Match in a sentence
Arsenal’s chances of playing in the Champions League next season took a massive dip, as two minutes of abysmal defending was enough for Spurs to extend their lead to seven points over their North London rivals.
- Arsene Wenger opted to for a 4-3-3 with a front three of Olivier Giroud, Santi Cazorla and Theo Walcott. Their midfield three consisted of Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere and Mikel Arteta.
- Andre Villas-Boas stuck with a 4-2-3-1 with Emmanuel Adebayor leading the line. Gylfi Sigurdsson, Gareth Bale and Theo Walcott played behind Adebayor, while Moussa Dembele and Scott Parker shielded the back four.
- The way both teams pressed in the first 20 minutes really set the tempo of this game. Arsenal pressed the Spurs defenders, as well as their midfielders and it was effective. Arsenal’s pressure caused Spurs to concede possession with ease, and they were unable to build from the back. Spurs on the other hand, failed to close down Arsenal’s midfielders and attackers and the Gunners asserted their dominance. Arsenal lacked quality in the final third and struggled to create goal-scoring opportunities, and that was the problem they encountered.
- Wenger looked to have made the better team selection, as his side had an edge over Spurs prior to the first goal. Cazorla and Walcott’s presence forced Kyle Walker and Benoit Assou-Ekotto to be cautious about getting forward, which they rarely did. Arsenal’s pressing led to superiority in the midfield and allowed Arsenal to control the game prior to the goal. A positive for AVB was Michael Dawson and Jan Vertonghen having excellent performances, and they nullified Giroud’s involvement in the game. Lastly, at first Bale’s central position behind Adebayor was quite questionable. Yes, he’s licensed to roam around the final third, but with Lennon pegging back Nacho Monreal, it was odd that Sigurdsson was played on the left. Sigurdsson did track back occasionally, but Carl Jenkinson was allowed to get forward easily and cause Spurs a few problems.
- Bale didn’t have a huge effect on the game apart from the goal, and he would’ve been more dangerous in wide areas against Jenkinson. He did help Adebayor in closing down the Arsenal defenders, while on the opposing end Giroud failed to do this and it allowed the Vertonghen and Dawson to push the ball forward in the midfield. Walcott looked like the man to lead the line, based on the pace he provides, but he was a quiet figure on the right flank. Assou-Ekotto sat narrow and did a great job in tracking his runs.
- The main talking point in this game was both teams opting to play with a highline. In their encounter earlier this season, Adebayor’s early red card changed the game significantly, so it’s unfair to assess that battle in which Wenger won. But during AVB’s tenure at Chelsea, he was defeated 5-3 against Arsenal. In that game, Chelsea’s highline was blitzed and it was down to incisive passes behind the defenders. Chelsea at the time had John Terry and Branislav Ivanovic (men who lack pace), playing centre back. Today, Thomas Vermaelen and Per Mertesacker were in the same position and they had a nightmare. Both player’s aren’t great defenders, and are vulnerable defending so high up the pitch.
- Lennon and Bale were the goal scorers for Tottenham today, and both goals stemmed from the same ball. Bale’s goal came from a ball that Sigurdsson played earlier in the game, but this time it was perfectly weighted and Bale placed his shot past Wojciech Szczesny. No pressure was applied to Sigurdsson, and the Mertesacker/Vermaelen partnership were caught ball watching, as no one tracked Bale’s run.
- Lennon’s goal was a mirror image of Bale’s, except this time, the Arsenal defenders stood off and watched Parker drive through the middle and play the incisive ball. Lennon’s run started from a wide position in which he lost Monreal and this time Vermaelen was caught ball watching.
- The second half saw a more cautious Spurs side, and as a unit the plan was to stay compact and break Arsenal’s highline. This was the approach Wenger possibly should’ve taken, because it was only a matter of time before his players tired from pressing. Also, Wenger has players at his disposal that are capable of causing a threat on the counter.
- Nevertheless, Wenger’s side made the final 39+ minutes of the game exciting as Mertesacker nodded home a goal off a corner kick, six minutes into the second half. Adebayor failed to track Mertesacker, and he ran in front of Bale and headed the ball past Hugo Lloris.
- Wenger took off Jenkinson and replaced him with Tomas Rosicky, pushing Ramsey to right back. Arsenal continued their search for a goal, and with Cazorla drifting centrally it looked certain that they might find an equalizer. Ramsey came closest to leveling the game, but he flashed his deflected shot wide. Arsenal probed and probed, but was unable to get behind the Spurs backline enough, and they struggled to create opportunities from open play. That all comes down to the excellent display from Dawson and Vertonghen.
- Spurs did have an injury scare prior to full time as Dembele picked up a knock after colliding knee to knee with the below par Wilshere. Dembele limped off the field, as AVB couldn’t risk further damage to his star midfielder. It was a decent game between two of the Premier League’s better sides, that saw Arsenal dictate possession and the game, but Spurs were efficient, clinical and had that extra bit of quality in the final third.
- Arsenal sit seven points behind Spurs with 10 games to go, and today’s loss has dented their chances of finishing in the top four. It’s certainly not out of the question, but they’d have to go on an incredible run, and hope for Chelsea and Spurs to help them out. Wenger tried to tactically switch things up in the second half, but the introduction of Podolski, Rosicky and Ramsey as a make-shift right back didn’t have any effect on the game. Although his team selection wasn’t poor, he will be questioned on why Arsenal played such a highline, and why Giroud was on the field for as long as he was. Wenger and his men face a daunting task in order to qualify for the Champions League next season, and failure to achieve that goal should cost him his job.
- AVB will pleased with the three points, but what awaits him in the next few weeks will determine whether Spurs remain in the top four come May. Games against Liverpool, Swansea, Chelsea, Manchester City, Everton and Europa League fixtures against Inter Milan are what await the North London side. Spurs in the past seasons are known to drop points towards the end of the season, and whether they can avoid another end of the season dip, will be the difference maker. Out of the three London sides this season they’ve been the most consistent, and in May that will separate whether they qualify for the Champions League or Europa League. They’ll need to better today’s performance but with 10 games to go, Spurs are favourite to march on to a Champions League campaign next season.
1. Jan Vertonghen
2. Aaron Lennon
3. Santi Cazorla