Kai Havertz slams remaining critics in Arsenal derby delight as David Raya scrutiny unwarranted

Kai Havertz's critics remain speechless after more Arsenal brilliance as title mission remains very simple.
Kai Havertz's critics remain speechless after more Arsenal brilliance as title mission remains very simple. -Credit:David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images

Arsenal continued their strong form and title-challenging intentions by winning at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium for a second successive season. Spurs had threatened to end their hopes of chasing the Premier League when Son Heung-min's penalty hit the back of the net to half the deficit with time remaining, but the Gunners held on.

Mikel Arteta’s side were far from their best, loose in possession and gave away chances far too easily. Yet, when they were tested they held firm and only did the goals for the home side come when some individual mistakes from David Raya and Declan Rice gifted them to Ange Postecoglou’s team.

A game of such magnitude certainly delivered for the neutrals whilst wracking the nerves of any Gunners watching in the ground or through a screen. It did indeed offer up plenty of successes and frustrations for


Clinical when it mattered

Derbies mean form goes out the window and anything can happen. That might not have been the case for what was seen in the first half from a scoreline perspective, but certainly performance-wise as the Gunners looked shaky.

However, when you're perhaps not on your best form when the chances come you have to take them and that is exactly what they did. The own goal of course helped, but as Bukayo Saka ran away he was brilliant in his curling finish past Guglielmo Vicario.

Kai Havertz, again, maybe posed the question of whether Arsenal do need to sign a marquee striker to start in the summer. His header from Rice's corner was great and again the German turns up in yet another massive game.

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Havertz a hero

Score in a North London Derby win and your name is written into club history. Kai Havertz earned that tagline today with his goal and man-of-the-match performance.

Outside of his towering header, it was his pass which set through Bukayo Saka as he beautifully stroked a perfectly weighted long ball in behind for the winger to latch on to. His touches in tight spaces were a delight to witness, while combinations with midfielders showcased the confidence they clearly have in him.

The time has to come soon that the narrative surrounding Havertz proving the critics wrong comes to an end. The period where instead we simply appreciate the great footballer he is must be imminent.

Set piece kings

I referenced this in my post-match piece which you can read more about of course, but in short: Nicolas Jover is a genius. The French coach has been excellent in upgrading and establishing Arsenal’s set pieces as the best in the league.

A 16th goal from a corner this season was the result of Havertz's header. But outside of the attacking third, the Gunners were also solid defensively after the first 20 minutes or so, repelling every cross, and every shot with a couple of moments of madness in the form of errors allowing Tottenham to breach the defence.


David Raya

Now, the mistake in itself would have been near-unforgivable had it cost Arsenal any points today, but the reality is that it didn't and therefore, perhaps naively, we can talk about it in a different light. We've seen goalkeepers make these mistakes from Alisson to Ederson; every goalkeeper has done something silly like this.

It is, however, how they respond that matters and one of the key reasons why we can analyse Raya's display differently is how he hit back. The Spaniard sits in the frustrations section of this discussion only because of this error.

But to end constructively, his post-error performance was very good. In fairness, overall it was good as the Spaniard collected plenty of crosses comfortably and distributed well too.

Underestimating the schedule

The narrative going into this game was that Tottenham were coming in the fresher side with two weeks without a game prior to this one. Meanwhile, Arsenal played four games in that time and earned successive wins over Wolves and Chelsea.

Interestingly though that momentum of playing more regularly seemed to make a difference in the derby. Spurs had been stewing on that 4-0 defeat to Newcastle and while they started strongly, they found themselves three goals down and with little hope until Raya's crazy error.

Arsenal, for the first time in the best part of a month, now have a midweek off. They host Bournemouth next weekend looking to continue their fine form and not have to endure the nervous and anxiety-inducing 3-2 win over the Cherries last season.

Out of their hands

Despite the success in the derby ultimately their fate is out of their hands and Manchester City delivered a painful blow by winning in what could be their most challenging fixture remaining with four more to play. Nottingham Forest threatened and should have done far better with what they created.

City now host Wolves next weekend before going to Fulham. Then they themselves go to Tottenham, where the irony will be clear for all to see, and finally, they host West Ham United at the Etihad on the final day of the season.

Arsenal’s job is simple, keep winning, and keep up the pressure. They need something to go their way but you never know what this league has in store.