Arsenal’s North London derby victory over Tottenham Hotspur was as surprising as it was memorable, of course the Gunners always have the potential to defeat their arch rivals, yet it was just not expected that the current squad would be able to find the resolve to do so.
Mesut Ozil put in the complete performance from a no.10, the kind of all action display in both halves of the field that makes it easier to understand just why Arsene Wenger continues to persevere with the German.
Alexis Sanchez was for once not left to press the opposing defenders on his own, it was a cohesive Arsenal display and the visitors simply could not deal with their quality in the final third.
Alexandre Lacazette is still adjusting to life in the Premier League but you can clearly see glimpses of his talent, he has an incredible feeling for goal-scoring opportunities and the runs he makes in behind are timed to perfection, if the Gunners were to keep up this level of performance you can envisage him scoring a lot of goals.
Defensively Wenger’s charges were solid; Hector Bellerin didn’t ignore his defensive duties whilst Laurent Koscielny and Shkodran Mustafi looked a real partnership next to Nacho Monreal.
It is obvious that the French defender has significant talent but Saturday was the first match in recent memory where he could play with confidence in the defenders positioned next to him.
Mustafi’s display will have been a particular highlight for the French coach, especially after he almost left the club for Internazionale in the last days of the summer transfer window. Dubbed a panic buy amongst supporters, the German defender scored the crucial opening goal and dealt with Spurs attacks all afternoon.
It was a performance from a team who has the talent for a title challenge, admittedly they are a little weak in midfield, but the problems at the Emirates Stadium are so often psychological.
A defeat to FC Koln in the Europa League can be discounted because Arsenal were already through and played with a weakened team, however Sunday’s clash away to Burnley is the real test for the club.
Despite such a wonderful performance against Tottenham, very few people expect Arsenal to go and get any kind of positive result at Turf Moor, and there is the problem.
Arsenal have to somehow shake this perception and start to deliver week after week, and not just near the end of the campaign when all hopes of a title challenge have long since faded away.
Wenger’s team has to kick on and go and put a run of results together. There is a school of thought to suggest these mentality issues stem from the manager himself and there won’t be a true change until he departs, there is some truth in that but it shouldn’t at all stop the team performing now.
Burnley are having a wonderful season, all the splendid work done by Sean Dyche over the years has reached a zenith and the club have a squad capable of winning Premier League matches regularly and climbing up the table.
Burnley sit just one point away from the Champions League qualification spaces and are known for their excellent home form. Arsenal did actually win at Turf Moor last season under controversial circumstances with Koscielny’s 93rd minute winning goal carrying suspicions of both handball and offside.
Arsenal were poor on that occasion and a repeat performance will see the current Burnley team beat them; it’s as simple as that.
Wenger needs his big players to stand up and be counted again, Ozil cannot be content with his display against Tottenham and then simply take his foot off the gas, he needs to be busy on Sunday.
Turf Moor will represent a more challenging atmosphere for the North London club, they have to rise to the occasion and show their superior individual quality.
It is probably too late for a title challenge when you look how far ahead Manchester City are, furthermore it is probably too late to persuade Sanchez to stay with the club. However, Arsenal need to evolve.
They cannot remain stuck in this cycle of the occasional good performance; the display against Spurs on Saturday has to become the team’s expected level, rather than a pleasant surprise for supporters.
The quality within the team is there and now it simply remains to be seen if the application follows.
Written by Chris Winterburn
Follow Chris on Twitter @cmwinterburn
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