As the first fixture of the most competitive rivalry in English football comes to an end, Arsenal fans went home dejected as they dropped three points while their rival fans glad they salvaged at least one.
Arsenal welcomed Tottenham at the Emirates to embarrass their local rivals and claim dominance of their side of the city. However they were quiet disappointed as they had to share points even after an amazing performance against a sloppy Tottenham Squad.
Arsenal clearly looked the stronger side and more eager to win the tie. Their Pressing attack left the Tottenham squad clueless as they found themselves defending for majority of the game. With Szczesny at goal, Gibbs, Mertesacker, Koscielny and Chambers made up the defense. Arteta playing a defensive midfield role had Ramsey, Ozil, Wilshire and Chamberlain ahead of him in a flat four. Welbeck made up the final eleven as striker as Wenger employed his new found 4-1-4-1 formation.
The interchangeability of Ozil, Wilsire and Ramsey proved to be fatal for the visitors as the Gooners’ quick passing game caught Tottenham ball watching most of the time. This is clearly visible from the 545 completed passes of Arsenal as compared to Tottenham’s 201. Arsenal looked threatening with a new dimension added to their game with the pace of Danny Welbeck. Welbeck ran riot around Tottenham’s defense and came close to scoring if it were not for a last minute tackle by Kaboul.
What went worse for Arsenal this game however, apart from the fact that they dropped two points was the that three of their players succumbed to Injuries adding to their list of fallen soldiers. Mikel Arteta was the first in the 28th minute to be replaced by Flamini. Aron Ramsey suffered a hamstring injury at the end of the second half and was replaced by Cazrola and finally Wilshire gave way to Sanchez at the 62nd minute.
Arsenal fans are sure to be sour as they know for a fact that it was a game that could have easily turned to a high scoring victory were it not for their poor finishing. Although they seemed excited to have had a pacey striker making runs, they did really miss Giroud and his ability to knock back and hold the ball high up in the field. From this game Arsenal are sure to realize that they are in dire need of a striker who can surely finish better. They are also in need of working on their defense as they seem vulnerable to counter attacks. Tottenham’s ability to score in one of the three chances is proof that Arsenal is vulnerable to even an attack putting up a poor performance. It is a mystery as to what would have happened were it an in form attack playing against them.
Mauricio Pochettino looked appalled most of the game as his team seemed to be a tad bit too lethargic for an even as big as the North London Derby. With Hugo Lloris as the keeper, Tottenham lined up in a usual 4-2-3-1 formation with Rose, Vertonghen, Kaboul and Naughton as the back four. A surprise introduction of Tottenham Youngster Ryan Mason alongside Capoue and Chadli, Eriksen and Lamela making the three advanced midfield players and Adebayor at the helm as striker completed the starting line-up.
Two surprise starts in the clash were that of Mason and Naughton. With a fully fit Dier on the bench and an array of midfielders such as Dembele, Bentaleb and Stambouli available for a pick, the manager preferred to hand over a starting place to Tottenham Debutant Mason. This selection was clearly a poor choice as the two looked lazy on field with lethargic passes, pitiable composure and lack of determination to go at the opponent with full fervor.
Kaboul and Vertonghen played most of the game conceding corners and clearing the barrage of attacks from the likes of Ramsey, Wilshire and Welbeck. Although very solid for majority of the time on, Danny Rose had his work cut out as he was outpaced and found himself struggling but just about managing against the threat of Chamberlain and Calum Chambers. Capoue and Mason offered little protection to the back four as they preferred to sit back and let Arsenal gain momentum rather than break up play of the opponent. Of the four attacking options Tottenham had, Lamela looked the sharpest and seemed the only one driving forward and looked anywhere close to threatening the Arsenal defense. He set up two chances for Mason as well as Adebayor which were put to waste. It was Lamela’s assist that led Chadli to score against the run of play and hand Tottenham the Lead.
A big take away for Pochettino and his men from this fixture is the fact that if his team wishes to compete for a top spot in the Premier League table, the players must play with more motivation and drive to achieve it. The lack of a creative deep playmaker was clearly evident as there was no player who took up the responsibility of distributing the ball and creating chances as did Ramsey or Wilshire for Arsenal. A scoring striker who isn’t lazy has been one of the top priorities of Tottenham for a few years and Adebayor’s performance is evidence of such concern. Pochettino must sort out Ade or make changes to the squad so that there isn’t a goal deficit similar to the one the club suffered last season.
Man of the Match
Although many Arsenal players did churn out a performance commendable, Hugo Lloris made up for some of the sloppy defending by keeping the ball out in more than a few occasions where it looked like Spurs surely would concede. The game was a display of why Hugo is regarded one of the best in the Premier League and the reason why he is Tottenham and France’s number one.
Failure of the Match
Adebayor, the only player on the pitch to have featured for both teams, played in every position except the one he was designated to (Striker). His positioning was poor, he moved along the pitch in a lazy manner and when in possession played very negative passes which created almost no chances for Tottenham to look threatening to the Arsenal side. He even made a mess of the chance gifted to him in front of the goal by Lamela as he shielded the ball and turned towards the corner. Hence Adebayor was clearly the poorest performer of the night.
This north London was clearly one of the dullest one off-late. In a fixture that has produced more goals than any other; a 1-1 draw isn’t a reflection of that fact. Arsenal fans will be mournful of a game that they should have clearly won, however poor finishing and an amazing defensive display by Spurs captain Younnes Kaboul and keeper Hugo Lloris ensured otherwise. On the other hand Tottenham fans will be quiet happy with the fact that even on a bad day they picked up a point and didn’t allow Arsenal to get the best of them. However with one down and one to go fans eagerly wait for February 7th for the reverse fixture, with the hope that it would be a better one.