Tag Archives: North London Derby

Tomas Rosicky’s energy and perseverance drives Arsenal past Spurs


Arsene Wenger’s decision to acquire Mesut Ozil on transfer deadline day has been identified as the spark that’s led to Arsenal’s formidable form this season. The signing displayed the North London side’s title ambitions, and his presence has influenced his teammates to raise their overall game – but initially, it put Tomas Rosicky’s place in the squad at risk.

Rosicky, who most recently celebrated his 33rd birthday, has struggled to solidify a place in Arsenal’s XI throughout his eight-year spell in North London. Injuries have hampered the Czech’s ability to reach his expected potential, and with Arsenal possessing an abundance of creative players, his role within the squad was questionable.


Here, the 33-year-old midfielder started alongside Santi Cazorla and Serge Gnabry in Arsenal’s attacking trio, behind Theo Walcott. Walcott aimed to attack space behind the fullbacks, Gnabry stuck to the touchline to provide width and isolate defenders – a logical approach based on Spurs’ fullbacks willingness to surge forward, while their centrebacks lack pace – whereas Cazorla drifted centrally to provide a creative spark.

Rosicky has occasionally slotted into the no.10 role behind the striker this season, opposed to Cazorla or Ozil, and it’s because the Czech midfielder provides a different element to Arsenal’s attack. Rosicky isn’t renowned for his sleek penetrating passes, or ability to take control of games – he’s an energetic direct threat that drives Arsenal forward, when their intricate passing is ineffective.

When Arsenal drew Everton at the Emirates this season, Wenger made a triple-substitution, which included Walcott and Rosicky replacing Cazorla and Jack Wilshere. It took 10 minutes for the duo to influence the match, as Rosicky’s long diagonal ball into the box met Walcott, and he nodded it towards Ozil, who gave Arsenal the lead from close range.

On two separate occasions, Rosicky drove Arsenal forward from deep positions in midfield, with swift, sleek combination play. Quick intricate passes with Cazorla and Wilshere enabled the 33-year-old to push forward and play a pass into Walcott, whose curling effort swerved inches wide of the net. Five minutes later, Rosicky dropped towards the halfway line to receive the ball, play a quick one-two with Wilshere, then inventively combine with Cazorla, who drifted infield and also curled his shot wide of the net.

The interesting feat about Rosicky is his admirable work-rate – he scampers around the pitch with the energy levels of a 20-year-old, quickly closing down the opposition, and breaking into tackles. Wenger’s decision to place him behind Walcott was with the intent of preventing Spurs from playing out of the back. For the most part, they were successful, and Rosicky was rewarded for his tireless running.

In the 61st minute, Rosicky closed down Danny Rose at the halfway line – the Czech subsequently dispossessed the Spurs left back, and shrugged off Kyle Walker, before cleverly chipping the ball over Hugo Lloris. Rosicky’s ability to drift into pockets of space and push runners forward is often overlooked, yet pivotal in an attack that can occasionally lack guile and penetration.

Although Rosicky could improve his goal-scoring/assist tally, the 33-year-old still offers a positive blend in Arsenal’s attack. His consistent dynamic style of play that involves direct running, and quick intricate passing has seen Rosicky quietly become one of Arsenal’s key men this season. Trophies have become a distant thought in the mind of Arsenal supporters, but Rosicky’s energetic play from midfield can play a decisive factor in ending their prolonged title drought.

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Posted by on January 4, 2014 in Match Recaps, Published Work


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Arsenal 1-0 Tottenham


Olivier Giroud was the difference maker in Arsenal’s slender North London derby victory.

Arsene Wenger made three changes to the side that cruised past Fenerbahce in their midweek Champions League qualifier. Giroud, Santi Cazorla and Theo Walcott formed an attacking three, while Tomas Rosicky replaced the injured Lukas Podolski, and formed a midfield trio with Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere. Kieran Gibbs started at left back, and Laurent Koscielny returned from suspension to form a centreback partnership with Per Mertesacker.

Andre Villas-Boas made several changes to the side that dispatched of Dinamo Tbilisi in midweek Europa League action. Roberto Soldado, Andros Townsend and Nacer Chadli led the attack in Villas-Boas 4-3-3, while Moussa Dembele, Paulinho and Etienne Capoue formed a midfield three. Erik Lamela started the match on the bench, while new signing Christian Eriksen was unavailable.

Arsene Wenger learned from previous mistakes in the last North London derby, which proved to be decisive, in a match that contained a few tactical features.


An interesting feat in this match was always going to involve how both sides were aligned without the ball. In last season’s derby at White Hart Lane, both sides played extremely high-lines. Arsenal suffered due to the pace of Bale and Lennon, along with the space available between the lines for Gylfi Sigurdsson and Scott Parker to exploit. Spurs were able to get behind the Arsenal centre back pairing of Mertesacker and Thomas Vermaelen, which proved to be the difference.

