BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
SUNDAY 1st SEPTEMBER, 2013
ARSENAL 1 (1) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 0 (0)
Referee:- Mr. M. Oliver
Assistants:- Mr. S. Long & Mr. J. Collin
Fourth official:- Mr. J. Moss
Arsenal(4-2-3-1):- Szczesny; Jenkinson, Mertesacker (Capt.), Koscielny, Gibbs; Ramsey, Wilshere (sub Flamini, 43); Walcott (sub Sagna, 90), Rosicky (sub Monreal, 79), Cazorla; Giroud
Subs not used:- Fabianski; Sanogo, Gnabry, Zelalem
Booked:- Rosicky (foul on Walker), Flamini (foul on Rose)
Spurs (4-1-4-1):- Lloris; Walker, Dawson (Capt.), Vertonghen, Rose; Capoue (sub Sandro, 75); Townsend (sub Lamela -no. 33-75mins), Paulinho, Dembele (sub Defoe, 69), Chadli; Soldado
Subs not used:- Friedel; Naughton; Holtby, Sigurdsson
Booked:- Defoe (foul on Walcott), Paulinho
The same old story then.
Despite all those new signings; all the hype regarding Spurs chances, and all the negativity aimed at Arsene Wenger and his side, once again Arsenal were the victors in the North London Derby. Those of you watching on the TV will have found the game unbearable to watch, and I can only assure you that to be at the Emirates Stadium in the presence of the gloating masses is so, so much worse.
Two of Spurs' most recent recruits ( Chiriches and Eriksen) were not present, and Erik Lamela made a brief and promising substitute debut for the last quarter of an hour. Lamela replaced Townsend, and played down the right flank, where he showed pace, and an ability to pass players and find team-mates effectively.
Why and how did we lose, I hear you ask? Well, the solitary goal of the game came after a three man one-touch move came off for the home side. Apart from the goal, the excellent Hugo Lloris kept the opposition at bay, making several crucial saves. It cannot be said that Spurs put the Arsenal keeper Szczesny to the same test.
One again, and bearing in mind there were no radical changes to the Arsenal team, their players were all too aware of the importance of winning this game. Once again, I wonder if the Spurs players were sufficiently educated in this regard.
I also wonder about Andre Villas-Boas's strategy today. Arsenal were set up in the much-favoured 4-2-3-1 formation, and you would expect Spurs to look the same. However, whether by design or not, it was left to Capoue to protect the defence, and Paulinho took a more adventurous role. I call our formation a 4-1-4-1.
I have gone on record previously as saying what a lovely footballer Paulinho is, and I stand by that, but there were times when moves broke down because he tried fancy, rather than simpler football. It's stating the obvious to refer to his Brazilian nationality, and style, but today, he was playing in The Emirates, and not on the beaches of Rio.
Capoue, who suffered what could be a nasty ankle injury towards the end, and Chadli also did not seem to recognise the pace and nature of the game.
In a naturally high tempo start, Andros Townsend won an early Spurs corner, winning a battle against Gibbs in the left back slot. The corner came to nothing though, and very quickly, referee Michael Oliver penalised Capoue for a foul on Rosicky. Cazorla took the kick, and forced a good save from Lloris, diving to his left. From the resulting corner, Giroud headed over.
Arsenal got another free kick when Walcott was fouled just outside the box in he middle. Cazorla took the kick again, and beat the wall with a low shot that passed outside Lloris's right post. Walcott would spend plenty of time coming in from the right flank to support Giroud.
At this stage, Chadli was doing well on the left for Spurs, with one or two decent crosses, one of which tested Szczesny.
Arsenal had a bright start, but Spurs started to get a foothold in the game. Danny Rose sent a lovely pass across the field to Townsend, who sent Walker away ahead of him. Walker got in a powerful cross, but this was cleared. All day Szczesny would not be tested to the same degree as Lloris.
Incidentally, that Spurs move came purely from players who have not just arrived at the club. Spurs began to settle down, and slow the game down, exercising some control. Walker won a ball versus Cazorla, and released Townsend, who had a shot blocked.
Having had a good start, Arsenal had been restrained, but they took the lead in the 23rd minute, with that three man one-touch move. Rosicky was in the middle, and fed Walcott on the right,who crossed to the near post, where Giroud beat Lloris just inside his left-hand post with the one touch. The goal was scored in front of the away support, and therefore doubly excruciating.
Soon after the Arsenal goal, Lloris was having to rescue the defence again, as he raced outside his area to tackle Walcott and enable the ball to be cleared. Dawson was guilty of a poor defensive header, which fell to the feet of Walcott, whose low ball was sent to Ramsey, who scooped his shot well over.
Lloris was again on hand to clear from Walcott, and then Rosicky got the first booking of the game for a foul on Walker. Cazorla was a danger again following poor defensive work, but his effort came to nought.
Paulinho demonstrated fine control in the opposition half, and passed to Townsend, who cut inside and tried a left footed shot, saved quite comfortably.
Wilshere had to go off before the break, and he was replaced by Flamini, back on a free transfer from Milan, and received with ironic cheers by Spurs fans.
Spurs had an early corner in the second half, taken by Kyle Walker and met at the near post by Soldado,whose effort was blocked. Ramsey skewed a shot wide after receiving a ball from the right. Flamini got a yellow for a foul on Danny Rose, but Chadli put his effort well over.
Arsenal had a break through the middle, with Cazorla passing through to Giroud, who hit a good shot, which also took a deflection, demanding an excellent save from Lloris.
At the other end, Dembele fed the ball to Paulinho, who tried a shot, but curved it well wide.
With little over 15 minutes remaining, Capoue went down injured ( not for the first time), and had to be stretchered off. We await X-Rays on that, but if it is a serious injury, this would be a great loss of a promising player for Spurs.
By now, Defoe was on for Dembele, and with Sandro on for Capoue and Lamela for Townsend, Spurs had used their entitlement.Defoe had a shot deflected; saved, then blocked, and Soldado's attempted follow-up was also blocked by the now desperate Arsenal defence.
Lloris made an excellent save from Walcott, and Spurs managed to clear. Lamela took a free kick from the right, and that gave Chadli a chance, which he spurned, firing well over. Lamela had a chance himself,after a chipped pass by Defoe inside the area, but Lamela could get no strength on the shot.
Although we had 6 minutes of added time, and plenty of Spurs pressure, it was all to no avail. The only satisfaction to be drawn was from the fact that the home crowd was baying for the final whistle.
It's first blood then to Arsenal in this season's meetings,and to cap Spurs' pain, they have gone above us in these very early stages, on goals scored.
It is of course a painful feeling leaving The Emirates after a defeat, but it is especially so to go into the International break on such a downer. It didn't help to hear after the game that Gareth Bale's move to Real Madrid has been confirmed, and there were moments when we cried out for the release of such a player. On the bright side, I do think that Lamela is going to offer a similar outlet.
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