This season there’s been a dramatic change in the mentality of North London’s fiercest rivals. In the past, Tottenham Hotspur was always the underachievers, the club who promised so much in the big matches but always flattered to deceive. And now with Tottenham’s resurgence under Harry Redknapp this season where they have beaten the likes of Inter Milan, Arsenal and came within a whisker of defeating Chelsea.
Contrast the Tottenham and Arsenal matches during the past 24 hours and you’ll see the remarkable difference. Tottenham was full of confidence, pushing the current Premier League title holders to the brink and creating chance after mouthwatering chance. Arsenal, meanwhile, was a limp corpse unable to mount a serious attack. And when they attempted to do so, they were so predictable, had such a poor final ball and were easily cancelled out by Manchester United’s defense. The back four for the Red Devils resembled a cauldron at times with Arsenal unable to penetrate the walls time after time.
It makes you wonder how different an Arsenal side under the tutelage of Harry Redknapp would perform. The cockney manager seems to do a better job of getting the most out of his players during the big occasions. Arsene Wenger’s side, meanwhile, is like a wet mop. Short of ideas. Shooting hopeful shots from outside the area as they fizz way past the goal. They even made a poor performance by Manchester United look decent. And that’s saying a lot during a very sloppy game with 53 misplaced passes.
Manchester United looked strong in the back but lacked the skill to keep possession of the ball in midfield. But after United knocked the ball in the back of the net from an inventive Park Ji Sung header, it seemed that the Red Devils were walking their way to winning all three points. Arsenal failed to stretch Sir Alex Ferguson’s side. Even with the late introduction of Robin van Persie, Cesc Fabregas and Theo Walcott, Arsenal still ran into the brickwall of United’s defense. If only Wenger had been more adventurous in his team selection by employing a 4-4-2 with van Persie starting up front alongside Chamakh, things may have been different.
But they weren’t. And it’s back to the drawing board for Arsenal. It’s a shame that so few players on Arsenal’s side Monday failed to do what was necessary to break down Manchester United. Arshavin was weak, so too was Sagna and Song. Clichy and Chamakh, meanwhile, looked off their game. The only bright spot was Wojciech Szczesny, which is a worrying sign when your goalkeeper is the best performer on their side.
In the matches that make a statement of intent, here are the North London club’s results so far this season:
- Arsenal: Lost against Man United, Chelsea and Spurs. Drew Liverpool. Beat Man City. Played 5, Won 1, Lost 3, Drawn 1. Total: 4 points
- Tottenham: Lost against Man United. Drew Man City and Chelsea. Beat Arsenal and Liverpool. Played 5, Won 2, Lost 1, Drawn 2. Total: 8 points
Interestingly, Arsenal have lost 10 and drawn one of their last 11 games against Man Utd and Chelsea in all competitions, scoring only five goals.
Of course, if you look at the Premier League table, it’s Arsenal sitting five points above Tottenham, not the other way around. But Tottenham will take away a lot of confidence in the near-win against Chelsea, while Arsenal will need to recompose themselves after a demoralizing defeat.
In a match where Arsenal had a perfect chance to make a statement in the Premier League against a Manchester United side that is not firing on all cylinders, Arsenal yet again was unable to raise their game to the next level. It’s a familiar story from Arsene Wenger’s men and it’ll come as a crushing blow after a season which has thus far generated bright sparks of hope.