Arsenal turn corner with Mikel Arteta but under-fire Nuno must be brave to halt worrying Tottenham rot

·4 min read
Nuno Espirito Santo is under pressure following Tottenham’s third successive defeat against Arsenal  (IKIMAGES/AFP via Getty Images)
Nuno Espirito Santo is under pressure following Tottenham’s third successive defeat against Arsenal (IKIMAGES/AFP via Getty Images)

Arsenal kickstarted their season with an impressive and thoroughly deserved 3-1 win in the north London derby, relieving any pressure on Mikel Arteta.

Narrow 1-0 wins over the League’s two bottom clubs, Burnley and Norwich, were hardly convincing evidence that Arsenal had turned a corner following three straight defeats at the start of the season but this victory suggested the Gunners can look ahead with genuine optimism.

In a rocking Emirates Stadium, they blew Spurs away in the opening 35 minutes with a slick display of attacking. All three goals – from Emile Smith Rowe, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Bukayo Saka – were well-taken low finishes inside the penalty area, as Arsenal’s pressing, movement and quick passing proved too much for their rivals.

The second goal was particularly impressive, with Aubameyang finishing from a cutback by Smith Rowe after Arsenal tore through Spurs with a devastating move that started with goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale. It was a move in Arteta's image, which will have particularly pleased the Spaniard.

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Arsenal’s lack of style and creativity have both been questioned under Arteta but this was a big win based on a clear approach, and full of attacking menace.

It was another landmark win to add to Arteta’s collection and leaves him looking up, with his opposite number the one in the spotlight.

Spurs embarrassing and Nuno under pressure

For Tottenham, an embarrassing defeat leaves Nuno Espirito Santo under real pressure after just six League games in the job.

All the supposed promise of their first-half display against Chelsea last weekend, which Nuno spent the week talking up, evaporated in 35 minutes of the most wretched football in memory.

Even by their own recent standard at the Emirates, where Spurs have not won in the League since 2010, Nuno’s side were incredibly passive and they were statuesque as Arsenal ran in three largely similar first-half goals.

Martin Odegaard was allowed to run the game. Not only were Spurs gutless, their gameplan was non-existent.

 (IKIMAGES/AFP via Getty Images)
(IKIMAGES/AFP via Getty Images)

After their high-risk, high-pressing approach against Chelsea, they seemed to want to play a more direct style from the start but ended up repeatedly losing possession with a series of hopeful long balls towards Harry Kane.

Their midfield was a total non-entity, with Tanguy Ndombele and Dele Alli leaving gaping holes for Arsenal to exploit. And Tottenham’s defence was wide open. 

If they’re not going to play attacking football, then they should at least be “solid” – Nuno’s uninspiring buzzword since he arrived at the club – but in the first half they were neither exciting nor secure.

They improved after half-time with the introduction of Oliver Skipp and later the lively Bryan Gil, and Heung-min Son added a consolation goal, while Lucas Moura hit the crossbar late on. But the damage was already done.

The result means Spurs have now lost three consecutive London derbies, conceding three in each one, and two of those performance – at Crystal Palace and here – had scarcely a single redeeming feature.

Like any manager, Nuno deserves time. Spurs fans should remember that Mauricio Pochettino was under intense pressure in his first few months in the job but back then it was at least obvious what the Argentine was trying to do.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

By contrast, Nuno’s approach, his message and his use of various players seems to change week by week – and it is only getting worse.

Nuno must be brave

What now for Nuno? After the manner of his defeat, Spurs can scarcely afford not to win against Aston Villa at home next weekend, regardless of what happens in the Europa Conference League on Thursday.

After appearing so encouraged by Spurs’ first 30 minutes against Chelsea, it was odd that Nuno seemed to abandon that progressive approach in favour of a more conservative style here.

Clearly, if he is to turn around his flagging tenure, he must get Spurs back on the front foot and have the confidence to build on what they showed (fleetingly) against Thomas Tuchel’s side.

And it is increasingly clear that Nuno should be brave in his selections, too. If there was a glimmer of hope for Spurs from the afternoon, it was the displays of Skipp and Gil in the second half.

Skipp helped Spurs to earn a midfield foothold and added some fight, while looking to pass between the lines, while Gil was also lively and got stuck in. The Spaniard won the ball in the build-up to Son’s goal. 

Pochettino had to cast out several underperforming senior players in favour of youth after a difficult start at Spurs. If Nuno is brave enough to do the same, it might spark an improvement.

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