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Tottenham Hotspur 0-1 Arsenal | At the end of a great weekend for any title contender who wasn’t Chelsea, Arsenal made the short journey to their neighbours and rivals, Tottenham Hotspur for a crucial derby match. Both sides were separated by just one place in the table, but were surely chasing different prizes. Spurs needed the win to stay in the hunt for 4th place, while Arsenal needed it to stay in the title race. Aside from keeping up the pressure on opponents with 3 points, the win was also important for the bragging rights that were at stake.
Spurs came into the game in the middle of a bad run, having lost 4 out of 6, with the latest coming at the hands of Benfica, who utterly outclassed the London side during their Europa League encounter.. After a bright start to his managerial career, Tim Sherwood has come in for some fire as his team seems to have run out of steam. Arsenal too, had not been all aces coming into this crunch tie. A draw at the Allianz Arena against the peerless Bayern Munich didn’t do much for Wenger as he saw his side crash out at this stage yet again. In the league too, their last outing ended in a poor defeat at Stoke.
Tottenham Hotspur 0-1 Arsenal
Tottenham: Lloris; Naughton; Kaboul; Vertonghen; Rose; Bentaleb; Sandro (Paulinho, 68); Townsend; Eriksen (Soldado, 82); Chadli (Sigurdsson, 69); Adebayor.
Arsenal: Sczcesny; Sagna; Mertesacker; Koscielny; Gibbs; Arteta; Oxlade-Chamberlain (Vermaelen, 85); Rosicky (Flamini, 69); Cazorla; Podolski (Monreal, 77); Giroud.
Goals: Rosicky 2′
When a team plays a high line like Spurs did last night, it is imperative that they press the ball high up the pitch. A failure to do so will mean easy pickings for the opposition midfielders and forwards, because they will be able to play a lot of passes, and easily attack the large tracts of space left behind the defence.
Though Spurs did make a good fight of it, early on in the game, they didn’t press effectively at all. Arsenal were able to break forward and get behind the opposition defence with ease on more than one occasion.
The Spurs line was very high up the field, even while Arsenal were in possession. The full backs were trying to push into midfield to create pressure on the Arsenal ball carrier, but the whole team isn’t pressing. This is why there were usually around four Spurs players occupying a similar area near the centre circle. This has left Arsenal’s wingers free to run into a lot of space. He can be played into this space very easily by either of the central players, these aren’t under any pressure.
Such plays were seen more than once from Arsenal, as they broke very quickly to attack the space behind the Spurs defence. Such break outs were generally led by the energetic Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. The England international was an important part of the counter attacking mechanism as his pace, skill, and ability to run with the ball at a great speed made him perfect for such a situation. He ended up taking 3 shots, but couldn’t score from any of these shots. While he got forward from his deeper starting position, it was generally one of Rosicky or Cazorla who dropped a little deep to cover for him. This cover was necessary as Spurs still had men in dangerous positions.
Spurs needed the win in this fixture, and maybe more than Arsenal, especially after all the defeats that have been inflicted upon them in the last few weeks, with losses in the last 6 games before this one. This showed in their attitude and the way they began the game.
The back line pushed up very high every time they were in possession, getting on the half line, and even going beyond it at times. The likes of Kaboul pushed very high up the pitch, trying to get aggressive and force the pace. Spurs probably wanted an early goal and definitely didn’t want to concede. The high line was also used to push Arsenal back into their own half, and a fairly wise tactic to use when you consider that the Arsenal striker was Olivier Giroud, not someone known for his pace and ability to get behind defences.
Vertonghen, can constantly be seen as the deepest Spurs defender throughout the game. That says a lot as Verthongen is a ball-playing defender whose usual position is near the half-way line, and this game was no different. Even when the likes of Rosicky carried the ball into Spurs territory, attempting to launch a counter attack. Even the deepest Spurs defender is only just behind the half line even when Arsenal have the ball in such an advanced area of the pitch. Vertonghen’s defensive partner, Younes Kaboul was usually much higher up.
In order to counter Spurs, Arsenal were launching a lot of attacks from the wide areas. In order to press Arsenal, a team that keeps the ball on the grass, Spurs tried to press them in the middle of the pitch, where they have most of their skillful players like Arteta and Oxlade-Chamberlain. To do so, even the full backs, especially Naughton on the right, got narrow to close down the middle for Arsenal. Therefore, the space to launch attacks was down the wide areas. This showed as well, with 80% of the Arsenal attacks coming down the wide areas.
In order to effect these counters, Arsenal had to leave men high up the pitch in wide areas. Podolski and even Rosicky sometimes stayed slightly higher. There were at least 2-3 occasions where Rosicky didn’t track Rose who was charging forward, and left him to Sagna. In this way, Arsenal conceded the wide areas of the pitch to Spurs, who created a lot of chances from here.
Going down the wide areas, Spurs got a lot of joy. Rose on the left saw a lot of the ball, and Townsend did on the right. Chadli and Naughton played slightly narrower, using the inside channels. Townsend in particular did very well, attempting 8 crosses. Unfortunately for Spurs fans, the England international’s efforts were in vain, as only 1 cross was accurate. overall, Spurs attempted 34 crosses, but only 6 of them found their mark.
Aside from crosses, a number of long passes were also played in the direction of Emanuel Adebayor, but the ex-Arsenal forward was completely dominated by the Mert-scielny axis that Arsenal fans are so proud of. The 2 defenders were really on form last night. Playing a little deeper against the high line meant that a lot of responsibility was heaped on the duo as they were bound to be under duress. The Spurs tactics of playing from the wide areas and trying aerial balls made their role even more important. Between them, the duo made an astonishing 35 clearances, all of which were effective. Mertesacker won 7 out of 8 headed duels, and Koscielny 3 out of 6.
Picking up from where the last point left off, the 2 Arsenal centre backs had a lot of hard work to do. The fact that the Spurs side pushed so high up meant that Arsenal sat a little deeper, invited this Spurs pressure, ceded the territory, and then launched forward to counter attack. This meant that a lot of the play was concentrated in the Arsenal half (38% of the action took place in the away third).
The Arsenal defenders also had to be on their toes, with a lot of the play taking place so close to their own goal. This is a bit unfamiliar as we’re usually accustomed to seeing Arsenal take the game to other teams, but the restraint shown on this occasion was impressive. In terms of organisation as well, Arsenal rose to the challenge, keeping it tight at the back. As noted above, a lot of the Spurs play went down the wings, and they were unable to break down the away defence. In an incredible defensive performance, the Arsenal players managed 31 interceptions, and 21 tackles, to add to the aforementioned 35 successful clearances by the centre back pairing. Arteta, Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Cazorla in particular were impressive for the defensive jobs they carried out. Neither of them was seen rushing into rash tackles. They kept their discipline, and broke quickly after every ineffective pass from Spurs.
Unfortunately for Spurs, neutral, and all the other pursuers, this probably is the end of the race for 4th place. Other results this weekend mean the even United will probably struggle to catch up. It also means that Spurs and Levy will have a chance to think about what went wrong in a season that promised so much.
As for the Gunners, the results from this weekend have blown the title race wide open. Chelsea seemed to have an advantage at the start of the weekend, but lost it with their poor display at Villa. City, Liverpool, and Arsenal all picked up wins, and are now within touching distance of the leaders. Most importantly, players & fans will be buoyed by the Tottenham Hotspur 0-1 Arsenal result going into the remainder of the season
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