Sp*rs 0 Arsenal 1 – Arsenal Hold Firm To Complete North London Derby Treble
It was anything but pretty but I doubt there are many Gooners who will care about that, as Arsenal secured their third win of the season against Sp*rs and won the North London Derby at the Lane for the first time since 2007.
Tomas Rosicky’s thunderbolt of a goal after just 72 seconds of the game was enough for Arsene Wenger’s men, despite spending much of the rest of the match on the back foot as Sp*rs huffed and puffed but couldn’t find a way past our solid defence.
Wenger made three changes to the side that drew in Munich on Tuesday, with Wojciech Szczesny returning in goal, Kieran Gibbs back at left back and Rosicky starting in place of the injured Mesut Ozil.
And it didn’t take long for the Czech to have an immediate impact. He received the ball of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain just inside the Sp*rs half and led an Arsenal break on goal. Rosicky then tried to play Oxlade-Chamberlain back in and the ball pretty much bounced off him back into the path of Super Tom, whose first time strike sailed magnificently into the top corner leaving Hugo Lloris (or any ‘keeper with the misfortune of coming up against a strike of that quality) helpless.
It was the perfect start for Arsenal, but any hopes that this would be the start of a procession were unfounded as Sp*rs grew into the game, enjoying plenty of possession but they failed to really trouble us. Regular crosses from the Sp*rs wide men came to no avail and Emmanuel Adebayor twice failed to latch on to balls over the top.
Oxlade-Chamberlain was at the heart of everything for Arsenal and had three good opportunities to extend our lead. Firstly he beat Nabil Bentaleb and exploited acres of space to home straight in on goal, however he got his attempted chip over Lloris horribly wrong wasting a glorious chance, much to the frustration of Lukas Podolski to his left (and Tim Sherwood, who threw his gilet away in a fit of hilarious rage).
Sp*rs were playing a dangerously high line that Podolski almost also took advantage of but was ruled offside before he could charge in on goal, before The Ox’s second chance. Santi Cazorla played Podolski in down the left and despite the German’s cut back into the area falling behind Rosicky, it fell for Oxlade-Chamberlain again but his shot from the edge of the area deflected wide.
The Ox’s final chance of the half came after Rosicky got the better of his old mate Danny Rose on our right, but his pull back was blasted over. Podolski had already hit the side netting by this time, and Sp*rs had a half chance for Adebayor whose flick went wide off a Kyle Naughton cross. Nacer Chadli dragged the ball well wide as space opened up for him outside of our area and Christian Eriksen blasted a free kick over the bar in their only other chances of the half.
It felt like Sp*rs had more of the possession in the opening exchange but Arsenal had the better goal scoring chances, but the second half was a much more one sided affair as we sat back inviting the home side on to us.
Szczesny had a nervy opening few minutes after the break as he twice failed to collect high balls into the area, relying on Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny to deny Chadli on the line in what was Sp*rs’ best chance of the game that really should’ve been buried.
For all of Sp*rs’ dominance in possession though they struggled to really test us at the back or get shots on target, registering just two all match out of their 17 attempts.
Adebayor was their most likely source of inspiration, he feigned to shoot and slipped Andros Townsend in on the right, but his cross couldn’t be diverted goal wards by Chadli from close range. The lumbering mercenary also saw a header go wide at the far post, before a series of substitutions from both sides that for Arsenal saw Mathieu Flamini come on for goal scorer Rosicky and Nacho Monreal on for Podolski.
Arsenal’s second half chances were few and far between. In fact, there was only one moment of note as Mertesacker got a shot away that forced a smart one-handed stop from Lloris after the ball fell to him from Cazorla’s deep free kick.
Thomas Vermaelen came on for Oxlade-Chamberlain as Wenger tightened things up even more but Sp*rs continued to bombard our penalty box, although the game took a slight break as Arsenal fan Tim Sherwood ran the clock down by throwing the ball twice at Bacary Sagna and arguing with the Frenchman and Mikel Arteta afterwards.
Adebayor’s placed shot from the edge of the area, well saved by Szczesny, represented the last chance of the game as Arsenal saw home four minutes of injury time without trouble.
One-nil to The Arsenal and a big, big win that keeps us in the title race and increases our advantage over Sp*rs, surely ensuring that we’ll finish in the Top 4 for another season.
The game itself was a horrible one to watch but was a fine display of our mental strength and ability to win ugly, something often discredited to us in recent years. With four key attacking players missing through injury in the form of Ozil, Walcott, Ramsey and Wilshere, it was clear we weren’t going to run riot (as we might well have done had the aforementioned all been fit).
However we still managed to create plenty of chances and Oxlade-Chamberlain continued to impress as he has since his return from injury, although he’ll no doubt be disappointed he didn’t add his name to the score sheet. He was at the heart of our attacking play and was the only player we really had intent on getting the ball and running at the opposition. There were murmurs of a tight calf when he went off in the 85th minute and hopefully it’s nothing to be worried about as he’s clearly enjoying his football right now and will be pivotal in our end of season run in.
Rosicky equally made a positive impression, not only with his sensational finish but also his work rate and pressing around the pitch. Cazorla and Arteta operated and passed well in the centre of midfield, if they did find themselves a bit out run at times.
It was again our defence that flourished though. Koscielny was rightly named Man of the Match and I can’t imagine Mertesacker was too far behind him. The partnership they’ve created is nothing short of world class and the consistency of their performances has been the foundation of our success so far this season. They compliment each other supremely, and their understanding and reading of the game is sensational. Best centre back pairing in the Division, by quite a margin.
Sagna, always up for it against Sp*rs, put in another expert performance and gave Rose a torrid time. Gibbs looked a bit out of sorts at times on our left but that was corrected when Monreal came on to tighten things up. In goal, Szczesny had little to do in the first half, flapped in the opening moments of the second but otherwise looked comfortable and collected everything easily enough in the closing minutes as Sp*rs got desperate.
Unfortunately it wasn’t such a successful afternoon for Giroud, who struggled to impose himself and offered very little going forward. But negatives don’t need to be the main focus after a successful Derby Day. Giroud will know he was short of the mark yesterday and hopefully he’ll make up for it in our next game.
It just so happens that that next game is away at Chelsea, of whom we’ve closed the gap to after they lost to Villa on Saturday night. Maureen has an outrageously good record at the Bridge and on what will be Wenger’s 1,000th game in charge of Arsenal it’d be nothing but pure joy to end that record of his then.
But given the injuries we’ve got, I’d definitely take a draw there now if it were offered. Maureen has a good record against us and will be keen to bounce back immediately from that defeat, so it won’t be as simple as some are making it out to be.
Still, a similarly strong defensive performance on Saturday as what we saw yesterday could well again set us up for another huge Derby victory if we our clinical and take our chances in attack.
Over the past few seasons we’ve peaked in the final two months. If that theme continues in this campaign, another Arsenal double might not be too far-fetched to imagine.