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Arsenal 2-3 Tottenham Hotspur: Spotlight Match Review

The latest renewal of the North London Derby was held at Emirates Stadium between bitter rivals Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur. A 17 year drought for Spurs at Arsenal set the stage for an intriguing comeback that saw the race for the League trophy open up even more.

For Arsenal, manager Arsene Wenger brought the home side out in their familiar 4-2-3-1 formation. Marouane Chamakh occupied his familiar striker role, with Samir Nasri and Andrei Arshavin also serving as targets for playmaker Cesc Fabregas. Bacary Sagna was useful on overlaps with Nasri, especially in the first half.

Harry Redknapp’s squad began the game in a 4-4-1-1, which struggled to gain much offensive momentum in the first half. Attacking midfielder Rafael van de Vaart served as the link to forward Roman Pavlyuchenko. Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon contributed from the wide midfield, while Alan Hutton and Benoit Assou-Ekotto had limited success on runs from the back.

The best first half chances resided with the Gunners, though possession was relatively even. Arsenal’s defensive line held Tottenham to mostly outside shots. A Bale redirection off a van der Vaart corner and a Luka Modric blast from 20 yards were the only two tests that goalkeeper Lukacz Fabianski faced in the first half.

In the 9th minute, Arsenal took advantage of some soft defensive play by Spurs. From his side of the center line, Fabregas lofted a long through pass to a breaking Nasri, being marked by Assou-Ekotto. Goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes showed indecision, and Nasri used a firm touch to get around Gomes. As the ball was teasing the goal line, Nasri got a foot to it, and the ball eased its way past Assou-Ekotto and a sprawling Gomes for the early 1-0 lead.

The play then settled down a bit, but in the 27th minute Arshavin struck a pass towards a streaking Chamakh, and the French forward fought off Younas Kaboul and directed a left foot past Gomes for a comfortable 2-0. As play concluded in the first half, it was obvious that Tottenham was not as crisp as Arsenal. The defensive center midfielders Modric and Jermaine Jenas had failed to contain Fabregas. While the Gunners’ organized attack was less effective, the counterattack had generated a number of opportunities which resulted in the two goal cushion.

Redknapp inserted Jermain Defoe for Lennon after halftime. To place more pressure on Arsenal’s defense, he placed Defoe as the lone striker in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Bale and van der Vaart acted as wings for the attacking midfield line, with Pavlyuchenko falling behind Defoe.

Spurs expectedly came out looking to reenter the conversation. In the 50th minute, Defoe received a lob pass outside the area. He headed it forward, and van der Vaart controlled and set the ball out in front of Bale, who flicked it forward and then knocked it in with the outside of his left foot past Fabianski. That made it a game again at 2-1 Arsenal.

Tottenham’s comeback was facilitated by a costly mistake by the Gunners’ captain. Fabregas raised his arm to protect his face inside the area on a 66th minute van der Vaart freekick. Against Fabregas’ appeals, referee Phil Dowd pointed to the spot. Van der Vaart converted the ensuing penalty, and Arsenal’s lead had evaporated, 2-2.

After relieving Pavlyuchenko with forward Peter Crouch, Redknapp went back to the more conservative 4-4-2 formation. He paired Defoe and Crouch at the front. But for Spurs, it would take another ill-advised Gunner decision to put them on top.

On an 84th minute counter rush, Bale received a right flank pass from van der Vaart. Back Laurent Koscielny tackled late and received a yellow card. Van der Vaart’s free kick was placed perfectly to Kaboul, and the back headed the ball into the net. Tottenham had finally climbed to victory again at Emirates Stadium

This game was influenced most by momentum and uncharacteristically poor play by Arsenal. The Spurs were ready to make an impact after halftime, but that alone would not have been enough to garner even a draw without unforced errors. Arsenal had this game in hand. The door was opened, and Tottenham stepped in and wrestled three points away from a complacent and undisciplined side. Don’t take too much credit away from Spurs though; it takes a good club to turn that gift into victory.

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  1. thomas

    November 21, 2010 at 2:55 am

    errors or not, I think the recent spurs results really eflect on redknapps quality as a manager…

    in the first half, he miscalculated by playing van der vaart off of pav. There was sinply too much of a void between modric and jenas in midfield, and w lennon and bale, the arsenal central midfield was always going to dominate spurs two.

    great adjustment to pull lennon who did arguably nothing all half. This allowed VDV to move a bit deeper and help dictate play. Defoes flick was huge I the first goal.

    also, lets point to the gallas signing. Everyone is giving redknapp tons of plaudits for VDV, but gallas played extremely well today. Smart move w a brittle preferred starting duo of King and Woodgate.

    arsenal played a great first haalf..but nasri, who I would rate as their best player this season quickly saw his influence wain after the first 15 minutes..he seemed to stop coming back to dictate play from a deeper role, and arsenal seemed to lose their dominance.

    arsenal errors and great adjustments from redknapp put spurs in a position to win the match. Credit needs to go to old harry for making numerous adjustments that swung the favor of the mattch to spurs in the second half

    • Andy

      November 21, 2010 at 4:48 pm

      @thomas Nice review of the game and one I would agree with wholeheartedly. Some (mostly Arsenal fans) would argue that Spurs were lucky, Arsenal gave it to them, etc. But your argument that ‘Arry’s changes and adjustments were the difference between the teams is on the money – I would have loved to be a fly on the wall to hear what he said to them in the half-time break. This was truly a game of two halves.

      I have high hopes for this Tottenham team, not just this year in Europe but in the EPL in the next few years.

      • jleau

        November 21, 2010 at 6:49 pm

        I’m a Gooner and Spurs weren’t lucky. The manager and players should expect quality teams to adjust. Wenger and the players did worse than not adjust, they played as if the game was over.

        Arsenal have serious questions to answer.

  2. Neil Talbot

    November 20, 2010 at 11:54 pm

    It is probably to late but your description of the Bale goal is incorrect. Defoe headed the ball onto Van Der Vart who passed it onto Bale who firstly flicked it on with his left foot before passing the ball into the net, again with his left foot.

    • Earl Reed

      November 21, 2010 at 12:10 am

      Thanks for pointing that out Neil. Fixed.

    • Rob

      November 21, 2010 at 12:29 am

      Right you are… that first touch was terrific, by the way. He intentionally put the perfect amount of spin on the ball in order for it to react precisely how he wanted it to, then finished coolly.

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