Thursday, January 18, 2018

Arsenal 2-0 Tottenham: Five things we learned as Arsenal take the derby spoils

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It was billed as a game that could be a fantastic advert for the Premier League, but in the end, it was not quite the two-sided contest that many thought it would be. Arsenal came into the game under huge pressure, while Tottenham were the favourites. However, things were turned on their heads, with the Gunners hugely impressive, and Spurs awful.

The first-half was one that the Gunners were the better of the two sides in, with Tottenham relegated to scraps when going forward. A dubious free-kick awarded to Arsenal allowed Mesut Ozil to swing an inviting ball which Shkodran Mustafi headed in off the post to give the hosts the lead.

Alexis Sanchez then got on the end of an Alexandre Lacazette cutback and, with Hugo Lloris wrong-footed, he smashed the ball into the roof of the net to score the second goal. The fans were in delirium following the finish and they saw out an easy wnt, with Tottenham failing to ever really threaten a comeback.

The game was notable for poor performances from Harry Kane and Dele Alli, while Arsene Wenger utilised his three outstanding forwards from the offset, which gave Tottenham all kinds of problems.

From Arsenal’s win, what five things did we learn?

Arsenal dent Tottenham’s title hopes

Tottenham came into the game as huge favourites to win and they were hugely disappointing throughout the match. Mauricio Pochettino’s men failed to get going, with Arsenal outstanding. On the pitch, it showed the Gunners are not as far behind Tottenham as many had claimed, with every player in red eclipsing their opponents.

Away from the pitch, the win has renewed Arsenal’s league challenge, and while it may not be enough to mount a serious title charge in the league, they have rejuvenated their top four hopes. The win has seen them move up into fifth, although they could go back to sixth if Liverpool win, but the London side have been able to cut the gap between themselves and their arch-rivals to just a single point.

For Tottenham, the loss is a huge blow to their title hopes. They remain on 23 points after 12 games, meaning they are eight points short of Manchester City at the top, with the leaders able to extend that lead to 11 if they win this weekend. While Tottenham will feel they are still in the race, the trophy is slowly slipping away.

Arsene Wenger silences his critics, and Arsenal must now play like this in every game

It was a game Arsenal simply could not lose, with the gap between Tottenham and the Gunners potentially being stretched to seven points with an away win, while another victory for Manchester City would see the hosts fall 15 points off the pace.

However, they were able to banish their loss at the hands of City in their last game by brushing their biggest rivals aside. While the victory was vital to the team, Arsene Wenger will have taken a lot of personal satisfaction from the game, with the manager coming in for a lot of criticism of late. Ex-players, critics and fans have questioned his decisions and his continued stewardship of the team, but their win over Tottenham showed that he can still oversee a top side and take them past an opponent that is in fine form.

What Wenger and Arsenal must now do is to maintain their momentum. The Gunners all too often claim a stirring victory that sees the fans optimism skyrocket, but they are brought back down to earth with a bump. This usually comes in the form of an insipid performance against an opponent that they should apparently beat.

Wenger must now get his players to play with that same intensity in every single one of their games. It is no good enough for the side to turn up when they simply have to win to keep their slim title hopes alive. Manchester City have been so good this season because they play every game in the same style with the same tempo, and they brush teams aside, whether they come from the top or the bottom of the league. Arsenal must emulate this if they are to become successful again.

Back with a bang

While it was an incredibly harsh free-kick to be given against Davinson Sanchez for an apparent pull on Alexis Sanchez, Mike Dean decided it was a foul, which set events in motion for the first goal. Alexis Sanchez ran around the ball, which allowed Mesut Ozil to float an inviting cross into the box, which was begging to be headed.

Shkodran Mustafi, in his return to the side following injury, rose highest to power the header home in off the post and open the Gunners’ account for the day. Tottenham’s fans would complain that the decision to award the free-kick was incredibly harsh, and Mauricio Pochettino will be so frustrated to see Eric Dier get caught under the ball, with Jan Vertonghen also beaten to it. The fact that two centre-halves were beaten to the same ball is unforgivable, with the marking in the box near non-existent.

However, Arsenal’s fans did not care how their first goal came, as long as it went it. Mustafi, who was much-maligned at the start of the season as it was reported he wanted to leave the Emirates, marked his return with a bang, as he scored in the first-half to set up a much-needed Arsenal win.

Why has Wenger not been utilising the attacking-trident?

Slick moves, intelligent running and goals, all reasons as to why Arsenal’s frontline is among the very best in the world when they are on form. Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil and Alexandre Lacazette tormented Tottenham throughout the game.

After going two goals up, Arsenal were able to utilise Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey in a more defensive way. This allowed their three forward players to remain in more advanced positions more often, which gave Spurs no end of problems. The pace and intelligent running of Lacazette and Sanchez, along with the slick and accurate passing of Ozil saw Tottenham’s back three stretched, with the Gunners attacking them from three different sides.

The best example of their prominence came in the second-half as Arsenal broke yet again. Intelligent passes kept the defenders turning one way and then the next, as Spurs looked completely off the pace. The move ended with Lloris picking the ball up, but the movement from their own box to Tottenham’s was seamlessly worked and showed Arsenal at their very best.

The performances of the three really do beg the question; why has Wenger not been playing Ozil, Sanchez and Lacazette together?

Alli was awful, and Spurs suffered for it

It set the mood for the day as Dele Alli misplaced his first pass, and from there, neither he nor Spurs could get a foothold in the game. While they did have the odd bright spots in the first-half, this was usually due to Arsenal giving the ball away which allowed the visitors to break at them.

However, when they were forced to create chances for themselves they were uncharacteristically wasteful. Arsenal were, therefore, able to take charge of proceedings, in the comfort that Tottenham would struggle to create many chances, while they would waste the opportunities they would be presented with.

Dele Alli, in particular, looked awful as his passing, touches and general game were all off. The usually so combative and exciting talent went missing in the game, lost between the lines of defenders and midfielders, with Alli anonymous throughout.

Kane was also a player that struggled hugely. His knee injury is something that clearly hurt his performance, as he was unable to use the ball as quickly as he usually does, while many of the shots that tend to hit the target were screwed wide. It showed the struggle of Tottenham’s two most influential players that they were both sacrificed in the 74th minute, with Spurs still looking for goals.

Their substitutions were met by delirious cheers from the home fans, while Arsenal’s defenders would have known at that point that they had won the game, after seeing off one of the Premier League’s most feared attacking partnerships. While Arsenal were clearly the better side, Spurs did not ever really give themselves a chance as they barely turned up in the game.

Arsenal: Cech 8 – Koscielny 8, Mustafi 8.5, Monreal 8 – Bellerin 7, Ramsey 8, Xhaka 7.5, Kolasinac 7.5 – Ozil 9 (Iwobi 6), Sanchez 9 – Lacazette 8.5 (Coquelin 7).

Unused subs: Ospina, Mertesacker, Wilshere, Welbeck, Maitland-Niles.

Tottenham: Lloris 6 – Sanchez 7, Dier 6, Vertonghen 6 – Trippier 6, Sissoko 6.5, Dembele 6 (Winks 6), Eriksen 5, Davies 6 – Alli 4 (Son 6) – Kane 5 (Llorente 6).

Unused subs: Vorm, Foyth, Aurier, Walker-Peters.

Referee: Mike Dean

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Benjamin Darvill


Ben is an English and creative writing graduate that is now working his way up in the world of sports journalism. Having been writing for the last four years, Ben has written for a number of websites specialising in sport, with football a particular passion. He is a long-suffering England fan and eternal optimist when it comes to the Three Lions.

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