For those of you living under a rock, the North London Derby between Arsenal and Tottenham took place today at White Hart Lane. It was built up to be one of the top matches this season and it did not disappoint. From a possession standpoint, Arsenal dominated holding the ball 60% of the time, a lot of that due to Arsenal being down 2-0 to start the 2nd half. Both squads had an equal number of shots (11) and both looked potent at times.
From a neutral perspective, this game had everything – wide open play, beautiful goals, and controversy (more on that in a minute), all the essences of why so many love this sport.
From a Tottenham perspective, the proverbial monkey
(no, not Gareth Bale) is off their back. In years passed, this is a match Arsenal win and Tottenham lose – not today. Bale also showed why he is considered a top European talent with a clinical outside foot finish to open the scoring in the 37th minute.
Minutes later, the Spurs were up 2-0 with a nearly identical run by Aaron Lennon. When Szczesny committed, Lennon had a wonderful burst to dribble around the keeper and pass the ball into the empty net.
That’s all the Spurs needed to see out the match 2-1 and solidify a 7 point gap between Arsenal for a Champions League spot. It seems like the only thing Tottenham have to worry about now is holding on to their star player this summer as the Guardian reported documented interest from Real Madrid.
From an Arsenal perspective, there is plenty to worry about following this match. The squad selection was typical of recent weeks, but the mid-game substitutions and player positioning were somewhat of a head-scratcher. Following Mertesacker’s headed goal, Arsene made a rather questionable and unique change by bringing on midfielder Thomas Rosicky for right back Carl Jenkinson and then shifting Aaron Ramsey to Jenkinson’s position. Sorry Arsene, Ramsey is no Gareth Bale, but nice try.
The controversial part of the match happened around the 65′ mark as Adebayor went down awkwardly on his knee while Arsenal continued to play on rather than kick the ball out of play and allow the player medical attention.
This is far from a written rule and I can understand why Arsenal played on because 9 times out of 10, the “injured” player typically will miraculously get up and continue on as if nothing happened. Either way, Arsenal (and the referee’s) decisions to play on were met with loud displeasure by the Tottenham supporters and players. Eventually leading to a scuffle among a number of players on the pitch after the ball was finally whistled dead for an Arsenal free kick.
Arsene made his 2nd and final substitution in the 77th minute, bringing on the more attacking Podolski for the more defensive Arteta. This move is completely justifiable and honestly, should have been the first substitution. With Podolski, Arsenal looked much more dangerous almost immediately, but with only 10 minutes remaining, it was basically too little too late.
I’m far from the Arsene Wenger bashing club, but his in-game managing should be questioned this match. Every manager has questionable substitutions. They’re genius’s when they work and stupid when they don’t – it’ll always be part of the game. With that said, I just do not see what Wenger sees in Aaron Ramsey to justify playing him for the full 90+6 minutes of this and any other match. He can’t beat his defender one on one, he constantly gets beaten on defense, and his final balls leave much to be desired. I’m not sure whether it’s lack of a quality alternative or showing faith in a relatively young player, or both.
Either way, Arsenal now have their work cut out for them over the final 10 matches. Sitting in 5th place 6 points behind Chelsea and 7 behind Spurs, Arsenal do not have the benefit of playing either team so they must get some help from Chelsea and/or Spurs opponents if they are to catch either one. With a likely exit from the Champions League coming up after their 2nd Bayern match, one has to wonder if this will be the last Champions League action for Arsenal for at least 2 years.
The tide in North London seems to be turning, at least at the moment. There is still the possibility of a Tottenham collapse (wouldn’t be the first time) and a late season Arsenal resurgence. Arsenal’s only real “test” remaining is against the Red Devils, but they cannot afford to drop points from any other matches if Arsene wants that 3rd or 4th spot “trophy”. Tottenham must not think Arsenal are done and dusted – there is plenty of football left to be played. For now, North London has turned a dark purple with a blueish hue.
Arsene better do something to right the ship and fast or we’ll be seeing a lot more of this…
the rest of the season.