For a short period in the early 2000s, an Arsene Wenger led Arsenal team ruled the Premier League, going unbeaten in one full season.
In 2004, Arsenal shared a fierce rivalry with their city opponents Tottenham Hotspurs and had many high scoring matches, with brawls being a common factor. Arsenal’s spectacular 4 - 2 victory at home was reminiscent of those times, a match which was as thrilling as the ones in 2004.
Looking at the stats, Arsenal clearly had a monstrous defensive performance. They restricted Tottenham to six shots in their box, an 18% cross accuracy and only 55% pass accuracy in the opposition half. Granted, that their opponents didn’t enjoy the best passing performance, but Arsenal’s stat line still reads impressive.
However, Arsenal themselves enjoy a very sub-par defence. So, how did this come to be?
The answer is simple - Arsenal’s midfield came up with one of their best defensive performances this season, if not this year.
Lucas Torreira was an absolute metronome, laterally covering the width of the pitch and seemed to appear out of nowhere every time a Tottenham player picked up the ball. His player of the match performance made his purchase of € 30 million look like a bargain.
Matteo Guendouzi had a super-sub display as the long haired Frenchman had a sleek return from injury, playing crucial balls forward even in the late stages of the game as his Uruguayan teammate Torreira grew tired. Makeshift mid-fielder Hector Bellerin pushed forward, bullying Ben Davies on the left flank.
On the other hand, the Spurs mid-field had a forgettable night as misplaced passes and slow decisions dominated proceedings at their end.
Arsenal Attacking Wizardry
Just on paper, the thought of Lacazette and Aubameyang starting in attack for Arsenal is a delicious prospect for any Gooner . Despite Lacazette not starting, the team looked just as ferocious. Now that’s a good attack. Iwobi, the man who started instead of Lacazette, played beautifully in the first half as shots and crosses were flying in from the left flank.
Despite Aubameyang missing a few half-chances, he scored two critical goals - one to give them the lead, and a second to level it. After scoring a first half penalty, he scored a stunning goal from outside the box as a ball dropped to him and he buried the shot in the bottom right corner, away from his body. Aubameyang also set up Lucas Torreira for his finish in which he slammed a calculated shot past Spurs keeper Hugo Lloris.
Harry Kane Who ?
Last week against Chelsea, Tottenham’s attacking line shone as Eriksen, Alli, Son and Kane started together for the first time this season. However, while the same four lined up versus Arsenal, the effects were far from the same.
Early on, Kane and Eriksen seemed lost, but Alli relished his playmaker role and Son made several twists and turns, just unable to get the perfect shot off, and managed to trouble Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno for a bit.
Spurs’ momentum seemed to build up, as by the end of the first half, Kane seemed more involved, Eriksen was pulling the strings and Spurs were looking threatening at The Emirates. However, while this form carried into the early stages of the second half, there onwards it was a downward slope.
Spurs couldn’t get the ball to their attackers and the latter didn’t seem very interested either. Pochettino’s changes came too late for Spurs as perhaps the creativity of Lucas Moura might have been the decisive factor in the derby.
Son had a very good chance near the box as a misplaced pass fell to him. With only the goalkeeper in sight, Son chose to smash the ball to the keeper’s right, rather than placing it into the bottom left, where there was clearly more space. This moment summed up the night for Tottenham, at least from an attacking perspective – there but not quite there though.
However, the real star on the left was defender Sead Kolasinac. Acting as a wing-back, the Bosnian international was incessant on the attack as he linked up with Iwobi, making key passes and crossing on several occasions. He gave Serge Aurier a nightmare, in one of his best performances in an Arsenal shirt.
Emery’s half-time subs didn’t disappoint as assisting Auba’s second goal, was Aaron Ramsey who was also the man to assist fellow super-sub Lacazette for his goal. As a mix-up at the halfway line ensured that the ball fell into his feet, the Welshmen laid it on for Lacazette to shoot. The striker took a bad first touch forcing the ball away from his body as he was forced to slice the ball off the ground. Still, the ball caught Eric Dier’s leg, which gave it direction into the bottom left corner. These substitutions gave the gunners a creative injection as Lacazette’s footwork and Ramsey’s slick passing didn’t disappoint.
‘Here a Shove, There a Shove, Everywhere a Shove-Shove’
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, to us football fans, drama in a good football match serves as the icing on the cake. Many commentators disagree, but while it in no shape or form should be encouraged, some shoving around is fine, as long you are willing to pay the consequences and there are no direct insults to players unrelated to the game.
After the first goal, Eric Dier ran towards the corner flag, raising a finger to his lips, shushing the Arsenal fans. To me, this seemed fine as he was neither off the pitch nor was he swearing, but the warming-up Arsenal subs were having none of it.
Stephan Lichtsteiner started it from Arsenal’s side and before you knew it, players like Alli and Sissoko were in the thick of it as Pochettino intervened as mediator and stewards kept the players off each other.
As Son flew into the box, fumbling all over the place, he was lucky to be clipped by Rob Holding. Sissoko isn’t one to keep his hands to himself and retaliated, as players were soon squaring off again.
Despite him not causing significant damage to them, Gunner fans were not happy with the South Korean as Son was booed every time the ball fell to him, a practice that continued till he was substituted off. High- flying substitute Lacazette also had to have a word with the referee as he appeared to give him an earful, not realizing the presence of the official. Even Torreira could not be rid of the drama. Jan Vertonghen picked up a second yellow, capping off a horrific performance with a red card. Other Spurs players surrounded the referee, but the look on Vetronghen’s face said it all.
At half-time, a banner in the Arsenal half read “To a new chapter”. While it was directed towards Wenger’s departure and Emery’s arrival, it got me thinking of how well it could have described the match. It’s as simple as this – while Tottenham took this match page by page, Arsenal prepared a chapter ahead.
(The author is a school student who follows football, when he’s not finishing his homework. On a side note, he also answers to the name ‘Pele’ after his mother nicknamed him that for troubling her a bit much from the womb.)
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