Match Report: Arsenal 2-0 Spurs

FA cup 3rd Round:  4th January 2014

By Zedie

Theo and BacWhen the draw was made weeks ago, my first feeling was acceptance.  Every time those little plastic balls have been pulled out of the tombola, they’ve produced the trickiest ties possible.  A Mourinho Chelsea in the League cup. The Champions League runners up, the Serie A favourites and Ligue 1’s runners up in the group stages.  The Champions League holders in the last 16 and then Tottenham Hotspur in the 3rd round of the FA cup.

If one has been clear this season, its that Arsenal are going to have to do everything the hard way.  With that in mind, Arsenal kicked off the 174th North London derby to the roar of a rocking Emirates crowd.

It was a slightly nervy opening 3 minutes, with both sides turning over possession harmlessly.

However, this didn’t last long, as the 4th minute saw a guilt edged chance fall to our latest centre forward; Theo Walcott.  The ball was trapped in the Tottenham corner, with both teams fighting for possession while the ball pinged about in tight spaces.  Bacary Sagna got the better of Chiriches and knocked back to Serge Gnabry, who squared directly to Walcott 6 yards out.  Walcott could only scuff a half volley off target, but it was a signal that Arsenal had come out to play.

Arsenal were looking to impose themselves on the vistiors from down the road as ever, with Spurs seemingly ready to hit us on the counter attack at any opportunity.  This tactic nearly paid off for them in the 9th minute, when a clearance from Laurent Koscielny bounced quiet fortunately for Kristian Erikson, who found himself in acres of space in the Arsenal box.  Fabianski was alert to the danger and came out well to cut out the angle, making a stop to his near post.

Arsenal responded immediately, when Gnabry took a forceful run through the centre of the park from deep and found the rapidly advancing Walcott.  Theo’s first touch took him slightly wide, but his arrowed shot across goal from 25 yards out, forced a decent finger tip save from Lloris.

The absence of a target man forced Arsenal to swap this approach out for short, sharp passing game and it was being executed with devastating effect.  Some mesmerising interplay between Cazorla, Rosicky led the ball to the lurking Walcott, whose curling effort was just diverted agonisingly wide on 13 minutes.

The resulting corner was worked out to the livewire Gnabry, who was being marked tightly by Kyle Walker.  Walker showed him inside to his weaker left foot, but didn’t bank on the curling shot that flew just over yet again from inside the box.Arsenal's Santi Carzola scores

At the other end, Spurs were reduced to sweeping the ball towards goal on the counter attack, but what danger they could ignite, was quickly snuffed out by the imposing Koscielny and Vermaelen.

The game was end to end, with Arsenal looking incisive to Spurs’ optimistic play and this was underlined in the 32nd minute.  An unmarked Gnabry was fed the ball 40 yards out.  Walcott had anticipated this and made a great run, dragging 2 defenders away from the centre of the park, giving Gnabry the space to turn and drive into.  By the time Michael ‘the balance of power in North London has shifted’ Dawson tried to close down, Gnabry had slid a perfectly rolled ball through to the left hand side of Spurs’ box.  Cazorla had ghosted in on the blind side and had enough time to measure his perfectly struck snap shot past the hapless Lloris.

The Emirates erupted, which was a feat given the constant ear drum splitting volume that they had produced thus far.  The goal was deserved, the finish was emphatic, 1-0 to the Arsenal.

Arsenal were in the ascendancy and the pressure continued, the most notable effort falling to Walcott again, who flashed a crisp volley well over from the edge of the box in the 39th minute.

Things threatened to get heated when the ever combative Wilshere tussled with Moussa Dembele on 40minutes.  Replays show that Dembele aimed a backwards headbutt at Wilshere, but nothing was given and Spurs were fortunate not to be a man down, if the letter of the law was followed.

The first half drew to a close with huge cheers from the home faithful.

The second half started with a change in personnel for us, with Mertesacker coming on to replace the injured Vermaelen.  The status quo continued with Arsenal pressing well, however marginal offsides and slightly inaccurate final passes stunted our ability to carve out proper chances.   Spurs looked to Adebayor and Soladado for inspiration, but all they really received from those two was disappointment and a lack of conviction along with robust defending from the Arsenal.

Spurs’ 2nd and ultimately only other decent chance came in the 56th minute,  when a ball into Adebayor, who did the hard part in bringing the ball down with his back to goal.  The best he could do was slip while turning, looping a tame back pass into the arms of Fabianski.

Arsenal pushed up a gear in the 60th minute, when Gnabry again received the ball behind an advancing Walcott and slide a pass down the inside right channel.  The ball was just a tad long, which resulted in Walcott receiving it with space running out.  He still did enough to take it around Dawson and Lloris, but his impossible shot from the by-line hit the side netting.

Spurs took the ball down our end in response, but resolute defending could only get them another corner in the 62nd minute.

Eriksen swung the corner in, but only as far as Mertesacker, whose clearing header was recycled back to Danny Rose near the half way line.  Thomas Rosicky was the most advanced man and as ever, had the duty to close the man on the ball down as is the Arsenal of late.  You’d have to ask Rose what he was thinking when he attempted a Cruyff turn, but while he was busy trying to show the world his mad skillz, Rosicky stole in and prodded the ball away from him.

