Last Friday marked Arsene Wenger’s 15-year anniversary as Arsenal manager, but following defeat in the North London derby at the weekend, any celebratory plans the Frenchman might have arranged for such an illustrious milestone in this fluctuating sport would have been instantly abandoned, keeping good company with his team’s defensive duties at White Hart Lane.

It was the first time during Wenger’s tenure that Arsenal approached a match with their fierce rivals as underdogs. The Lilywhites have been going from strength to strength, while Arsenal’s squad sheet looks increasingly spartan. The seemingly unbridgeable divide between the two clubs has dramatically decreased in recent seasons and is now in danger of crossing. Arsenal’s decline from the top has been met with Tottenham’s rise from mid-table mediocrity as the former’s stranglehold over this great fixture appears to have ended.

 

This is Spartan!

 

The Gunners have now won just one of their last seven Premier League meetings with Spurs, having previously enjoyed near total domination over Tottenham under the Wenger era. The latest 2-1 reverse was Arsenal’s fourth defeat of the season and just seven games into the campaign Wenger has conceded a title push is beyond his depleted side this term. Instead, a place in the top four is the target ai??i?? it is a target that looks only slightly more realistic than challenging for the title, given their current form. Champions League football must be the bare minimum, however, if the club are to persuade the likes of Robin van Persie and Thomas Vermaelen that their futures lie at the Emirates ai??i?? both will have one year remaining on their current contracts at the end of this season.

Losing to their bitter rivals is painful enough, but the Premier League table makes for equally excruciating viewing for the red half of North London. Languishing in fifteenth place Arsenal sit just two points above the relegation zone and are already 12 points behind leaders Manchester United. In stark contrast, the difficult start to the season endured by Spurs is now behind them ai??i?? the victory was their fourth consecutive in the league.

And, it was a victory that nobody could begrudge them, except Arsene Wenger, of course.

The Frenchman defiantly proclaimed it was a match that his team did not deserve to lose. It seems Wenger is already displaying the sort of delusion we have come to expect from him in the latter stages of the season when Arsenal’s customary implosion reaches its most critical stage. While Arsenal controlled large spells of possession during the match, thanks largely to the extra man in the centre of midfield, they lacked a cutting edge and weren’t able to trouble Brad Freidel’s goal as frequently as was necessary to conclude anything more than zero points was deserved.

 

Crucially Yours, Rafael van der Vaart

 

The imperious Ledley King and the ever-improving Younes Kaboul nullified the threat of van Persie through the middle, while out wide Gervinho and Theo Walcott failed to rise to the occasion. This was by no means a classic North London derby and never threatened to match the drama of the previous season’s encounters. It was short on quality but never lacking in enterprise, encapsulated by the industry of Scott Parker ai??i?? the signing Arsenal should have made. Parker’s brilliance in midfield was the definition of footballing irony as Wenger passed up the opportunity to bring last season’s player of the year to the Emirates, only for him to sign for Spurs on transfer deadline day.

On Saturday Liverpool and Everton faced each other in the ‘friendly derby’, but there was nothing friendly about this match, especially in the stands. Hostility between Spurs and Arsenal supporters is invariably rife, but with the added sub-plot ai??i?? Emmanuel Adebayor lining up against the fans who once adored him in the red of Arsenal ai??i?? temperatures reached boiling point, as both sets of supporters deserved condemnation for their contribution to the match. The away corner despicably mocked the tragic shooting of the Togo team bus at the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations, while chants regarding Wenger’s preference of youth echoed around White Hart Lane.

Back on the pitch Rafael van der Vaart opened the scoring for the home team in contentious fashion after receiving a delightfully chipped pass from Adebayor, before finishing superbly past the helpless Wojciech Szczesny. Wenger castigated the officials for what he described as a clear handball by the Dutchman as he brought the pass under control. Wenger’s time would be wiser spent shoring up his defence rather than to complain about a handball that didn’t prove conclusive even with the assistance of multiple angled replays. Van der Vaart found space far too easily, exploiting the void between Bacary Sagna and Per Mertesacker.

 

Wenger's Law - When something can go wrong... oh boy does it

 

Arsenal were soon level, though. If van der Vaart displayed the benefit of playing him on the right by giving Spurs the lead, Arsenal’s equalizer highlighted the encumbrance as Alex Song breezed past the Dutchman’s token attempt to close him down and delivered the ball for Aaron Ramsey to turn in at the near post. Redknapp’s response was to replace van der Vaart with the more defensively-minded Sandro to thicken up the Spurs midfield. The move worked as Spurs wrestled possession from Arsenal’s clutches.

Wenger’s injury woes continued as Sagna left the pitch on a stretcher with a broken leg following an aerial duel with Benoit Assou-Ekotto. And, just as one right-back’s afternoon ended in misery, another would become the hero. Further lacklustre Arsenal defending allowed Sandro to ghost unmarked to receive Assou-Ekotto’s throw and deliver a cross. Modric’s attempt was blocked but the ball found its way to Kyle Walker 30-yards out who unleashed a powerful strike. As the ball swerved and dipped it evaded the gloves of Szczesny and nestled in the bottom corner of the net to rapturous applause. 2-1 Tottenham.

Arsenal’s current state of desperation was epitomized by the decision to use Mertesacker as a makeshift centre-forward and force long balls towards the German’s head ai??i?? an almost unthinkable tactic for an Arsenal side built on a purists’ philosophy.

Walker’s goal proved decisive, however. It was a dream North London derby debut for the young full-back, while a certain Frenchman will be wishing it was all a nightmare, when he does finally wake up.

Nicholas Godden

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One Response to “Arsenal’s Corner : Wenger’s Nightmare Continues After Spurs Dominate Derby”

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  1. Aditya Sharma says:

    Nice article
    Let’s hope Wenger’s team start gelling soon; it’s feels really strange watching them suffer defeat after defeat .. If this doesn’t change, I have a feeling Wenger might be asked to walk by the end of the season