Tottenham 2 Arsenal 1: Arsenal gets Walker-ed on derby day
The buildup to the 167th North London derby had a very full package with mouth-watering stats. Wenger was playing the 9th Tottenham manager in his 15-year stint at the club; Arsenal had not finished below their fierce neighbors since 1995; there had been one goalless stalemate in their last 31 meetings; Van Persie had scored 8 in 8 against Spurs while Adebayor had scored 8 in 9 against the club that he was currently wearing their colors.
The match prediction I made in my last post wasn’t an exact match because the wingers I had put up were replaced by the regulars but I was quite surprised when Arsene Wenger opted for Francis Coquelin instead of the mohawked Frimmy one.
Aaron Ramsey had a very torrid affair yesterday and he made the poorest of starts when he gifted Tottenham a bite at Arsenal’s cherry with a poor pass to Jermaine Defoe who wasted no time in giving Emmanuel Adebayor but he fed Luka Modric when he was offside. Defoe was in the thick of things again when he headed van der Vaart’s cross over.
Alex Song and Adebayor almost decided to swap jerseys when they involved in a little tug that was ended by Mike Dean’s whistle. Van der Vaart’s cross sailed effortlessly wide. Bacary Sagna’s cross was saved by Brad Friedel and the goalie located Adebayor who made a jinking run before getting blocked off by an impressive Coquelin.
Ramsey passed on the Self-Destruct chip to Song who gifted Scotty Parker a one on one opportunity on a plate only for the midfielder to be stopped by Wojciech Szczesny in goal. Mikel Arteta spread the play to locate Sagna who showed off some good skills to see off Bale before passing the ball to Theo Walcott whose shot was deflected for a corner kick.
Ramsey took the Self-Destruct chip back from Song to hand the ball to the World’s best left-footed Chimpanzee who made a slalom run before drilling it to van der Vaart who did well enough to shoot the ball over despite the fact that the ball was behind him.
Coquelin did well again to block Modric before giving Ramsey who made a better pass to van Persie who was clattered on the edge of the box by Younes Kaboul. Arteta swung the free kick well over Friedel’s goal. Arsenal was looking uncertain at the back and van der Vaart almost got the match opener when he exploited Per Mertesacker’s pace to get in front of him only to be stopped by Szczesny in goal.
Van Persie hugged the touchline and shoved off the threat of Kaboul before teeing up Gervinho but his finish was very embarrassing because it was more or less a sitter. Gervinho was a peripheral figure at the start of the game but he stepped up as the game went on to feed Walcott whose left-footed lash went over the bar.
Van Persie and Gervinho showed good movement on the left hand side but Ramsey wasn’t on the same wavelength with them as another chance went begging. When it seemed as if both teams were going into the break in a stalemate, Benoit Assou-Ekoto connected well with Modric and Defoe before the ball arrived on Adebayor’s feet that chipped the ball into the Arsenal box that had an unmarked van der Vaart inside it. The Dutch maestro had a Luis Fabiano handball controlling moment before smashing it past Szczesny.
That was his 5th career goal against Arsenal, one for Hamburg SV and his fourth in his third North London derby. Gareth Bale had a long-range piledriver that went wide but Mike Dean’s whistle ended the proceedings and Arsenal was trailing with a lone goal.
The stat kings at the commentary box decided to tell the world that Arsenal had not secured a win in their last seven away games in the Premier League with the last win being the 3-1 nervy yet solid victory over recently relegated Blackpool in Bloomfield Road sometime in April.
The second half began with a frantic pace and Bale was giving Sagna a very difficult time on Tottenham’s left flank. He let one rip but the effort went over the bar. Ramsey was still giving the Arsenal fans the kind of outing that could prompt them to ask for his head on a plate but he atoned for it with a well taken effort from a lovely Song drilled cross from the right.
That equalizer rocked Tottenham and the pendulum swung in Arsenal’s direction. Adebayor was just the eighth player in history to appear for both sides in the North London derby and he almost added more ink to the scripts of the record holders when he was one on one with Szczesny after a pass from Bale but Arsenal’s goalie was equal to the challenge with a good save.
Kaboul decided to invoke the spirits of Lucio and Ricky Carvalho to start up a mazy run from his defense and within seconds he was in Arsenal’s box but he was blocked by Mertesacker.
I’ve reiterated times without number that Arsenal has been haunted with squad indiscipline, bad refereeing decisions, bad luck and mysterious injuries and I was proven right when Sagna became a victim of the last attribute in the aforementioned list.
