Tottenham Hotspur were playing their best football in 51 years, they were challenging for the title, they were way above Arsenal on the league table as well as in terms of overall confidence. Arsenal, for the first time in 17 years, were complete ‘underdogs’ playing their fiercest rivals, they were alarmingly low on confidence and were fighting hard to keep themselves afloat in the Top Four to be among Europe’s elite. The stage was set, the Gooners were skeptical, they were nervy, not expecting a lot from their team, but hoping for a miraculous change of attitude and fortunes.
Robin van Persie, before the game -
“We need to start right now and we have the very, very best of incentives. It’s Tottenham at the Emirates and it doesn’t come any better than that.“
Arsenal feed on motivation, they needed their biggest rivals to bring them back to life. After going two goals behind, Arsenal probably played their best football in six years since the days of the mighty ‘Invincibles’. They dominated the entire game, pressed Spurs throughout and snatched their crown back from the Spurs in style. You would be forgiven for wondering why Wenger’s men lir in fourth spot, if they were capable of such breath-taking football.
As far as the visiting team goes, they looked quite compact in the starting minutes of the game but a few tactical misgivings from the ‘to be’ England manager led to their eventual undoing. They had probably come to The Emirates with a little too much over-confidence, and understandably so, since they haven’t led Arsenal in the league with so many points in many years. At the end of it, it was just an off-day for the visitors and Arsenal were in such complete overdrive that most teams in the league would have come up short.
Arsenal Strategy And Gameplay
How They Started
Szczesny, Sagna, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Gibbs, Song, Arteta, Rosicky, van Persie, Theo, Yossi
The surprise inclusion to the line-up was that of the Israeli captain, Yossi Benayoun; the rest were as expected. Arsene always shows oodles of confidence on Theo, he was started ahead of his own shadow – the upcoming talent – Oxlade-Chamberlain. Rosicky, in terrific form, was expectantly started ahead of Aaron Ramsey. The fitness news of Gibbs meant Thomas Vermaelen played in his preferred position, at the heart of the defense. Robin van Persie, the key man was leading the pack, as usual, carrying an added responsibility in such a big game.
The home team completely stunned the audience with the most breath-taking football they have played in recent times. They were on toes of Spurs’ players throughout the game, not letting their opponents take upper hand at any point of the game, even though they were 0-2 down at some point. The comeback happened with Bacary Sagna, from nowhere, springing up for a fantastic header from a cute Mikel Arteta assist. The equalizer had to be special, and so it was, van Persie stopping the ball just outside the box, turning and curling it towards the far post. The goal was just world-class, even in agreement was ESPN’s Spurs man – Shebby Singh. The third goal was from a move started by Thomas Rosicky, he played it wide to Sagna and made a darting run towards goal, then chipping it neatly over Friedel. The statisticians were back to their laptops to figure out when was the last time Rosicky had scored for Arsenal. After a very poor first half, Theo had to prove a point in the second; he did score two sweet goals, one a delightful chip, another being a customary cracker from the right side of the field off a delightful Cescish lobbed assist from Alex Song.
It was a performance worth a million dollars from Arsenal, but they need to keep their calm and continue with this brand of football for the rest of the season – Wenger will be hoping this does not turn out to be another flash in the pan. Notable mentions – Alex Song and Mikel Arteta were immense, they ran throughout the game, tracking the Spurs attackers on every move, not letting them any time or space on the ball.
Top Performers - Thomas Rosicky, Mikel Arteta, Alex Song
Tottenham Hotspur Strategy And Gameplay
How They Started
Friedel, Walker, Kaboul, King, Assou-Ekkoto, Bale, Kranjcar, Modric, Parker, Saha, Adebayor
Once Spurs opted for two forwards, they may have sealed their fate even before the game started. Though not surprisingly, they did manage to go two-up within 35 minutes of the game. The first came when the Arsenal defenders were playing an extremely high line, Adebayor found Louis Saha in ample space, the former United man opened the scoring, thanks to a cruel deflection that was truly beyond Szczesny’s reach. The second came when Arsenal were playing some really good football, but they got caught in an usual counter-attack, Bale let loose by Modric, the Welshman ‘drawing a foul’ from the Arsenal keeper and a spot-kick was awarded. Former Arsenal man Adebayor stepped in, finished it coolly, didn’t celebrate and Spurs were very much in for a big win.
It all changed within a space of few minutes as Arsenal kept launching waves of attack at the visiting team. Redknapp opted for Kranjcar instead of van der Vaart or Lennon, which to some will surely be a very odd decision. Gareth Bale, unleashed on the right hand side of the field, renders him quite ineffective, his few moments came only from the left side, when he managed to out-speed Sagna to spray in crosses. Modric did his bit, ran a lot, but failed to find the space between the extremely hard-working Arsenal midfielders. The second half saw the inclusion of van der Vaart and Sandro, but even they were not up for the occasion, with continuous pressure from Song, Arteta and Rosicky, it was almost impossible for them to keep the ball rolling. In the end, it was a deserved win for Arsenal, but tactically Spurs could have been better – food for thought for Harry Redknapp!
Top Performers - Gareth Bale, Luka Modric, Scott Parker
The Biggest Talking Points
- The form of Thomas Rosicky: he was everywhere, he even managed to score a goal, a first for him this season. His emergence in this crucial part of the season can be the biggest talking point of Arsenal’s hope of staying in the UEFA Champions League.
- The non-inclusion of Lennon by Redknapp and starting with two strikers was a strange decision by Harry. Though both the strikers scored, the move completely backfired, giving Arsenal a lot of space in the middle of the park.
- The concept of playing a left-footer on the right wing does work sometime if the player has a decent right foot, but in this case it didn’t work for Spurs. Bale was clueless on the right side, unable to go past defenders like he often does on the left.
- Theo Walcott had a very poor first half, but three ‘huge’ moments changed the game for him and Arsenal, one a cute flick to van Persie, the latter hitting the post. The other two being the exceptionally taken goals from the England man.
- Mikel Arteta and Alex Song’s dominance in the middle of the park was notable; they were in the faces of the Spurs men all the time, giving them no time on the ball to think. The Spanish man from Everton has easily been Arsene’s best signing of this season – he needs to stay fit till the end of the season because he has been quite overplayed.
TheHardTackle’s Man Of The Match
It was a sight to rejoice for the Gunners when Rosicky ran towards goal, chipped over Friedel and then celebrated a goal much deserved. Rosicky has been immense in recent times, grabbing the central attacking role ahead of Ramsey, filling huge boots left behind by one Cesc Fabregas. He has orchestrated most of the attacking moves this season, often providing pre-assists in many games. This game, he tried to come forward too, heading from a corner and scoring a goal are things you really don’t expect from the man nowadays. The Gunners will hope he can keep himself fit for the remainder of the season. After all, there is still a lot of work to be done.