Pointing fingers and attributing blame rarely helps a situation, especially in football, though this is what will inevitably happen following our 2-1 loss to Spurs.
As is always the case when we lose an important game, the Wenger Out brigade will crawl from under the woodwork and take to the internet to explain just how shocking a manager Arsene Wenger really is.
Arsenal sites will see their comment sections filled with scathing posts, damning the manager and claiming that we as a club are a joke, in decline, and sure to miss out on Champions League football come the end of the season.
Is the manager blameless? Certainly not. And I personally was disappointed with more than one of his decisions today. But Wenger cannot be solely to blame, and I believe it was largely down to the players that the result didn’t go our way at White Hart Lane.
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Our win against Manchester City at the Etihad highlighted the fact that we are more than capable of playing more defensively when we want to, and that we can utilise this tactic to good effect.
With that in mind, most fans were calling for a repeat performance ahead on our trip to the Lane, and wanted to see that same defensive stability put to use against Mauricio Pochettino’s side.
Was anybody really surprised therefore, when Wenger did just that; conceding possession to Tottenham in favour of a more defensive approach.
The main difference today however, was that we as a team didn’t play nearly as well as we did at the Etihad. Individually we weren’t fantastic either, and when not playing our best we were understandably beaten by a team in good form.
Defensively we were okay for the most part; not outstanding, but acceptable. Against a lesser opponent we may have gone unpunished, although a few individual errors crept into our game.
Although many may disagree with this, I didn’t think we were that bad going forward either; with Mesut Özil, Olivier Giroud, and Danny Welbeck all having decent games. Again nothing spectacular – save perhaps Özil’s finish – but nothing particularly bad either.
The issue I thought, was that we rarely actually got a chance to go forward, because our use of the ball was so poor over the course of 90 minutes. Santi Cazorla was a shadow of the player we saw at the Etihad, and Aaron Ramsey’s performance bordered on dire.
Tottenham applied a huge amount of pressure throughout the game, both with and without the ball. We failed to keep our composure when pressed, and resorted to hoofing the ball clear rather than playing out from the back.
When playing so defensively you have to be prepared to counter-attack, as when the ball is just recycled and fed back to the opponent, even the sturdiest of defences will eventually crumble.
Giroud did well as an outlet, but was rarely picked out by his teammates. Welbeck’s pace was also an asset, but having only recently returned from injury he understandably began to tire.
The problem was however, the ball rarely made it as far as either of them; with the play generally breaking down in midfield. We were woefully wasteful with the ball, and were repeatedly gifting possession back to Spurs when we should have been punishing them for losing it in the first place.
Despite Cazorla having a relatively poor game by his standards, he should not have been replaced. This was one of the main gripes I had with Wenger during the game, and a move I just couldn’t wrap my head around.
The Spaniard’s ball retention is fantastic, and he excels at keeping possession when under pressure or in tight spaces. With Tottenham constantly pressing this skill was vitally important, and would have allowed us to counter more effectively throughout the second half.
Tomas Rosicky was solid on his introduction, but should have replaced the under-performing Aaron Ramsey rather than Cazorla.
Theo Walcott was another player that deserved a portion of the blame, as he was totally invisible after coming on as a late substitute.
The game looked perfectly set up for his pace to prove the devastating difference, but he was static and ineffectual throughout his time on the pitch.
At the Etihad we had a number of players performing out of their skins, players who were able to prove the difference on the day. After taking the lead against the Premier League champions, we also followed it up with a decisive second goal; a goal that no doubt knocked the wind out of our opponents and left us firmly in control.
We didn’t have those stand-out performers against Tottenham, and we suffered because of it. Once again, the manager is certainly not blameless, but he cannot be held accountable every time the team fails to show up.
As much as it pains me to say this, Spurs were the better side and we didn’t play to our full potential, and were rightly punished for it.