North London Derby Was a Turning Point.
So often this season we have shot ourselves in the foot. The storyline is predictable. We will begin by dominating the ball and the opposition territory. Hopes swell and we begin to create chances. We will somehow miss every single chance to score (sorry, Tierney) and then one of our defenders or midfielders will make a stupid mistake that will give the opponent a free goal out of nowhere. If none of this happens, then a crazy officiating decision is certainly on its way.
This has been the story of our season, especially from December. We clearly are now a dominant team with the ball. We are just blunt in front of goal like Brighton, error-prone as Southampton and as unlucky as Arsenal can be. Errors, missed chances, bad luck. Over and over again.
On Sunday, it looked like another repeat of the story. We were completely dominant against a Tottenham side with Bale, Son and Harry Kane, creating chances for fun and ominously missing them. Then, bang! Out of nowhere, a ludicrous goal against us and against the run of play. It was all too predictable and painful.
However, the boys seemed to have gained strength from the Benfica and Olympiakos games. They kept their heads up, just continued playing, and our goal duly arrived courtesy of none other than the irrepressible Tierney.
It continued that way into the second half and the second goal arrived. Then a bit of officiating went our way. After that, we struggled to keep the intensity and lost control of the game but there was enough in the tank to hold on to the lead and take away the bragging points.
Leicester was a comeback. Benfica was a clutch win. Olympiakos needed us to overcome ourselves. Tottenham was us refusing to get swept away by the narrative again. These are the games that define the character of a team. These are the games that set up the mentality of a project. That indicate a glimpse of the future. Adversity is necessary to overcome and we are seemingly rising up to the task, crucially at the tailend of the season. I remember Liverpool doing the same things in 2016 and 2017. How they began to refuse to let go of matches that might have gone against them.
These are the stirrings of a slumbering giant. West Ham is another opportunity to showcase this newfound resilience but I sincerely believe that we have already reached a turning point. The second leg of our fixture against Olympiakos and the West Ham game was down to rotation and Aubameyang missing his lunch. That is not a definitive match even as much as it is indicative. Long may our resurrection be.