It is interesting to see how the chronology of events makes people feel two different ways. Last season, we lost our away fixture to our arch-rivals 2:1 only to respond with a magnificent 5:2 home victory. After we won that match, the gap between us and Spuds was seven points but there were only a few Arsenal fans that didn’t realize that we are going to pip Spuds for Champions’ League spot. This season, we won home fixture 5:2 and lost away fixture 2:1. The gap is again seven points but it’s a different feeling now. It would be unreasonable to underestimate both the Spuds’ ability to choke (once they literally crapped their pants!) and our ability to find way to St Totteringham’s Day, but we have been shooting our feet from the first London derby this season (against the Chavs) and we did it again today. As usual, we lost the game in the first half.
Bacary Sagna and Abou Diaby didn’t play due to injuries so Carl Jenkinson and Aaron Ramsey took their places in the starting 11. Jenkinson had a huge responsibility – he was expected to stop Gareth Bale, one of the most in-form players in Europe at this moment.
We started very well. Ball possession was heavily on our side. Cazorla was the first one to find space with lovely pass to Giroud but the Frenchman’s poor shot with his weaker foot was both slowed down by Verthongen’s slide and stopped by Lloris. It seemed that we were in control of the game despite the absence of great chances. And, out of nowhere, Spuds struck first.
It happened in 37th minute. Sigurdsson sent a ball from the left side behind our high back-line. Mertesacker – who was tracking Adebayor in an offside position – played Bale onside. The Welshman took the ball and easily slotted it past Sczszesny. It was a goal scored against run of the play and it had a devastating effect on our players. Only two minutes after Bale scored the first goal, another pass through the middle of our defense did the job for Spuds. This time it was Scott Parker who sent the ball behind our defensive line and Aaron Lennon was the one to receive it. The speedy English winger snuck behind Vermaelen’s back before rounding Sczszesny and placing the ball into the net.
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We needed to respond in the second half in order to find way back into the game. After six minutes, we were finally rewarded for our attempts. Ramsey was fouled on the left wing. Walcott sent a cross from the free-kick to the near post where it was met by Mertesacker. The ball touched Adebayor and Bale before going behind Lloris. It was an impulse that we needed. Our full-backs were first in line to try to get an equalizer. First, it was Monreal who sent a wonderful shot wide. Then, Jenkinson made a run on the right flank before making a dangerous low cross to six-yard-area but Lloris managed to grab the ball off Giroud’s foot. And, again, we nearly conceded a goal in the moments when we were in control of the game. Assou-Ekotto sent another ball through our defense to Bale who was totally alone six yards away from goal but he managed to send the ball over the bar. After Jenkinson was withdrawn for Rosicky, Ramsey shifted to right full-back. Given that this is not the Welshman’s natural position, it is no wonder Sigurdsson nearly exploited his mistake to seal the Spuds’ victory with 20 minutes to go. Sigurdsson was on the right side of our box going one-on-one with Sczszesny but instead of taking a shot himself, he decided to cut it back. Fortunately, Mertesacker was there to clear the danger. Despite that mistake, Ramsey could become our hero on the other side of the pitch. Rosicky found Ramsey with wonderful through ball to the right-wing position. Ramsey ran into the box before sending a weak diagonal shot wide. Lukas Podolski entered the pitch in order to reproduce some of his magic from the reverse fixture but his attempts were either blocked or wasted due to the German’s heavy touch. In the last 20 minutes the Spuds showed something that only someone labelled as new Mourinho could prepare (in negative way, of course).
They were diving, stealing the ball from our players, wasting time in every possible way in order to preserve their lead. Hopefully, they will choke in the race for the Champions’ League again in next ten weeks for that.
We have ten more games and it is hard to say whether this team is good enough to fight back. We are 7 points behind the Spuds, who lie in 3rd spot, 5 points behind Chavs on the fourth. In saying this however we are also tracked by Everton (they are two points behind us) and Liverpool (five points behind us with easier fixtures in front of them). Our next match in Premiership is the one against Everton at home. We must get a grip and give our best performance of the season, the one that will be good in both halves.
If we fail to reach Champions’ League, a serious reconstruction of our team will be needed (a goalkeeper, two central defenders, defensive midfielder and striker).
P.S. At certain moment of the match FIFA 13 banner showed the words: “Build your team. Manage. Compete.” Perhaps I forgot to add “a manager” on the reconstruction list.
