This match had an end of summer, back to school feel about it. At 2-0 down heading into first half injury time, the summer tinged hopes were far from Emery’s mind and everyone sitting around me in the Emirates. Xhaka had just given away (another) penalty, with a foul so late people couldn’t at first understand why a penalty had been awarded, our gaze had shifted on to play. Despite a bright starting debut of our front 3 of Laca, Auba & Pepe - it was our questionable defence which combined to let Eriksen tap a soft first goal in. The Xhaka hack gave Kane the penalty to make it 2. Some fans left in disgust for the beer lines rather than see out the half.
Those of us that stayed were buoyed by what looked like a sure handball in the spurs box, and there was much looking about wondering where the VAR Gods were and how we could summon them. Thankfully Lacazette didn’t wait for prayers to be answered and muscled through a phalanx of spurs bodies to rifle into the top of the net. 2-1 down made the halftime beer a lot sweeter.
Analysing the first half through the eyes of a lady fan sitting near me one would say that Guendouzi had most impressed, with him popping up in every position with an infectious enthusiasm. She also remarked how small our number 11 was, and it did strike me as if our Uraguayan had shrunk some what in confidence if not stature. He also seemed to have ice skates not football boots such was his inclination to slip! The only other observation I would make is the team seemed to try and feed Pepe at every instance. The trio up top looked better on paper than in the flesh, it will take time for them to gel and learn to play off each other.
After a frustrating first half, Emery kept confidence in his starting 11 and was repaid with an encouraging start to the second half. We dominated play and seemed camped in the spur’s half. Our first change was Ceballos on for Torreira. It felt almost cruel that the crowd sung with gusto ‘Oh Dani Ceballos’ from his introduction. I felt for the diminutive 11 who last season was a fan favourite, no one was chanting his name today. Fickle lot we are.
Ceballos did have a positive impact, and has desire to have and use the ball was well appreciated in the upper east stand. Ironically it was not this substitute but the withdrawal of Laca for Mhki that brought the equaliser. With Laca off (possibly because of cramp) it pushed Auba up top where he was in the right spot to flick on a Guendouzi pass. 2-2 and it seemed the winner was surely next.
A Sokratis goal was ruled out for offside, and that was the closest we got to the fairy tale ending. At the end it seemed that Sokratis had bungled Kane over in the box, but thankfully the ref ruled it not a foul. Our defence never allows one to relax, always a moment away from calamity. And despite a weak parry to allow the first, overall I thought Leno had some decent saves and it’s encouraging to see how he tries to get attacks going quickly whenever he gets the ball.
Monreal having departed to warmer climes, the left back slot was filled by Kolasinac. I have to say many times he got into great attacking positions only to struggle with the final ball. The introduction of Tierney should help our shape and quality, which remains a work in progress. Lying fifth going into the International break, with a string of Sunday kickoffs coming due to Thursday night football, is about what one could have expected when the fixture list was announced. This was a truly chaotic helter skelter performance at times. Much work remains to get this team firing on all cylinders. But overall it seems the team and squad are being shaped into something that will be able to sustain a top 4 finish this campaign. COYG