Mesut Özil again provided the crucial pass, finding substitute Kieran Gibbs with a cross at the far post. Gibbs got enough of the ball to bundle it past Spurs keeper Hugo Lloris, negating Harry Kane’s first half strike for Spurs and Tottenham’s superiority during the middle section of the match.
Here are three things we learned from the contest.
Arsenal now have the players to deliver the points
Although Spurs controlled much of the play, Arsenal had enough quality to make the key moments count. Özil and goalkeeper Petr Cech, players with international pedigree, exerted their influence at the right times to prevent defeat.
The German playmaker delivered an assist in his sixth consecutive league game and his 10th in 11 league appearances. The former is an unprecedented feat for a player on one Premier League team. His assist total could have been even higher, but for some slightly wayward finishing by striker Olivier Giroud. Overall, Özil created seven chances for teammates, according to the FourFourTwo StatsZone app.
Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger hailed his silky midfielder’s progress and contribution after the match. “He was outstanding again,” said Wenger. “He has grown into a very great player as he has added commitment, leadership qualities, and responsibility, and I’m very pleased with his development.”
Another experienced hand earned widespread praise for keeping the Gunners in this match. Cech had to stop goal-bound shots by Christian Ericksen and Toby Alderweireld in the match’s third quarter; otherwise, Arsenal would have trailed by two goals with little prospect of recovery.
The save of Alderweireld’s shot was especially important. The Spurs’ defender got himself free to receive a corner kick and directed a strong header at goal. Cech’s positioning and reflexes were exactly what they needed to be for the moment; this intervention gave Arsenal the chance of equalizing.
As Wenger put it, “He has shown again how important he is and that maybe goalkeeper is maybe the most underrated position in football, because there is a moment he can keep you in it. If you go 2-0 down, it’s bye-bye.”
Thanks to Cech and Özil, Arsenal did not have to depart this match with nothing.
A depleted Arsenal can survive—and nearly thrive
The Arsenal injury list consisted of seven players, three starters among them, prior to the match. That was actually a slight improvement from earlier in the week, due to the returns of Laurent Koscielny and Mikel Arteta to the squad.
But the strain was still significant. Midfielder Santi Cazorla, whose partnerships with Özil and Francis Coquelin are so important to the team’s flow and defensive solidity, was suffering from dizziness and nausea and could hardly kick the ball straight. Wenger replaced him at halftime.
Offensive dynamo Alexis doesn’t seem right, either. He’s been playing with some combination of a groin strain and fatigue for a month, and his knack for goals has left him.
Right back Mathieu Debuchy, himself a replacement for the injured Hector Bellerin, took a knock in the second half and had to come off just after the Gibbs goal. As a result, the team spent the ultimate period of the match with Mathieu Flamini, inserted for Cazorla in midfield, at right back and Gibbs at left wing.
Yet this ragtag bunch looked the more likely winners in the end, even though Spurs had fielded its first-choice lineup playing to the top of its capabilities. That’s an indication of this team’s desire and potential.
Mathieu Debuchy should stop talking
Anyone who pays the slightest attention to Arsenal knows that Mathieu Debuchy is dissatisfied. The Frenchman suffered the misfortune of two long-term injuries last season, his first at the club, and encountered the emergence of the phenom Hector Bellerin. As a result, Debuchy, who wants a spot on the French national team for the European Championships on home soil next summer, found himself on the Arsenal bench.
When Debuchy has gotten the opportunities to regain his place, he hasn’t made the most of them. To a certain extent, that’s understandable: It’s hard for many professional athletes to perform at their best with sporadic playing time.
But rather than knuckling down and improving his performances, Debuchy has made strong public hints of his desire to leave Arsenal for playing time elsewhere. That’s not optimal public relations work from a player who’s been involved in the team’s worst outings this year. To use a term from hockey, Debuchy has a plus/minus of minus-9, capturing the losses to West Ham, Dinamo Zagreb, and Bayern Munich.
A better approach than voicing his discontents would be to capitalize on the slight progress he made on Sunday. Debuchy succeeded on nine of 10 tackles and displayed an improved awareness of his position relative to those of his teammates. He’ll need to show improvements like these when he gets further opportunities if he’s going to catch the eyes of any suitors or French manager Didier Deschamps.
Francis Coquelin does not surrender. With his comrade Santi Cazorla playing at peak peaked, Coquelin was practically alone in Arsenal midfield as Tottenham pressed. The Frenchman held his own, making nine ball recoveries, tied for most in the match, and succeeding on six of eight tackles. He also committed no fouls. Without Coquelin’s clever, stalwart play, Spurs would likely have enjoyed a comprehensive and insurmountable advantage.