methods and our team looking clueless on the pitch in all three encounters.