For those in the fanbase who have urged others to continue “trust[ing] the process” of manager Mikel Arteta, Sunday’s North London Derby proved to be a vindication of sorts.
In a dominant 3-1 victory over Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal fired on all cylinders, pursuing an aggressive, pressure-filled forward attack in the first half before dropping back and maintaining superb defensive shape in the second.
Despite a poor start to the season, confidence was in greater supply after two consecutive 1-0 victories over Norwich City and Burnley, respectively. However, clamoring for more consistent and uptempo play persisted.
Examining the match, it is fair to say such pleas were answered.
Midfielder Emile Smith Rowe opened the match’s scoring with a brilliantly collaborative goal in the 12th minute, expertly converting a close-range shot from a crisp Bukayo Saka pass. His energetic, abundant performance would set the pace for the rest of Arsenal’s afternoon.
With Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scoring the second goal in the 27th minute, and Saka securing a third in the 34th, Arsenal executed one of their best and most fearsomely creative gameplans to have graced the Arteta era. In other words, they resembled the highest highs of the forward-pressing style of the Wenger-led 1990s and 2000s that defined the modern philosophy of the club.
Perhaps the most important aspect of the match, however, was the excellence on both sides of the ball displayed by the club’s summer signings.
Aaron Ramsdale, whose four-year, £24 million contract initially drew the ire of many supporters, particularly had an impressive and confident showing in goal. His full-extension fingertip save of a powerful 91st-minute shot from Lucas Moura ultimately sealed the match in what surely is already a contender for save of the season.
In front of Ramsdale, £50 million centre-back Ben White had been previously criticised for his lack of tenacity and unwillingness to close down attackers. Sunday, however, he led a heroic back line that far out-defended Spurs’ own, leading them in both tackles and clearances.
On the right, most recent fullback acquisition Takehiro Tomiyasu displayed his entire skillset, bombing down the wing, winning the ball back, succeeding in aerial duels, and making effective overlapping runs in tandem with Bukayo Saka.
The back line kept their shape spectacularly, pushed the ball up to a voracious midfield, who in turn gave proper space to Aubameyang to move in the box, fully unlocking the field of play.
It is difficult to not be swept up in the beauty and coherence of Sunday’s performance, though it is, undoubtedly, a thrilling indication of what the side could be at its very best.
The issues Tottenham faced coming into and during the match should not be understated, but also should not reduce the importance of Arsenal’s victory. This will, perhaps, prove to be one of the more crucial events in allowing Arteta to continue managing the team.
Next Saturday’s match against top-of-the-table Brighton will be an early, vital test of whether or not this positive run of form can truly mark the beginning of an Arsenal rebirth, but for now, the fanbase deserves to revel in a bit of glory.
Match facts provided by PremierLeague.com
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