Wenger learned from last season’s outing that nearly jeopardized Arsenal’s Champions League spot, and ordered his side to sit a bit deeper. Wenger’s men dropped into a 4-5-1 that sat off and minimized the space between the lines. In particular, Ramsey was one of their better players on the defensive end, as he thrived in Arsenal’s midfield five.


It’s key to point out that the constant pressure that Giroud and Rosicky applied on Jan Vertonghen and Michael Dawson. Both men were able to push forward and play positive forward passes last year, and Wenger instructed his the duo to close them down, when possible – limiting their influence on Spurs’ attack going forward.

However, Spurs played a high-line, but were unable to replicate last season’s success. Arsenal looked most threatening on the break, where they could expose Spurs’ high-line. Their main outlet was Walcott – his pace troubled Danny Rose at times, and it was from this element of attack that handed Arsenal the lead. Ramsey broke forward and played a pass wide to the unmarked Walcott, and the Arsenal winger’s ball met Giroud’s run at the near post and the Frenchman tucked the ball under Hugo Lloris.

Arsenal was conservative without the ball, whereas they took a page out of Villas-Boas’ strategy last season, to harm their North London rivals.


The midfield battle proved to be the decisive factor in the result. Spurs fancied their chances due to their physical superiority, but Wenger replicated his decision in the second half of last season’s tilt at White Hart Lane – where Arsenal significantly improved – Cazorla was the main man, drifting centrally to overload the midfield.


Cazorla helped Arsenal push forward in attack – he provided a spare passing outlet in midfield, and also disrupted Spurs’ approach in midfield. Now Tottenham had to worry about the tricky Spaniard drifting infield, and Villas-Boas’ midfield three were constantly dragged out of position. Cazorla was allowed freedom to play key passes in the final third, and was often the distributor in majority of Arsenal’s legitimate goal-scoring opportunities.

Wenger acknowledged the threat Spurs posed in midfield, so the inclusion of Cazorla was logical, based on its success last season and the numerical advantage his side gained.

Spurs’ Width

For all of Arsenal’s success in the middle of the park, Spurs did enjoy some freedom in wide areas. Villas-Boas instructed Chadli to take on the inexperienced Carl Jenkinson, and in the opening moments of the match Jenkinson was being exposed as Rose got forward to create overloads. Unfortunately for Spurs, Chadli didn’t maintain his impact on the left flank, and can be criticized for not assisting Rose cope with Walcott’s threat on the counter.

On the other flank, Townsend looked to be the most influential Spurs player in the opening minutes of the match. With Cazorla tucked in, Walker surged forward, which allowed Townsend space to cut in and take shots from distance, forcing Wojciech Szczesny to make a few saves. It was a recurring theme in the opening 30 minutes, but as the match wore on Cazorla began to track back to provide Gibbs cover.


Roberto Soldado has been somewhat of a saviour for Spurs since his arrival from Valencia. In fact he’s scored the winning goal in both of Tottenham’s Premier League victories, leading up to this derby, which is why is performance was pivotal to Spurs’ success. Unfortunately for Villas-Boas, Soldado was marked excellently by Koscielny and Spurs’ midfield lacked guile going forward to provide the Spaniard the service he required.


Soldado scored two goals against Malaga last season, but there’s a clear difference in where he receives the ball in both matches.

While Soldado was often an isolated figure, it leaves one to question Villas-Boas’ decision to leave a player like Lewis Holtby or Sigurdsson on the bench. It’s evident that Eriksen will play an integral role as Spurs no.10, but Spurs have lacked a link in between midfield and attack this season – and Soldado needs ample service to perform at the highest level.


Arsene Wenger learned from his mistakes in last year’s North London Derby at White Hart Lane, and modified them this year, which gave his side the edge over Spurs. Overloading the midfield, pressing the Tottenham centre backs and sitting deeper as a unit, were key factors in their victory at the Emirates.

Spurs will be disappointed with the loss, and it will take time for Villas-Boas’ men to hit full gear. With several new arrivals, the Tottenham manager and supporters will have to wait for this newly assembled side to find form. They’ve added the pieces over the summer to challenge for a Champions League spot, and despite the loss, are still favourites to achieve that feat.

As for the Gunners, they were able to slip past their North London rivals, continuing their great run of form. Despite purchasing a world-class talent in Mesut Ozil on deadline day, they still possess a thin squad. Injuries, loss of form and suspensions will all play a factor over the course of the season, and if they intend on challenging on four fronts, the squad available isn’t enough. However, they displayed that they still have a lineup capable of showing up for a big occasion – a North London derby – and they did get the better of Villas-Boas’ men.

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Posted by on September 3, 2013 in Match Recaps, Published Work


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