Tottenham 0-1 Arsenal (Rosicky 2)
Man of the Match - Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal)
It wasn’t the most fluid of performances, neither did it have the conviction. But, you really can’t ask for more than 3 points at the end of a typically feisty derby game, as Arsenal painted North London red again with a narrow win over rivals Tottenham Hotspur, who seem to have bottled their chance of getting into the top 4 for another season.
With the recent spate of injuries adding Mesut Ozil to a list that already contains Jack Wilshere, Theo Walcott and Aaron Ramsey, the manager welcomed back left-backs Nacho Monreal and Kieran Gibbs. The recent return from injury and a couple of solid performances by Thomas Vermaelen also would have pleased Arsene Wenger. Kieran Gibbs started at left-back. Lukas Podolski, Tomas Rosicky, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain started alongside Spanish duo Mikel Arteta and Santi Cazorla in a makeshift Arsenal midfield.
Sp*rs, who have some injury concerns of their own, were forced to name Kyle Walker on the bench, as Kyle Naughton started at right back. Younes Kaboul, who passed a late fitness test, started alongside Belgian Jan Vertonghen. With Michael Dawson injured, Vertonghen moved to centre-back; Danny Rose, scorer of a blinder against Arsenal on his debut few seasons back, starting at left-back. Christian Eriksen, who scored in midweek against Benfica, started. So did, Nacer Chadli, Sandro, Andros Townsend and Nabil Bentaleb.
Within no time, Arsenal were in the lead. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain collected the ball in Arsenal’s half and made a darting run into Sp*rs penalty box, before losing control slightly. Tomas Rosicky who followed the Englishman’s run unleashed a powerful shot, which no goalkeeper in the world would have saved. Not Jens Lehmann. Not David Seaman. Not Gianluigi Buffon. Heck, not Lev Yashin. What chance would poor Hugo Lloris have? 1-0 Arsenal.
Sp*rs, however, to their credit, demonstrated a good passing game, as they looked to pressurize Arsenal. The Gunners, looking a bit weary, struggled to hold on to the ball for long periods as Sp*rs patiently rolled the ball around. With Kyle Naughton and Danny Rose running down the flanks, Sp*rs were always susceptible to losing a goal on Arsenal’s swift counters.
On 15 minutes, Arsenal had a golden chance to put the game to bed, when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain broke away from Sp*rs defenders to face Hugo Lloris, but instead of setting up Lukas Podolski on the left, or rounding the French international goalkeeper, he decided to chip, and his effort went wide of the post. This defending lapse sent Tim Sherwood absolutely beserk as he flung his jumper on to the ground in disgust. Maybe he was disgusted with Chamberlain’s finish.
On another occasion, Chamberlain skied the ball having received it from Podolski and the English winger’s finishing was again questionable when he missed another chance.
On the other end, Emmanuel Greedybayor was giving Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker plenty to think about. His intelligent running, and space creation was causing Arsenal’s defenders plenty of problems. Sp*rs, who have scored only 16 goals in 14 home games this season, did get a few chances, when Eriksen’s free kick went over, and Chadli’s low effort went wide.
Sp*rs were continually being exposed on the breaks. Lukas Podolski struck the side netting after escaping the attentions of Kyle Naughton. Moments later, Olivier Giroud was narrowly offside when he was set free in acres of space. Tomas Rosicky was causing Danny Rose plenty of problems. The game started getting stretched, when Bacary Sagna was booked for a late lunge on Rose, before Sandro got his yellow for a tackle of Rosicky.
Sp*rs started the second half in similar fashion Arsenal had started the first half with. Wojciech Szczesny wasn’t having the best days in office. He came ahead to collect a ball, but completely miscued it, and he repeated it moments later. With Nacer Chadli looking destined to score, he came up against the rock that is the Koscielny-Mertesacker axis. Both defenders made themselves big, and the Chadli’s strike was cleared by Koscielny in an amazing moment of last ditch defending.
Sp*rs kept going, and had several chances to equalize, but paid for their profligacy. A cross from the right by Townsend went past the goal, but Chadli failed to tap it home. And then, Greedybayor headed just wide. Both managers made changes in the 67th minute, as Paulinho and Sigurdsson came on for Sandro and Chadli, and Flamini came on for Rosicky. Vertonghen got a yellow card for a foul on Cazorla, and off the ensuing free-kick hauled Koscielny to the ground. It should have been a penalty.
Mertesacker’s short range swiveled shot was saved by Lloris, having been played in by Koscielny off a corner. Arsene Wenger, by now had sensed that Rosicky’s goal could well be the only goal of the game, and threw on Monreal and Vermaelen in place of Podolski and Chamberlain. Flamini got a booking, minutes after coming on. A better story than Twilight.
Roberto Soldado, or is it Roberto Penaldado, came on for Eriksen, as Tim Sherwood looked for an equalizer. The Sp*rs boss was involved in a little incident with Sagna, throwing the ball at the right back urging the Arsenal player to get on with the game. It could have gotten out of hand, but Sagna tried to calm down the situation, claiming it was nothing.
Emmanuel Greedybayor saw a fine curling shot saved by a diving Szczesny in the closing moments, as Arsenal sealed a hat-trick of derby wins this season. A win that takes them to within 4 points of leaders Chelsea, with a game in hand.
Like I said, it wasn’t the greatest of performances from Arsenal. But, defensively, Arsenal were rock solid. Laurent Koscielny deservedly won the Man of the Match for a colossal performance with Per Mertesacker. Tomas Rosicky was all energy, hassling Sp*rs at every opportunity, and my, his goal was class. Something to remind them all the time.
Santi Cazorla and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were average, apart from a couple of moments of brilliance. Mikel Arteta had an important role just in front of the defence. Olivier Giroud was quite anonymous all night, but with Sp*rs attacking most of the match, there was little he could do.
The end of the match saw some crazy celebrations, as Szczesny took a few selfies, Lukas Podolski climbed upto the fans, and Tomas Rosicky gave his shirt to a disabled supporter.
All in all, a solid performance that garnered 3 vital points in the title race. Every game turns to be a 6 pointer from now till the end of the season. Next week, Arsenal will travel to Jose Moaninho’s Chelsea, in what will be Arsene Wenger’s 1000th game in charge of Arsenal. No better way to celebrate the milestone than to beat the cunt once and for all.
Jai Arsenal :)
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