Rosicky celebWith the Spurs defence no longer a concern, Rosicky strode forward completely in the clear.  By the time he got to Lloris, a defender had closed him down, but he remained as cold as ice to deftly chip the stranded goalkeeper and light the touch paper to make it 2-0.

The goal provided that all important 2 goal cushion as well as bitch slapping Spurs into the realisation that a weakened Arsenal side was still casting a shadow too big for them to step out of.  This was reinforced by the ecstatic crowd, with the whole stadium singing “Are you Tottenham in disguise?”

Arsenal smelled blood and in the 68th minute, some neat play took the energetic Monreal down the left hand side of the Spurs box, closely followed by Kyle Walker.  With Monreal shaping to cross, Walker swept in and shoulder charged the Spaniard, taking nothing of the ball.  We’ve seen these challenges a million times and the defender ALWAYS gets the benefit of the doubt, so while it could be a foul anywhere else on the pitch, it was never going to be given.

Moments later, it was Kyle Walker’s turn to be barged off the ball by Monreal in a carbon copy of the earlier incident.  The irony was not lost on me when it was Walker screaming for a penalty and Monreal applauding Mark Clattenberg for waving play on.  I’m not sure what Spurs would have done with a penalty, they’d taken Soldado off not 5 minutes prior to that.

The now traditional ‘job done’ substitutions were made, with Flamini on for the battling Wilshere on 72 minutes, followed by Ozil on for Arteta in the 74th minute.

Spurs tried to get down the left flank for more crosses, but the tireless Walcott was on hand to track back and get a good challenge in on the advancing player.  In doing this, he caught his studs in the turf and stayed down, right in front of the away enclosure.  Play was stopped and you could see that Walcott was in real pain.

Then came the moment of the match by far, when the world watched a mere mortal become a God to the Arsenal faithful.  Walcott was receiving a lot of abuse while on the deck and by the time the stretcher had come to get him, he had probably had enough.  He grinned through the pain and he held up 2 fingers and a fist to politely remind the mouth breathers what the score was.  Upon reaching the Arsenal faithful, he was showered with scarfs, with his name ringing out.  I’ll be starting up a petition to have that moment cast in bronze and put outside the stadium, along with the other Arsenal greats, in the coming days.

Play resumed with Arsenal forced to see out the remaining 10+5 minutes stoppage time with 10 men, but to be honest, Spurs were already dead.  Even with the numerical disadvantage, we still managed to carve out the most danger when Gnabry played in Ozil 8 yards out, who was only denied by a great save.

The crowd knew it was game over when the chants of “Sherwood is a Gooner” started echoing through the stadium.

And that was that.  we are 2 games in to completing a trilogy of wins against them lot down the road and a step closer to FA cup glory.  The shadow intensifies.

 

Match Ratings

Fabianski – 7 – Truth be told, he didn’t have much to do, but an Arsenal keeper’s life is a boring one at the moment.  Saved smartly early on, when a goal against at that moment, could changed the game.

Sagna – 7 – Defensively, worked really hard.  Standard Bac performance as you would expect.  Theres not many better in the world, sign him up.

Vermaelen – 7(off 45th min) Generally was very solid.  Got himself booked for a trademark blood to the head challenge, then made another perfectly timed tackle straight after that got Sherwood begging to the ref.  Good.

Koscielny – 8 – Hopefully someone reminded him to take Adebayor out of his pocket before he left the stadium.

Monreal – 7 –Much better from the Spaniard, stayed alert to danger from the overlapping runs of Walker all game.

Arteta – 7 – (off 74th min) Swept up in front of the defence very well today, disrupted Spurs’ rhythm all day.

Wilshere – 7 – (off 72nd min) Played very well, linked up well and carried the ball excellently at times.  Nearly allowed his emotions to boil over, but kept his head to hit them where it matters.

Gnabry – 9 – At times, unplayable.  Put in a real shift defensively, going forward, they didn’t know what to do with him.  He must get more games surely.

Rosicky – 8 – Was potent in attack today.  A couple of missed passes, but they were all forward.  However, his determination and cool head for the 2nd was immense.  Fantastic.

Cazorla – 8Tormented Spurs all day, was pulling strings and popping up everywhere.  Some great shots and what a finish for the first.

Walcott – 8 –  Did everything but a goal today.  Better finishing could have seen a hatrick, but he fought for every inch today.  Harassed Spurs defence and keeper into many unforced errors, worked his socks off.  Took up excellent positions and dragged defenders out of position.  Also became a bonafide Arsenal legend by trolling Spurs fans HARD.

Subs

Mertesacker – 7 – (on 45th min) – Came on and continued where Vermaelen left off.  Needed his calming influence in defence towards the end when Spurs stepped up their long ball tactics.

Flamini – 6 – (on 72nd min) – Added to the defensive solidity at the time.  Made some important interceptions.

Ozil – 6 – (on 74th min) – Worked hard up top on his own when we were a man down, nearly took the clearest chance of the last 15 minutes when a man down.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *