Matches turn on moments and almost every one of them went against Arsenal in the north London derby today (Saturday).
With the exception of the decision to award Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang a penalty, the Gunners were plain out of luck what it mattered most, when glory was within their grasp.
I’ll preface what follows by saying that Arsenal were absolutely superb throughout. To a man they were intense, they were focussed, and they were combative, dominating their rivals in every area of the pitch.
There are no two ways about it, Unai Emery’s side deserved to take all three points.
But football has never been about what is deserved, rather it is about what you end up with, whether the performance merits it or not.
Given the way the game panned out, we should be talking about another three points, a crucial away win, and a huge shot in the arm for our Champions League push.
Instead, we are left feeling sorry for ourselves because we let Tottenham off the hook.
Aubameyang looked nervous when stepping up for the 91st-minute penalty and that was reflected in his effort, which was tame, safe, and easy for Hugo Lloris to save.
Unlike Harry Kane, who doesn’t have the mental capacity to experience emotion, the Gabonese striker fluffed his lines in the most crucial of moments.
It should have been a salve for the Gunners following the linesman’s amateurish piece of positioning which meant he missed what was a clear offside in the build-up to Kane being awarded a penalty, but ended up being salt in the wounds.
Emery spoke in the lead up to the game about seizing the opportunity to move to within a point of Tottenham and they were agonisingly close to doing just that, everything about their work warranted it.
But, I say again, moments win matches and that is never more true than in clashes between ‘big six’ sides.
When you get your nose in front, you have to ram home your advantage and we simply didn’t. Of course, you can never legislate for decisions like the one meted out today but you can take that possibility out of the equation by burying your chances.
While Aubameyang’s miss was costly, two misses by fellow striker Alexandre Lacazette were equally so, particularly the second attempt at the start of the second half when he simply shanked the ball wide from 10 yards. It felt costly at the time and it ultimately proved to be just that.
Given the magnitude of the occasion, Spurs were atrocious. They were nervous, insipid, and lacking any sort of impetus. They really were there for the mauling today and, while most of us would have taken a draw at the start of the day, nobody can be satisfied with that same point now.
If we’re looking for silver linings its clear that this team is really starting to buy into Emery’s way of thinking. His tactics, his team selection, and his game management.
The manager took a lot of criticism when the teams were announced but you have to hand it to him, he was proved right. His set up, his substitutes, and his approach were all spot on. I’m sure he will look to put a brave face on things – and so he should – but he will be bitterly disappointed he couldn’t secure the win his side deserved.
Ultimately, the top four battle doesn’t end here for Arsenal and this could still prove to be a big point in achieving our goal for the season. While the weekend will have something of a sour feel to it for a while, we can be proud of how we performed and how we have progressed.
But the lesson from all this is clear – big moments need our big players to put in big performances. Today was not that day.