Saturday, November 17, 2012

The 17 Minute DVD: 13 Thoughts on Arsenal 5 Spurs 2

Well, what to make of that? Quite a game of football, and another classic match in a derby that seems to produce more goals than any other I can think of. Thoughts as follows:

* If you had told me after ten minutes that we were going to win this one 5-2, I have to admit, I'd have been skeptical, even after last year's shenanigans. Tottenham were all over us in the opening stages, and simply overwhelmed us at times. After a goal was (correctly) ruled out for offside they sliced us open again almost immediately, with Szcz producing a good stop that Adebayor was quickest to react to. And while we began to pull ourselves back into it, Spurs looked good for a second until about the 17th minute.

* The reason for Tottenham's early dominance was relatively clear. Villas-Boas sprung a surprise by playing 4-4-2, and, in practice, the formation was pretty similar to that which MUFC employed against us so successfully two weeks ago. Defoe dropped off a bit, and was attempting to do to Arteta what Rooney had done to our metronome at Old Trafford - harry him high up the pitch, and thus stop us from building out play from the back. Moreover, Spurs seemed content to largely knock the ball directly to their forwards, or to Lennon and Bale, who would then come forward as a four and overwhelm our defence.

* Now, this worked well for the opening few minutes, but this was an incredibly direct way of going about things. Villas-Boas may have planned to just try and stun us during the opening stages, and then hold on for a result. So, I don't necessarily think that Spurs would have won without the sending off. I don't think Defoe would have shackled Arteta as effectively as Rooney, and I also think that, eventually, we would overwhelmed them in midfield. Moreover, we saw last year in the 5-3 against Chelsea that we like playing against Villas-Boas's high line in defence. We wouldn't have won 5-2, but it seems fanciful to me that Spurs could have kept up their initial period of dominance for the entirety of the game.

* Anyway, whatever might have been was abruptly ended when Adebayor flew into a ridiculous tackle on Santi Cazorla. On first glance it wasn't clear just how ridiculous this challenge was, but it was clearly a red card, and an utterly absurd thing to do. For me, Adebayor has always had the ability to be a world class attacking player. He has strength, is good in the air, can link up play well, and can finish. However, he's clearly a self-obsessed moron. You do not change clubs with the rapidity that Adebayor has if you have the "mental strength" that top players need. Our fans in particular seem to really wind him up, and it's hard to imagine that he would have made a similarly stupid challenge in any other game. So thanks, Ade.

* After any red card, it's important to score as quickly as possible, before the opposing team have time to reorganize and shut the game down. It was great to see us do just that, and I was particularly overjoyed to see Per get his first goal for the club in such a big game. Per was at fault for the Spurs goal, by stepping up at the wrong moment, and leaving space behind him for Adebayor to exploit. So it was great for one our better performers this season to atone for his fault, and put us ahead with a monster header - one that reminded me greatly of Sagna's goal during the 5-2 last season.

* After that came one of the most joyful periods of football that I've witnessed for some time. For about twenty-two minutes we absolutely battered Spurs, who completely, and hilariously fell apart. Any credit you give Villas-Boas for the way he initially organized Spurs must be tempered by the fact they looked all at sea after they conceded the first goal. I had fancied Podolski to score before the game, and he did - another Ljungberg-esque effort inside the area, and Giroud added a glorious third through a combination of skill and desire, outmuscling two Tottenham defenders to slide the ball home gloriously past Lloris. At that point, if the ref hadn't blown for half-time, we could have added another ten goals - we were seriously that dominant.

* The importance of getting those goals before half-time was clear once the second half started, because  Villas-Boas made some clever substitutions, and tactical adjustments, which put us on the back foot for the opening stages of the half. Tottenham had little to lose at this point, and that was a palpable edge to the match on our part. Reading Zonal Marking, it seems that Tottenham's shift to a 3-4-1-1 in the second half, rather than the 4-4-1 that they had played in the closing stages of the second half, did cause us some difficulties, with Tottenham again attempting to overload us with direct, attacking play, and Dempsey seeking to limit the influence of Arteta at the back.

