Arsenal v Tottenham
Kick off: January, 2014 5:15 PM BST
If anyone tells you they don’t enjoy a North London Derby, they are either lying or don’t appreciate a real game of football. With a place in the last 32 at stake, there was something extra in today’s FA Cup third round match at the Emirates. And thankfully for Arsenal fans around the world, that something extra had an Arsenal trademark stamped across it.
Wenger made a number of changes, several of them clearly enforced. Fabianski in between the sticks, and Vermaelen replacing Per Mertesacker at the heart of the defence. Rosicky and Gnabry were selected out wide, giving some pace and directness to the Arsenal flanks. And Walcott moving to the central striking position, Podolski demoted to the bench.
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It was a quick start to the game, both teams trying to take the upper hand early on, and both teams looking full of pace. The first decent chance fell to Walcott, who was on hand to pick up a cut back from Gnabry. Despite his good work getting to the byline though, Gnabry’s pass was just behind Theo who couldn’t get a decent foot on it.
Walcott was looking dangerous, constantly getting into good positions with his bent runs, several shots from distance requiring saves and defensive blocks. Spurs got the best chance early on though, a Koscielny challenge deflecting into the path of Eriksen, putting him through on goal. Fabianski stood up to it though, and the Dane’s shot struck the Pole and bounced out for a corner.
Walcott continued to threaten the Spurs goal, curling one just around the post. Gnabry looking dangerous too, creating space in the box to get a shot away which he saw fly just over bar. Cazorla saw his shot from distance sail wide of the goal, but after making the space for the shot he probably should have done better.
Gnabry again looking dangerous on the right, showed good strength and skill to hold onto the ball while dragging several Spurs players around him. He laid the ball off to Wilshere, who picked out a delightful Walcott bent run. Unfortunately the Englishman’s first touch wasn’t his best, and gave him a lot to do. His shot was saved by Lloris, and put out for a corner. It looked as though a square ball to Monreal was on for the tap in, but he clearly wasn’t aware of it. Words were exchanged between the two, Theo seemingly telling Monreal to be more vocal.
Arsenal weren’t left ruing their missed chances for long though, Santi Cazorla putting the Gunners ahead. Gnabry again the instigator, picking up the ball and driving across the front of the box. Walcott’s run dragged several Spurs defenders away, leaving space for Cazorla to run into from the left. Gnabry poked the ball through to the Spaniard, who lashed his shot first time across goal and straight past a helpless Lloris. 1-0 Arsenal.
Arsenal continued their dominant performance throughout the rest of the half, but weren’t able to extend their lead. Walcott volleying over from a corner, perhaps catching the ball a little too cleanly.
Half time came, with the score still at 1-0. Vermaelen having to be substituted at half time for Mertesacker with a knee injury. It was probably for the best, as he had picked up an early yellow after a mistimed slide; and went in with another one (albeit a good one) moments later. There was a controversial moment mid way through the half; a dispute between Dembele and Wilshere. Both players biting at each others’ heels, the Belgian lucky to escape discipline after a backwards headbut connected with the England man.
The second half kicked off and Arsenal were still on top, Spurs clearly trying harder to get back into the game though. Soldado was getting a couple of chances, but his shooting was poor and lacked conviction. Adebayor also crafting a fantastic chance, controlling the ball in the air and shooting on the turn. He resembled a baby giraffe learning to walk for the first time though, as his legs buckled underneath him and his shot bobbled tamely into the hands of Fabianksi. Jeers and laughs echoed around the Emirates, but it was a good chance for the Togo international, and the game could have been completely different if he levelled it up there.
Having not taken the chance when it came however, the opportunity was gone. As Arsenal doubled their lead through Tomas Rosicky, who’s tireless pressing and work rate paid off with a goal. Danny Rose dawdled on the ball, and slipped as he attempted to turn the Czech international. Rosicky pouncing on the ball and breaking towards goal. Walker just about caught up to him, but even under pressure he was able to produce a fine finish, chipping the ball over Lloris calmly to make it 2-0.
