If this Tottenham team shows the power of having a philosophy and sticking to it, Arsenal show how far you slip without one. What exactly is Arsenal’s philosophy? What is their ethos? Here Wenger stuck with the 3-5-2 system that has, at the very least, given them something to cling on to and steady themselves as they slip down the table. They even tried something new, with the front players pressing high and trying to stop Tottenham playing out from the back.
It was not a bad plan but the problem is that Arsenal do not play with the conviction and organisation of a team who works hard at their tactics in the week. The players did not look comfortable in the system and it was impossible to avoid the feeling that Wenger is making it up as he goes along.
The 2-0 scoreline barely touches how inferior Arsenal were to Spurs. This was not a dramatic collapse, a mass abandoning of ship, like their recent away embarrassments at West Bromwich Albion and Crystal Palace. But it was a simple out-playing, one team with a very clear idea of what they are trying to do coming up against a team without one.
The only time in the game when Arsenal looked dangerous was a spell late in the first half when Alexis Sanchez took over. Pulling out onto the left, he found space behind Kieran Trippier, got on the ball and tried to find a way to win the game by himself. But when a side can only be dangerous from their best player doing it by himself, what does that say about his team-mates?
Mesut Ozil, to the surprise of no-one, was anonymous in a big away game. Which is not to say this is all his fault, he is a player who needs to be playing in a good team, and at the moment he is not. But it was not clear what his job was meant to be and he never looked especially keen to find out.
In midfield Wenger’s pairing of Aaron Ramsey and Granit Xhaka were taken to pieces by Eric Dier and Victor Wanyama. For all the doubts about Dier and Wanyama as a pair – Spurs are clearly a much better team with Mousa Dembele – it was hardly a contest in midfield.
When Wanyama drove forward with the ball Arsenal could not stop him, and Spurs’ penalty came when the Kenyan cruised past Xhaka as if he was not there. Xhaka is a poor defender but here he was asked to play in defensive midfield and he could not do it. Ramsey, playing in front of him, is not especially known for his defensive discipline either.
It is very easy to blame the Arsenal players and there have been plenty of times this season when they have deserved it. Clearly the recent embarrassments have upset them and they proved at Wembley when they beat Manchester City that they capable of digging in and getting a result.
But that win was more about guts than tactics and here Arsenal were up against a far stronger, more driven, more focused opponents than City. Spurs came with plans they have been working on for three years. Arsenal with plans they have been working on for three weeks. No wonder they have now slipped so far behind.