Back in the nineteen nineties, when ANR started, some pundits predicted that live matchday crowds would diminish in importance, and that in time they would be let in free or paid to provide atmosphere for the live TV audiences.
The experience of VAR feels like a staging post down that road.
The time between the incident in question and when VAR makes a decision discriminates against the live audience at the ground. TV audiences soon see the incident replayed and decide for themselves with the help of graphics, still and moving pictures and commentators. The vast majority of fans at the ground have to hold the emotions of their team scoring or conceding in an uncomfortable no man’s land – which diminishes the experience.
But that said this was cracking game.
Was it a microcosm of what is to come for Arsenal’s season ahead – with Lacazette and Aubameyang (and most probably Pepe) getting the team, with its defensive lapses, out of trouble?
Last week the spotlight fell on Luiz. This time it was Xhaka – and more surprisingly Leno and Sokratis. On the captain, he leads the number of penalties conceded in the Premier League since his debut in 2016. Maybe he will never learn not to go to ground in his own area.
Since the start of last season Arsenal have conceded 13 goals from errors leading directly to goals – the most in the Premiership, with Leno at six. And the first Spurs goal will go down as a goalkeeping error.
Sokratis has an image of a no-nonsense defender. But in this match, he was like a bull in a china shop – the atmosphere getting to him. A bit like Luiz and Mustafi, he rushed in where a more defensive containment may have been better. Trying to beat Kane near the halfway line was do or die. Missing would leave the team cut in half – and so it proved. In the second half he charged out to the half-way line, tangling with Winks – and getting booked.
Nevertheless, like last week there were positives. The fightback from two goals down augurs well. The performance of Matteo Guendouzi was exceptional, driving forward and seeking to engage the forwards, he was also key in defence at times – and set up the assist which led to a point. The jury is out on Pepe with Arsenal fans expecting instant goals at £75m. He needs to improve his distribution and shooting – but has shown enough to think they he will come good. And the return of Bellerin and Holding with the addition of Tierney – gives more options in defence.
Torriera and Kolasinac came in from last week and Pepe started in a 4-3-3.
Tottenham put Sanchez in a back four, Vertongen returning and Eriksen starting in a 4-4-2
In the first five, Kolasinac cut in and Pepe shot wide. And repeated the move soon afterwards taking advantage of Sanchez’s inexperience. Maitland Niles shot from the outside the area from a corner, but it was blocked.
On 11, a high ball from Lloris was won by Kane leaving Sokratis in no man’s land and a break away by Son led to pass to Lamela with an early angled shot which Leno placed to the on-rushing Eriksen to tap home.
Spurs began to break at ease on the counter. A pass up to Son on the left – a deliberate tactic from Spurs saw the South Korean run and shoot with his right – bringing an excellent acrobatic save by Leno.
Lacazette working back tackled Lamela around 30 yards out – from the free kick and Leno parry, Winks jinked and passed to Son inviting a reckless challenge from Xhaka. Kane sent the penalty low to Leno’s right.
Arsenal strived for a goal before half-time. A Pepe shot was saved by Lloris. Spurs kept fouling strategically. But in added time, with Arsenal pressing high, Lacazette took a neat pass from Pepe in the Spurs area, controlled it well and fired a rising volley past Lloris. It was a turning point.
At the start of the second half, Arsenal played in front of Spurs area. A Kolasinac cross went wide, but a Maitland Niles cross was headed goalwards by Lacazette. Soon after, a low cross from Maitland Niles was touched on by Torriera and Guendouzi’s right foot shot was well saved by Lloris. From a corner, Lacazette headed on across the area and Kolasinac’s stretched – but the ball went wide. Lacazette shot from outside the area bent wide.
But Spurs were always ready to counter. A one-two between Kane and Eriksen in the area saw the England forward unlucky not to extend their lead as a shot from an acute angle hit the upright.
Ceballos came on for Torriera and immediately jinked in front of the Spurs area and unleashed a rising shot – tipped over by Lloris.
Mkhitaryan came on for Lacazette – with some Arsenal fans booing the decision. Unfortunate as it was the Armenian’s last Arsenal appearance in the light of Roma’s interest and a year’s loan. Maybe he was a luxury Arsenal couldn’t afford, particularly as tracking back and pressing were not his major strengths. And his departure frees up space giving youngsters more experience.
Ceballaos found Guendouzi whose primary thought was to drive forward and seek the forwards. His flat curling cross just outside the six-yard box found the run of Aubameyang who cleverly steered it past Lloris with his studs.
Sanchez was booked for a deliberate shoulder on Ceballos. Lo Celso came on for Son.
A Kolasinac low cross on the left was met by Sokratis who fired home, but the Serbian was adjudged a fraction offside. The TV audience could see quite clearly that it was offside – but fans in the stadium were left in suspended animation – emotions on hold.
Xhaka continued to give away dangerous fouls – including blocking Lo Celso. And Ceballos was lucky not to give away a penalty as he wrestled with Alli.
Towards the end of the game, Kane picked up the ball and ran into the area, moved his body towards Sokratis and invited a foul. No penalty. He performed a similar trick last week.
He then ran from the left and found Sissoko in the area. He is not a renowned goal-scorer and true to form, shot wide.
Arsenal had 26 attempts – the most attempts in a game under Emery but only eight on target. Spurs 13 attempts with nine on target. Arsenal shaved possession and received three yellows to Spurs’ five.
After the game, Aubameyang said: “A point is a good result. We are not happy but did a good job. We deserved more. Lacazette’s was a crucial goal.”
Harry Kane said: “We are a little disappointed as when a team is 2-0 up you expect to win. The goal before half-time changed the momentum. Still we had chances to finish it off.”
Pochettino, who expressed relief at the European transfer window closing and keeping players like Vertongen and Eriksen, said; “It was a great game. We did very well. We were solid and created a lot of chances. We were a bit ashamed to concede in first half. It was emotionally tough. We had some clear chances at 2-1. But we know quality of Arsenal is high.”
Unai Emery said: “We are proud of our work. We played with our hearts more than our heads. The players want to win and there was a lot of emotion We need to find balance. To make the right decisions you need to have balance. In the first half we conceded due to mistakes. But the response was very good. The supporters helped us. In the second half we had more control defensively. We controlled Harry Kane more in the second half.”
Arsenal: Leno, Maitland-Niles, Papastathopoulos (Booked 87) Luiz, Kolasinac, Torreira (Substituted for Ceballos 63), Xhaka (Booked 90), Guendouzi, Pépé, Lacazette (Booked 63 Substituted for Mkhitaryan 67), Aubameyang
Spurs: Lloris, Sánchez (Booked 78), Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Rose (Booked 28), Sissoko, Winks (Booked 74), Lamela (Booked 32, Substituted for Alli 60), Son Heung-Min (Substituted for Lo Celso 79), Eriksen (Booked 57), Kane