There was quite the contrast between Arsenal’s 4-2 north London derby victory over Tottenham last weekend and Saturday’s 0-0 stalemate with Huddersfield.
Goals aplenty at Emirates Stadium made for an intense derby match and a capacity crowd bore witness to the Gunners’ best performance of the season.
A week on, while the performance levels weren’t on the same level, Unai Emery’s side still came away from a difficult match with all three points thanks to their star midfielder, Lucas Torreira.
The summer signing from Sampdoria has become an immediate fan favourite for his tough-tackling, hard-working approach, which has also had the added bonus of bringing the best out of Granit Xhaka.
Torreira took his shirt off after netting the killer fourth goal against Spurs and the passion he showed in that celebration is also evident in every single facet of his game.
Eight yellow cards were shown by referee Paul Tierney during a feisty clash in north London and it was Torreira’s fighting spirit which once again shone through for an Arsenal side who are now 21 games unbeaten in all competitions.
That magnificent unbeaten run has featured some indifferent performances yet the common theme is resilience; quite simply, Emery’s team never gives up.
The last time these two teams played against each other was the final game of last season, as Arsene Wenger bowed out after 23 years at the helm.
Coincidentally, Arsenal also prevailed 1-0 on that occasion, albeit at the John Smith’s Stadium, but while this weekend’s meeting produced the same scoreline, there was a glaring difference in terms of the visitors’ mentality and tactical structure.
There is a stubbornness about Arsenal’s players not – yet not their manager, who is willing to not only acknowledge when he has made a mistake, but promptly do something to rectify it.
Indeed, Emery’s decision to start with three defenders and two defensive midfielders prompted complaints from those on social media and adopting such a defensive-looking set-up against a team who have collected just two points in their seven away league matches this season certainly seemed unnecessarily cautious.
Still, with the game scoreless at the break, Emery, to his credit, was not afraid to ring the changes. He hauled off the ineffective Alexandre Lacazette for Alex Iwobi and brought on Henrikh Mkhitaryan for Stephan Lichtsteiner as Arsenal reverted to a 4-2-3-1 formation.
Arsenal haven’t led any of their 16 Premier League games at half-time this season (drawing 12, losing four), but they have scored the most second half goals in the competition (26), testament to Emery’s ability to change a game.
It was just as well they got the job done here too. With Chelsea playing Manchester City later in the evening, it was crucial that Arsenal put points between themselves and Maurizio Sarri’s out-of-form side.
Huddersfield rarely threatened, in all honesty, and Torreira’s late goal was exactly what Arsenal deserved.
However, on the down side, Shkodran Mustafi and Sokratis will miss the next league game against Southampton through suspension, meaning Arsenal may have to rush back Laurent Koscielny, who was originally pencilled in to play next Thursday in the Europa League against Qarabag.
In that context, Nacho Monreal’s second-half appearance was a big boost for a defence ravaged by injury and suspension but given the fighting spirit that this Arsenal team are now displaying under Emery, it appears that there is no hurdle that the the Spaniard and his troops cannot get over right now.