It’s frustrating because we put so much effort it and we lost the game when we were on top of the game. If you watch the game again you will see that at the moment we were 2-0 down we should have been 2-0 up. They had a very difficult start, we were on top of the game, and the 2-0 lead of course gave them the confidence to defend well and that’s what they did for the rest of the game. It’s very frustrating because we had a great attitude but we come out with no points and as well because we were not efficient in the zones where it matters – at the front and at the back. Also, without being at any moment dominated, the only times Tottenham were dangerous today was on counter-attacks. If you are dominated and they create chance after chance, OK you accept it. But today it was a strange game to lose.on the goals conceded…
I will have to see it again, we certainly lacked caution on both goals because there was no pressure on the ball and we didn’t cover.
on the battle for a top-four place…
It will be a massive challenge, massive. I said before the game we couldn’t drop these points today and I maintain that after the game. Especially the way the game went, it is difficult to understand how we can lose games like that.
on learning lessons at the back…
Ideally you don’t concede goals at all. It is frustrating because we had the best defensive record in the league away from home until today. When you go into a big game like that, once you’re 2-0 down you make it difficult for yourself because you have to come out, open yourself up against a team that is good at counter-attacking.
But after in the final 20 minutes it was stop and go, they would foul and stop us from going. They stayed down a lot. We couldn’t get the final flow into the game because it was stop and go always.
on conceding two goals in quick succession…
It happened to us many times this season and only in big games. It’s difficult to say why, there’s no common thing, in all the games there is a different problem. But after you make it difficult for yourself. I cannot fault the attitude or the effort that the team produced, or the spirit the team has shown, but you give yourself a mountain to climb every time in a game of that magnitude.
on whether he believes Arsenal can finish in the top four…
I still think it is possible and we will fight for it, that is for sure.
Jenkinson Mertesacker Vermaelen (c) Monreal
Wojciech Szczesny | 5.0: Conceded two goals. He could have done better in the second. Was caught out of position at least once more but, luckily, Sigurdsson decided to pass instead of taking a shot.
Carl Jenkinson | 6.5: Bale scored but it wasn’t his fault as the Welshman had his moments when he was going through the middle.
Per Mertesacker | 5.0: He scored a goal but still wasn’t good enough. Had we won today, we would probably praise BFG for his ability to score in North London Derby but his performance in crucial moments in front of our goal – with exception of clearance after Sigurdsson was one-on-one with Sczszesny – was below par as he played Bale onside for the Spuds’ opener and didn’t react well before Lennon scored.
Thomas Vermaelen | 4.0: Terrible performance. The way Lennon snuck behind him for the second was tragical and wasn’t innocent for Bale’s goal either. His form hasn’t been convincing this season, especially in big matches.
Nacho Monreal | 6.0: Failed to close down Lennon before the second. Had one of the best attempts to equalize but sent his shot wide.
Mikel Arteta | 5.5: It’s hard to say he was to blame for something but our vice-captain – unlike Scott Parker – failed to make any real influence on the game. It has been a problem in every big match this season.
Aaron Ramsey | 5.5: Earned free-kick from which Walcott created our only goal. Missed our best chance for equalizer due to his usual slowness. Moved to right back after Rosicky replaced Jenkinson which was almost exploited by Spuds in a few occasions as the Welshman was usually on opponents’ half. Made one horrible cross from promising attack and created chance for Sigurdsson. However, it is hard to measure what is more irritating: Ramsey’s slowness when he receives the ball, Wenger’s idea that Ramsey can play in every position on the field due to his non-disputable intelligence (if we ever lose Sczszesny due to red card/injury after making third substitution, Wenger will put Ramsey on the goal) or fans who blame Ramsey for our failures.
Jack Wilshere | 6.0: Didn’t impose himself as expected. He was very good before Spuds took the lead but he can do much, much better. He has set standards so high that sometimes we need games like this one to remind ourselves Jack is only 21.
Theo Walcott | 5.5: Created a goal from free-kick and sent the best free-kick this season a few inches wide. Poor performance from our best goal-scorer this season.
Santi Cazorla | 6.5: Just like Wilshere, he was doing well before Spuds took the lead as we were controlling the ball and the game. Created huge chance for Giroud that could have sent this match the other way.
Olivier Giroud | 4.0: Very poor performance from the Frenchman who failed to perform in a big match again. Wasted a great chance in the first half due to a lack of pace and positional awareness and, just like against the Chavs in January, that miss cost us a lot.
Tomas Rosicky | 6.5: Created a chance for Ramsey but failed to make an impact like the one in last season’s 5:2 victory. Still, he deserves more playing time.
Lukas Podolski | 5.0: His touch was too heavy in a few promising situations.
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