The manner in which Arsenal self-destructed in the north London derby on Thursday was remarkable, and it certainly would have provided Mikel Arteta with some unwanted home truths about his squad.
Despite the Spaniard preaching about the importance of staying calm and keeping ‘cool heads’, the Gunners were rash from the get-go and their poor composure cost them. A brace from Harry Kane and a second-half strike from Heung-Min Son ensured that Spurs gave themselves a fighting chance of playing Champions League football next season.
Rob Holding, one of the more experienced players in the Arsenal dressing room, exemplified what went wrong in the space of seven minutes. After picking up a booking for dragging Son to the floor, he then elbowed the Korean shortly after in a defining moment in the game.
Heading into the summer, Arteta’s priority is signing a striker. With Eddie Nketiah and Alexandre Lacazette departing at the end of the summer, a centre forward is the final piece of the puzzle for the manager.
But the north London derby showed that, despite Arteta’s project being centred around young talents, there are flaws that are easily avoidable. The hot-headedness of Thursday’s display will have planted seeds of doubt in Arteta’s mind, and he should consider sprinkling his squad with experience to avoid this downfall going forward.
Of course, there is no need to completely abandon the project. The foundations have been laid for future success by Arteta and the acquisitions of Ben White, Aaron Ramsdale and Martin Odegaard are already bearing fruit. But the wait for silverware could certainly be trimmed down by a few players with know-how entering the dressing room.
With Lacazette departing, Bernd Leno pushing for an exit and Granit Xhaka – known for failing to keep his cool – linked with a move to Roma, the Gunners could have the average age of their squad cut significantly. A vocal leader spearheading the attack is not unheard of, but Arteta may not want to sacrifice a long-term goalscoring solution, such as Gabriel Jesus and Darwin Nunez, simply because his more defensive stars can make rash decisions.
Gabriel has demonstrated previously that he can see red, literally and metaphorically, whilst White is still growing into a leader. Kieran Tierney, currently injured, is certainly an experienced figure in defence when he is available – and the knee surgery should solve some of his fitness woes – and therefore it is potentially a calming presence in the centre of the park that Arteta should consider.
Arsenal attempted to sign a central midfielder in January but were unable to reach a deal with Juventus for Arthur Melo, though a move for another player of his quality wouldn’t go amiss, especially if Xhaka is sold. It would be ridiculous to expect Arteta to greenlight a move for a player in their 30s that is past their best, but acquiring a player over the age of 24 is no sin and something that the manager must consider that could accelerate the progress of his side.