Walcott was still looking dangerous in the second half, linking up well with Gnabry. He was played through into the box, and took it round Lloris; but he was pushed too wide and could hit nothing but the side netting with his shot.
He really deserved a goal, but it wasn’t to be. He went down injured once late on, but got back up. However moments later he went down again, and this time required the stretcher. As he was being carried off, he signed “2-0” with his hands. Pretty much securing his place as an Arsenal legend in many eyes.
Having made all three substitutes, this did unfortunately mean that Arsenal were forced to play the final fifteen minutes with ten men. Despite their man advantage however, Spurs didn’t really come close to threatening the Arsenal goal.
The game finished 2-0, Arsenal through to the next round of the FA Cup. Some worrying injuries piled on to the already growing list, but a good win for the Gunners.
on the performance…
The game was played at a good pace and I think we controlled quite well both sides of it; the defensive and the offensive. We always looked to have a good discipline and to be tight at the back. Every time, when our game is based on movement and quick, sharp passing, we looked dangerous.
on Serge Gnabry…
He has had some good games, but maybe we were not at home. He played well at Swansea, at Crystal palace, and overall today he has shown that he is quality. He had a very good game.
on showing real maturity…
He is a very young boy, he [was born in] 1995 so that shows you that he is very young and he has the quality. He is bright, he has a good football brain.
on how he compares to other teenagers…
I am a strong believer in Serge, because I integrated him at the start of last season but let’s not make superstars with one game. The top level is [about] consistency but I believe the ingredients are there. he has to show he can turn up with these performances in every game.
on Theo Walcott…
the doctors said to me that the coins had been raining over his head and they had to protect him, maybe that is why he did that. Yes [the coins came before the gesture] that is what I have been told. After that, what he did is not offensive. You look for every single incident, I can understand that, but it is an action that didn’t offend anybody.
on whether he will be in trouble with the FA…
I don’t think so.
on if he regrets it…
I have seen the pictures after the game and it does not even look aggressive, he is smiling!
on whether Monreal was stamped on…
The referee did not see it, I did not see it as well, but after the incident he (Monreal) has shown to the linesman that he stood on his arm, I dont know.
on Dembele clashing with Wilshere…
I have seen it, but I dont make a lot of that.
on Walcott’s injury…
Theo has a knee problem. We dont know if it is a stretched ligament or just a kick, he got two kicks on his knee.
on being short up front…
We are short because Theo is not very tall! We still have Podolski and Ozil on the bench. Giroud was sick, he was not injured, so for the next game he should be available. Of course if we lose Theo for a longer period, it is a problem.
on Nicklas Bendtner…
It will be for one month, we expected it could have been more, but we had good news.
on transfer plans…
I am waiting to see now who walks out there and knocks at the door, waiting to come in. Honestly, do we find better than the players that we have got?
on if the FA charges Walcott…
My response will be simple, they have seen the pictures on television. If they judge it offensive, what can I say? I prefer they dont ban him and he is not injured.
He got injured with a tight hamstring, but it is not big. He needs to play in the second half of the season, if I find a good opportunity for him, I will consider it.
on Walcott through the middle…
I liked what he did today because he played before in that role. Today he added purpose and comitment, more decisiveness to his game, and more fighting attitude.
With that, he looks every time he improves in that position and with the quality of players behind him, he can be very dangerous in that position.
on Thomas Vermaelen…
He has a kick in his knee.
Here are some of the top tweets from today’s game:
” ‘Accelerates past Dawson.’ Also known as ‘walking’.”
“Great from Gnabry again. His technical and physical attributes are marvellous, but it’s his football brain that stands out.”
“If ever a guy deserved a goal!
Super Tom Rosicky!”
“Wasn’t sure about that pink ball but it looks great in the back of the Tottenham net!”
“Sherwood relax!!!!!! ……your team is winning! !!!!! :D”
“Walcott just became a legend!”
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Sagna Vermaelen(c) Koscielny Monreal
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