football

5 talking points as Arsenal respond to Lamela stunner to take north London derby


Arsenal came from behind to win an entertaining north London derby at the Emirates.

Tottenham substitute Erik Lamela scored with a remarkable Rabona strike to put the visitors in front just after the half hour mark, only for Martin Odegaard to level with a deflected effort.

The Gunners had hit the woodwork twice in the first half as they showed the greater attacking threat, and they took the lead in the second period when Davinson Sanchez was judged to have fouled Alexandre Lacazette in the box, with the Frenchman netting the penalty.

Lamela was sent off for a second bookable offence 12 minutes after the goal, but while Harry Kane had been quiet throughout the game, he saw a header disallowed for offside and hit the post with a free-kick late on.



Lacazette scores the winner from the spot
Lacazette scores the winner from the spot

Here are the game’s talking points.

1. Mikel Arteta’s ruthless side isn’t just for show



Aubameyang was dropped after he was late for a team meeting
Aubameyang was dropped after he was late for a team meeting

It is true to say that Mikel Arteta hasn’t been afraid to make big decisions during his time in charge of Arsenal, but it is also true that several of those decisions were a little bit… comfortable to make in the first place.

Matteo Guendouzi just needed to grow up a bit, Mesut Ozil’s enormous wages weren’t providing value for money, Sokratis was past his best and Shkodran Mustafi was Shkodran Mustafi.

Upsetting that quartet has only seemed to strengthen the manager’s position at the club, but benching the captain?

It isn’t as serious as freezing him out entirely, but eyebrows are sure to have been raised among the squad after Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was left out for being late for a meeting.

It should serve as a warning to all of them that no-one is off limits.

2. Erik Lamela reminds us of football’s joy



Lamela’s outrageous goal gave Tottenham the lead

When everything about this past year comes to be written, football will rightly be a footnote. The game is, as Jurgen Klopp says, the most important of the least important things.

The conversations we were having 12 or even nine months ago about the game going ahead or not in a pandemic were always full of such bluster and self-interest that we seemed to lose the soul of what the game means to us all, and it is just that at the end of the day. A game. A way to spend our time.

Football has managed to trudge on regardless in these past nine months, for the vast majority of the time without almost all of us, the fans. We’ve been removed from it and as a result it has removed itself from us. It is less interesting.

So of course we make it special, we clearly make it a better product.

But do you know who else makes it worthwhile? The footballers.

Footballers like Lamela who can do incredible things that make up leap off our seats.

What a joyous goal that was.

3. Martin Odegaard’s end product should be cherished



Odegaard scored his first Premier League goal to equalise
Odegaard scored his first Premier League goal to equalise

If Arsenal ever do return to the heady days of Arsene Wenger’s reign – and they surely will eventually – then they might rely on what it is that left them floundering around in the mid-table wilderness for so long.

And the answer could well be end product.

For so long the Gunners had, and still have, players who are all mouth and no trousers, all approach play and no finishing.

They could carry some of those under Wenger but in recent times they’ve suffered, which is where Odegaard’s capacity for goals could be key.

He followed up his strike in Europe with an important equaliser here, and goalscoring is a habit he could do with keeping up if he is to turn his loan move into a permanent one.

4. Jose Mourinho’s methods are maddening



Mourinho sent out his side to sit back and hit on the break
Mourinho sent out his side to sit back and hit on the break

Hardly a fresh take this, but the comparison between the players available on the Tottenham teamsheet and the method in which their manager sent them out to play really is quite stark. Maddeningly so.

Of course they were unlucky to lose Son Heung-min to injury, but if anything proved the amount of quality they’ve got in their squad then surely Lamela’s goal did, but it was a lone, if brilliant moment of attacking endeavour in a match in which the visitors were largely passive.

The players don’t play like that, surely. Only one man does.

And it won’t be a successful approach with this squad.

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5. Top four for Arsenal?



Alexander Lacazette celebrates his penalty
Alexander Lacazette celebrates his penalty

Ten points behind Chelsea with a game in hand. Could it happen?

No. Not really.

But football is for dreaming and so why shouldn’t Arsenal fans focus on a position that was once their derided home under Wenger?

A spot in the Europa League places is certainly achievable given the inconsistency of those above them, not least their north London neighbours, and so could it be a case of aiming for the moon and landing among the stars?





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