Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Arsenal 1 Tottenham 0

While pundits were expecting Arsenal to edge out Spurs mainly on the strength of a home game, many Arsenal fans were more pessimistic about the outcome of the first north London derby of the season. One thing in common was a prospect of a few goals, if not a goal fest which has been the trend of this fixure for the recent years. However, the game ended in Arsenal's traditional scoreline, one nil to the Arsenal.

It turned out that Arsenal won the game as a team, while Tottenham showed individual brilliance in patches but fell short collectively. This season's biggest spenders' attack was disjointed, which explains their two earlier 1-0 Premier League wins, with both goals scored from the penalty spot.

As the pundits predicted, Arsenal's almost unchanged line-up showed their strength as a team, which saw them only beaten once since the day they beat Bayern Munich 2-0 on their home soil. Tottenham may have a strong squad, but Arsenal had stronger team.

Olivier Giroud was awarded the Barclays Man of the Match for his tireless defensive work as well as scoring which turned out to be the only goal of the game with a sublime one-touch finish. Aaron Ramsey put in a tenacious performance in the midfield battle, winning an impressive 7 tackles. Mathieu Flamini proved himself as a quality addition to the squad with his combative display, organising the Arsenal defence in the midfield as if he had never left the Club. Laurent Koscielny delivered an assured performance, keeping Soldado at bay.

We could have won the game more comfortably, if Hugo Lloris hadn't been in such a superb form on this day. The French international was Tottenham's best performer.

However, the lack of depth in the Arsenal squad was clear. Once Jack Wilshere came off the pitch, who was replaced by a more defensive option, Flamini, Arsenal were left with no attacking options. Sanogo, Gnabry, and Zelalem could hardly have changed the game. Wenger brought Nacho Monreal on in the place of Rosicky to bolster the defence. Sagna replaced Walcott in injury time as Wenger prepared for frantic aerial battles in the box for the remaining minutes. Arsenal ended the game with three full-backs and three centre-backs (According to Wenger, Sagna was brought on as a centre-back.) 

The lack of resources forced the Gunners to choose to protect a narrow lead rather than pushing for a second goal. In addition, the arduous seven days started taking its toll on the team's fitness in the last 20 minutes as Wenger had feared. With the team's technical quality in play dropping, Arsenal have decided to concede the possession and hit on the break. Interestingly, this was the same tactics experimented in the pre-season game against Man City, which ended in Arsenal's comfortable 3-1 win. Arsene Wenger now has a "Plan B", the lack of which he has been criticised for, when the team struggles to deliver their passing game. It is encouraging that we can win a game in this way. This wouldn't have been an option a few years back. The development shows improvement and confidence in the team's resilience, discipline, and determination.

There are many positives to take from this game, but the most important one is the bragging rights. Tottenham may have spent over 100 million pounds this summer and Arsenal had a depleted squad with injuries and sickness but it is Arsenal who rule  North London, at least for now. We, the fans, have suffered Tottenham supporters' taunts over Arsenal's inactivity in the transfer market all summer, but it was us who had the last word. Priceless.

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