Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal rebuild comes alive to kill Tottenham’s false hope with Harry Kane



At the end of August, with Arsenal having made their worst start to a season since 1954, Mikel Arteta – under enormous pressure – vowed to conduct a critical analysis of his methodology at Arsenal.

Mesut Ozil, meanwhile, was tweeting “trust the process” with what many perceived to be a large slice of sarcasm.

Whatever his meaning, that phrase was the manager’s over-arching conclusion. Arteta needed to be unswerving in his plotting of the bigger picture for Arsenal, most especially at points of severe pain.

Rebuilds are never seamless, fun, nor without mess. But you have to start it and see it through with clarity and conviction for long-term gain.

At the Emirates on Sunday evening, Arsenal were rewarded with an immediate sign of how moving forward can be rewarded against a side delaying the inevitable.

It was all the sweeter that the positive came against a passive Tottenham in a convincing North London derby destruction, in which quite poetically, Harry Kane was a problem for the opponents.

While Martin Odegaard, Emile Smith-Rowe and Bukayo Saka illuminated the encounter, the England captain who was denied a switch to Manchester City in the summer, stunk it out.

He was not an offensive presence in the first half, largely behind the play and on the periphery as Son Heung-Min chased after long balls.

Kane, muddled and lost in his head rather than being alert, fell over himself and gifted Arsenal possession for their third.

He had only completed five passes and won just 28% of his duels. Kane snatched at his best chance, collecting a ball over the top and edging past Takehiro Tomiyasu, only to lift the effort wide.

Tottenham’s attachment to keeping him, their selection of Eric Dier who was abysmal for all the goals, the just-hit-it-long-for-Son tactic, and the presence of Nuno Espirito Santo in their dugout are all hallmarks of a club putting off the proper refresh it needs.

What is Spurs’ identity? Who are they now and what do they want to be? How do they plan to achieve that?

Juxtaposed against an Arsenal side that have completely reconstructed their backline – new additions Ben White, Tomiyasu, Gabriel Magalhaes and Aaron Ramsdale all having a fine game – Tottenham’s absence of vision was broadcast in HD.

This was further crystallised by the faith in and the effervescence of youth – Odegaard, Smith Rowe, Saka – offering the hosts greater dynamic, variety and enterprise.

Arsenal blocks for the future were creating a solid foundation here, a swell of hope and optimism not seen for an age.

They also bulldozed Tottenham’s faux feeling of stability under Nuno and after holding onto Kane.

Spurs naturally picked it up in second half, which was not a struggle given the nothingness of their play before the break. Son naturally got on the scoresheet to reduce the deficit.

But what is their identity? Who are Tottenham now and what do they want to be? How do they plan to achieve that?

Arsenal may have to stomach and sift through more pain ahead, but at least we know their answers to these questions.

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