* Once we had weathered this opening storm, it became clear that there was an ocean of space behind both Lennon and Bale, and Cazorla's goal reflected this, with Podolski driving down the wing on the left, before switching the ball to the right flank for Cazorla to slot home. Cazorla deserved his goal for a wonderful performance that was aided by the extra space he could find against ten men, and he was, on balance, the man of the match. We need a tactical system that gives him time and space on the ball, because he destroys teams when he has this.

* After our fourth went in, I thought we could relax, and perhaps even look forward to a real tonking - but, of course, we then conceded. It was very disappointing goal - Bale was giving about fifteen minutes on the ball, in which he advanced into a dangerous position, picked his spot, and scored. It's disappointing to see Szcz concede from another long-range effort but Bale is clinical if given that amount of time. It worries me that even at 4-1 up, we still didn't have the discipline to stop Spurs from scoring.

* Indeed, there was then an extremely nervy period, and a profound, debilitating sense of deja vu. Thankfully, somewhere around 77-80 minute mark, we woke up and realised that we were playing against 10 men, at home, and 4-2 up, and so there was no need to let the game be as stretched as it was. The introduction of Ramsey helped us put our foot on the ball, and slow things down. And once we took the sting out of the game, Tottenham gave up, and we got a fifth via Theo, after some marvelous work from the Ox.

* The game was so odd, in many ways, that it's hard to produce a rational analysis. What I will say is that almost all our attacking players played well. Theo, Poldi, Giroud, and Cazorla all tore Tottenham apart at times, and all produced world class moments of attacking ability to produce the five goals we scored.  Elsewhere, however, we were a bit more suspect. Neither Wilshere nor Arteta really stamped their authority on the game, despite our one man advantage. And our defence was decidedly ropy. Vermaelen does not look comfortable at all shoved out on the left, Mertesacker made a rare mistake for the first goal, and Szcz hardly radiated confidence after being out for so long.

* Theo has now shown that, without a doubt, he is worth a new contract. I really wish the club would take into account the cost, time and effort it will take to replace him, versus the cost of giving him a new deal. If he is to leave in January, which I stil think is likely, we are effectively losing out best attacking player this year for what will be probably next to nothing. Also, a new deal for Sagna please.

* So, what to make of it all? It was a thrilling match, and, at times, it was utterly glorious. We showed that, in the right circumstances, we have the attacking talent to rip teams apart. Giroud is now starting to stamp his authority on games, and Cazola showed again that he has the potential to be a huge player for us. We were aided by the sending off, but I have the feeling that we would have won anyway. The sending off simply ensured that we would win by a large scoreline. Hopefully, we can build on the confidence this game should produce going into our must-win game against Montpellier on Wednesday.

And, if nothing else, thank goodness for Spurs. Never change.



Anonymous said...

Tottenham would have rollicked us if Adebayor the mongrel didn't get sent off. I still worry. The opening 20 minutes was one way traffic. They were an inch away from being 2-0 up.

We have issues.

Anonymous said...

No doubt the Bg scored the equaliser. I have doubts about his mobility.When Bale scored he was statues like.Against stronger teams,he could be a time bomb.

Anonymous said...

It's a disgrace that we need a muppet like Webb to save us by making a terrible decision we would rightly protest against if it had gone against us

Anonymous said...

A great win and hopefully a morale-boosting victory to take into the Montpellier game.

On the subject of Theo, I totally believe he is going. In his interviews on the subject, he carefully positions the onus onto the Boss and the Board. Always. Whilst making it 'clear' that he'd like to stay. This is the same kind of stuff RVP and SN used to say. He will be sold to Chelsea in the Jan window where he will play as number one back up to Torres and also as an alternative to their three supporting AMs. It is very disappointing.


Goonerboy said...

Yeah --- hard to see theo staying now. Really disappointing.