He challenged for the ball n the air with Assou-Ekoto before landing awkwardly on his ankle and it didn’t seem really bad until I watched the replay in slow-mo and it was quite a horrible sight. The orderly came up with their stretcher and I, Arsene Wenger and the fans will be biting our fingers to know how long Sagna is going to be out of action.
Carl Jenkinson last game was in the humiliating outing in Old Trafford but Djourou had a stinker when he came in as the emergency right back in Ewood Park so Arsene Wenger had no choice but to hand the youngster his first North London derby outing. Wenger also balanced the affair by bringing on Yossi Benayoun for Walcott with the aim of providing defensive support for the full back as well as his creative attacking play.
When it seemed as if the balance of the game was with Arsenal, Ramsey made another poor pass that led to a throw-in. Assou-Ekoto noticed an unmarked Sandro who fed Modric but the Croat’s shot was blocked by Mertesacker. As the ball moved away from Arsenal’s box, there was no Gunner around to deal with it so it came unto Kyle Walker who had a small touch before adding some venom to the shot aimed at Szczesny’s goal.
I was among the football critics that pointed my finger and laughed with glee when Edin Dzeko fired his long-range shot David de Gea in the Community Shield in August but Szczesny had a goalkeeping moment that was close to that. I can’t judge if it was the swerve on the shot or Szczesny’s poor goalkeeping judgment but the bottom line was that Arsenal was trailing again to their neighbors.
Tottenham almost made it 3 when a simple over the top ball evaded Song and Mertesacker but Bale’s finishing boots were missing. Arshavin came on for Gervinho and he got involved in the action.
Van Persie sent in a corner that was headed wide by Song. He almost received a lovely pass from Song but Benayoun nicked it off him only to waste the effort. Arshavin linked up with Gibbs on the left but his cross was intercepted by Friedel in his near post.
As expected, Arsenal put up a late rally that showed the lack of passion in some players but it wasn’t enough because Tottenham ended the day with all the bragging rights. Even the tactic of giving Mertesacker the role of Samba didn’t even work because no ball was floated for the German international.
Szczesny (7.5) made many quality saves but a finger could be pointed at him for his role in Tottenham’s winner.
Sagna (6.5) was under constant threat from the quick and agile Gareth Bale and he emerged as second best more times than one.
Gibbs (7.0) had a good outing on the left and he linked attack and defense well.
Mertesacker (6.5) did his best with a few good interceptions but his lack of pace was exploited again.
Song (6.5) was more than a handful for Adebayor and his presence was sorely missed in Arsenal’s midfield.
Coquelin (8.0) was Arsenal’s best player by a mile and the youngster did well to make many vital interceptions as well as to hand out lovely passes to aid the attack.
Arteta (7.0) was pretty impressive in Arsenal’s midfield by covering a lot of distance and he also made good passes that helped Arsenal’s attacking play.
Ramsey (5.5) had a putrid outing despite scoring Arsenal’s only goal.
Walcott (6.0) was quite disappointing under the expectant eyes of Fabio Capello. He wasn’t fully fit though.
Gervinho (6.0) missed a sitter in the first half and wasn’t really sharp. He wasn’t fully fit too.
Van Persie (6.5) had good touches but he lacked service from his midfield and his wingers on the flanks.
Jenkinson (6.0) was the weakest link in Arsenal’s defense and was caught napping in the buildup to the match clincher.
Benayoun (6.0) had no serious impact on the match.
Arshavin didn’t play long enough to get a Gooner Daily rating.
While the club’s from Manchester have secured six wins and a draw in their first seven games, Arsenal has secured its fourth loss in the same amount of games.
The media Vultures will start flying around Arsenal and I’m pretty sure that more talk of crisis will dominate the headlines. I’m not going to defend Wenger or his club with the “early days” joke because we already in October and Arsenal is 12 points off the pace.
There’s an international break to come next weekend and I’m hoping that my Nigeria will not have any Arsenal-like moment by getting that all important win against Guinea because anything less than 3 points will be a failure and I’m sure that Samson Siasia will be given the boot if Nigeria doesn’t qualify for the 2012 African Cup of Nations that will take place in Equitorial Guinea and Gabon.
My fingers hurt. 🙁
It’s time for some Football Manager 2011, that’s where I ‘cure’ when Arsenal breaks my heart.
Please don’t forget to place your votes in September’s polls for the awards of the month.