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Derby victory vital for Tottenham’s hopes of Champions League football

Gareth Bale opened the scoring for Tottenham in their vital 2-1 derby victory over Arsenal

Gareth Bale opened the scoring for Tottenham in their vital 2-1 derby victory over Arsenal

Yesterday Tottenham defeated Arsenal 2-1 at White Hart Lane in the Premier League.

The derby victory could be crucial in the race for the Champions League spots, as the win moved Tottenham up to third and seven points clear of the Gunners.

Advantage

The seven point advantage seems to be a big lead at the moment and it looks unlikely that the Gunners will catch their north London neighbours.

This season could prove to be the one where power does shift from the Emirates Stadium to White Hart Lane, despite what Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has claimed today.

The difference in the two teams was very evident in yesterday’s clash. One team looked confident and bright, the other stale and out of attacking ideas.

Defence

One of the biggest differences between the teams was the contrasting displays of the two defences. The Tottenham backline looked solid and composed, whereas the Arsenal defence was all over the place.

Centre-backs Per Mertesacker and Thomas Vermaelen weren’t on the same wavelength all afternoon. The two Tottenham goals were far too easy and the Arsenal backline have to take the blame.

What the likes of Gunners legend’s Tony Adams and Steve Bould must think of the current Gunners defence I dread to think. Vermaelen has been lauded as a top class defender, but his form this season hasn’t been fantastic.

Mertesacker is quite frankly one of slowest centre-backs I have ever seen play in the Premier League. When he signed for the Gunners I thought he could be the answer to Arsenal’s defensive problems.

However, he hasn’t impressed since joining Arsenal and yesterday he looked very shaky, despite scoring the Arsenal goal, via a deflection off Gareth Bale’s head. The Germany international is definitely not going to be the one that shores up the Gunners leaky defence.

In contrast Jan Vertonghen and Michael Dawson were superb at the back for Spurs. Dawson came close to leaving Tottenham in the summer, with QPR ready to sign the England centre-back.

Dawson to his credit decided to stay at White Hart Lane and fight for his place. The decision turned out to be the right one as he has been superb at the heart of the Spurs team in recent months.

Belgium international Jan Vertonghen has to go down as one of the best signings of the season. Whether he is playing at centre-back or full-back he produces performances of energy and enthusiasm.

Vertonghen was also linked with a move to Arsenal in the summer, but reportedly he decided to join Tottenham ahead of the Gunners. Had he moved to Arsenal then no doubt the Gunners defensive record would be far better this season.

Dawson and Vertonghen are not the quickest defenders in the Premier League, but their positioning and intelligence makes up for a lack of searing pace. Unfortunately for Arsenal Vermaelen and Mertesacker as a pair just haven’t got the same attributes.

Signings

I read a very insightful comment from an Arsenal fan suggesting that Arsenal’s summer signings haven’t been anywhere as successful as Tottenham’s and I think the fan was correct. Tottenham brought in Hugo Lloris, Mousa Dembele and of course Vertonghen in the summer.

All three have been successful, even if other signings Gylfi Sigurdsson and Clint Dempsey haven’t been major hits, they have still made vital contributions at times during the season.

Arsenal moved to strengthen their midfield and attack this summer, when they should maybe have looked to bring in more defensive reinforcements. Santi Cazorla and Lukas Podolski have been good signings, but the jury is still out on French striker Olivier Giroud.

New Spanish full-back Nacho Monreal is in a similar situation to Giroud, although he is definitely an improvement on Brazilian Andre Santos, then again that wasn’t hard.

Stronger

Tottenham currently have a stronger team than Arsenal. Arsenal have fallen behind their local rivals because of a number of reasons. Tottenham have been clever in the transfer market and have built a strong squad. With Gareth Bale becoming increasing influential in big games.

While Arsenal have diluted the quality of their squad in almost every transfer window in recent years and it’s starting to show.

If the Gunners finish above Tottenham in the Premier League this season, then it could be Arsene Wenger’s biggest achievement yet in north London.

Have Tottenham now clinched their place in the Champions League spots?

Mon 4 March, 2013
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