Arsene Wenger may have come under fire for Arsenal’s relatively sluggish start to the campaign, but the Gunners showed they remain a force to be reckoned with as they beat Tottenham 2-0 in Saturday’s north London derby.
Shkodran Mustafi's header 10 minutes from the break was rapidly followed by Alexis Sanchez's strike to give them the platform to claim a victory that keeps them in touch with the top four.
Going into the game, only two sides in the top 13 had conceded more times this season than the Gunners, yet on Saturday they showed resolve to their play against opponents only outscored by Manchester City, Manchester United and Liverpool.
Indeed, the statistics show that Mauricio Pochettino’s side were superior in this game by some distance in terms of their control of the ball. Spurs spent 58 per cent of the time in possession and used a balanced attacking approach to try to find a breakthrough.
There was a slight bias in their play to going through the centre, with Christian Eriksen having been so devastating during the international break, but while they manufactured an impressive 12 shots, eight of which came from inside the box, only a disappointing four were on target.
This owed, in part, to Arsenal’s back three having an impressive game, while the chief creative forces for their opponents, Dele Alli and Eriksen, were not allowed to have an influence on proceedings.
The hosts, meanwhile, made a concerted effort to attack down their left, where Sead Kolasinac and Alexis were primarily patrolling. A significant 43 per cent of their attacks went down that channel and brought nine shots at goal. These were typically cleaner efforts than Spurs managed, though, and the fact that five of them found the target hinted at the greater ability the Gunners had to find room to score.
It mattered little that Arsenal’s pass accuracy was down at 70% - way below their season average of 83%. Indeed, they were also well down on their usual pass count of 595 – they managed only 399 – but with their defence in a stubborn mood they were able to close out the victory.
Now they need to show such resolve on the road. At the Emirates, Arsenal have won all of their six Premier League fixtures but they have suffered acutely from travel sickness. From six road trips they have earned a meagre four points and if they are to return to the Champions League next season that is a record that needs to drastically improve.