Arsenal lurch from solid to shocking in the space of one north London derby

Typically, Arsenal lurch from glorious to god-awful in the space of a game.

In Saturday’s north London derby, however, they managed that mind-boggling feat inside 45 minutes in a truly remarkable showing as they went down 1-0 to Harry Kane’s second-half goal.

The opening half was as organised, resolute and determined an effort as you are likely to see from an Arsenal side under Arsene Wenger, with the Gunners showing the sort of intensity and desire that is the backbone of any success in the Premier League.

Although they didn’t have too much to show for their endeavours in an attacking sense, they kept themselves in the game in admirable fashion, with shades of their 2-0 win over Spurs at the Emirates earlier in the season.

After the break, though, every ounce of energy, focus, and intensity in Wenger’s side deserted them. They were second to the ball all over the pitch, they were misplacing countless passes, and they were giving the ball away in their own defensive third with alarming regularity.

It came as no real surprise, then, that Tottenham were able to capitalise on the gaping holes that were starting to appear when Harry Kane put them ahead scarcely five minutes after the re-start.

Instead of using the opportunity to refocus and galvanise, Arsenal simply carried on regardless, and it was only errant finishing and excellent work by Petr Cech that kept the score at just one.

To his credit, the manager made concerted efforts to change the pattern of play just after the hour mark, with the atrocious Henrikh Mhikitaryan replaced by Alex Iwobi and Mohammed Elneny giving way to Alexandre Lacazette.

The changes had little effect.

Every time he took hold of the ball, the young Nigerian looked in a state of panic and he either misplaced his pass or was easily disposed. Lacazette looked and played like a man whose confidence has been shot to pieces.

A nightmarish half-four or so for the Frenchman was typified by the two gilt-edge chances he spurned in the final 10 minutes, chances a man of his pedigree had no excuses for missing. While it feels harsh to pin defeat on a single player – and it is – there is no doubt that those misses cost us a share of the spoils.

What really mystifies, however, is quite how our level of performance dropped so dramatically after half-time. Why and how that happened is simply unfathomable. I watched in disbelief as the team simply crumbled for no apparent reason whatsoever.

They went from looking superb to looking like the team that was utterly dismantled by Swansea, Stoke, Watford, and a host of other no-hopers this season, such were the basic lapses that were being made in the second period.

Should any of us be surprised?

I think so, yes. Not in terms of the result, because a lot of people would have expected us to lose. But if we had started the match as we finished it, at least there would have been consistency to the performance. Consistently bad, of course, but you wouldn’t be left scratching your head.

The genuinely surprising thing about this Arsenal effort is the complete 180-degree about-turn that was produced in the second period. As a football club that harbours ambitions at the top end of the table, you can just about get away with inconsistency in small patches of the season.

What you cannot do is lurch wildly from sublime to shocking inside 45 minutes.



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