Arsenal’s progress under Mikel Arteta undermined by defence

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“I think Mikel found a way for them to be stable and they are improving,” Jose Mourinho told Sky Sports in his post-match assessment. “And then we found our chances.”

It was a neat summary of a game in which Mourinho’s Tottenham were dominated for large spells but still ran out 2-1 winners thanks to Arsenal’s all too familiar weaknesses.

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Mourinho’s strategy was clear, particularly in a second half in which his side saw just 24 per cent of the ball. Spurs sat in and waited for mistakes – because the mistakes were coming.

Arsenal’s encouraging form is being undermined by a failure to do the basics.

The defeat means Mikel Arteta’s side are back down in ninth – below their rivals and with qualification for the Europa League let alone the Champions League now in the balance.

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There have been positives for Arteta as he looks to sift through the wreckage of years of confusion and mismanagement at the Emirates Stadium. But the 15 points lost from winning positions since he arrived are an indication that the mentality still needs to change.

Meaningful progress is still to come.

That is a frustration for fans because there had been positive signs in beating Wolves 2-0 at Molineux just one week ago. Arsenal have been the better side for long periods of the two matches that have followed – at home to Leicester and this away day against Spurs.

But they have contrived to pick up only one point from six.

“I have never seen them nullify an opponent like they did today,” Arteta told Sky Sports, “but we gave them a goal again and we concede a set piece. At that level, you cannot do it.

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“The game was ours. We had total control.

“Every time we pressed the ball they could not come out, we regained the ball. It is difficult to attack a low block like this but we generated enough chances. Again, small details cost us and that is one of the biggest things we need to improve as a team.”

Whether it can be done with some of these players is highly debatable.

Even in the minutes after Alderweireld’s goal, there was some miserable defending.

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At one point, Mustafi sold himself so early when Kane shaped to cross from the left that the England captain did not even need to check back. Instead, he was able to continue merrily on his way while Mustafi sat there on his backside. It was amusing but also worrying.

“We will keep trying to coach them and coach them,” added Arteta.

But Mustafi is 28. Kolasinac is 27. David Luiz is 33.

These are the experienced players in the Arsenal squad. It would be no reflection on Arteta if he proves unable to coax a dramatic improvement in their consistency levels at this stage.


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