Arsenal 5-2 Spurs | A few thoughts 24 hours on

I’m a little late to the party with this piece, so I’ll dispense with the regular match report format as I’m sure everyone’s seen the incidents by now. I do, however, have a few observations to make after this glorious victory.

Emirates was rocking!
After a difficult, frustrating season this result was the perfect tonic. To beat Spurs by a scrappy goal would’ve been reason enough to leap around like excited children, but to get to do it five times after the game looked lost was amazing. Anybody who calls our place the library is clearly a tool.

We showed excellent character and spirit
This game reminded me so much of the 5-3 victory at Chelsea. Not only because of the similar scoreline, but also that we were poor at the back and fell behind to some slack defending. On that occasion as well as yesterday we responded very well. In contrast to the recent lack of drive and spirit against Sunderland and Milan, we showed great desire and belief to get back into the game and eventually claim victory.

Our wonderful attacking is undermined by some seriously inadequate defending
Enough’s been said already about how shaky we were at the back yesterday, but what hasn’t been mentioned is how little Spurs had to do to create good opportunities. It wasn’t as if Bale danced his way through our defence or Modric played any world-class through balls. Our positioning was so abysmal that Spurs got through us with straightforward passing. Witness Adebayor’s simple pass to Saha who was in acres for the first goal.

Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League

Arsenal celebrate a fantastic result

Theo’s performance perfectly symbolised Arsenal’s inconsistent season
My friends and I noted that with Arshavin gone, the more ‘angry’ regulars at the Emirates needed a new focal point for their ire. Theo seemed to be the target of choice. The criticism of him was pretty well justified given his lackadaisical and mediocre performances recently, and he hasn’t helped himself by reportedly demanding a new contract worth £90k a week. However, when dealing with a confidence player like Theo the worst thing to do is undermine his confidence even further and he proceeded to have a shocker in the first half as the boo boys vented their frustrations on him.

Seemingly buoyed by our quick comeback though, Theo was a different animal in the second half. He worked much harder and took his two goals brilliantly. Suddenly he looked like the player everyone hoped he could be, full of confidence and a threat every time we broke. Crap one minute, brilliant the next — a bit like Arsenal recently.

Here’s what I mean. Take our last five fixtures:

Blackburn (W) 7-1
Sunderland (W) 2-1
Milan (L) 0-4
Sunderland (L) 0-2
Spurs (W) 5-2

So in chronological order we’ve been brilliant, good, crap, crap, brilliant. If that’s not the definition of an inconsistent team I don’t know what is. And if Theo’s not the definition of an inconsistent player I don’t know who is. Let’s hope that starts to change now.

Rosicky, Benayoun and Arteta showed how important experience is
Rosicky may have got most nods for Man of the Match, but Benayoun wasn’t far behind in my opinion. I was very impressed with his workrate and determination and it shows how crucial it is to have a few wise old heads out there who won’t panic or throw in the towel at 2-0 down.

A pressing game yields results — we need to do it all the time
For our fifth goal, Walcott and Arteta harried and pressed Assou-Ekotto and King in their own half. They were in their faces and didn’t give them time to build an attack, forcing King to lump it anywhere. Song collected the loose ball, played in Theo and he rifled home number five.

Why can’t we do that all the time? Sunderland did it very effectively against us last week, but pressing is not just for defensive teams. Barcelona do it every time they lose possession and do it well. That’s what we need to do all the time in every game, not just when we’re 4-2 ahead and the adrenaline is pumping.

Conclusion — great comeback, but let’s not get carried away
This excellent result means the battle for not only 4th but maybe even 3rd appears to be on. However, now that the euphoria and excitement has died down a bit, a note of caution must be made and here’s why — when we go toe to toe with teams who attack us we are capable of outscoring them, but teams who park the bus are still our achilles heel.

I mentioned the Chelsea game earlier. They left huge gaps at the back as they piled forward and we took advantage very well. Similarly Spurs played two up front yesterday and their wide men Krancjar and Bale were as defensively effective as Arshavin used to be. As such we had room to do our stuff and looked good.

But when teams put 10 men behind the ball and deny us that space, we find it harder. We countered to great effect yesterday, but if teams like Sunderland hardly attack you there’s no opportunity to counter. It’s how we handle the games against unambitious, defensive sides that will determine our fate.

So it’s Liverpool next and they’ll have a go at Anfield which will mean there’ll be space for us to play. With the confidence boost and injection of self belief yesterday gave us, hopefully we can produce a similar performance and close the gap on Spurs even further.

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  1. DanS

    This is what I worry about, they looked great. Yes that’s a worry to me because as you’ve pointed out so well, they could look like crap for the next two weeks. Most people acknowledge we have a serious deadwood problem, a schoolyard defense and stubborn, sometimes ineffectual manager. By occasionally showing great quality, I’m afraid the changes that need to be made won’t be because Arsene can just point back to the few brilliant games. Dipshit Gazidis is already calling on fans to keep the faith for a top four. There is a world of difference in aspirations between trophies and a top four finish, I don’t think they get that. I like that Arsene is philosophical, I am too. I know its just a game, and in the big scheme of things its meaningless. But, Arsene’s not a university professor, and the big scheme of things don’t matter when your job is to actually win the league and trophies.

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    • Gooner Steve

      I know what you mean. I glanced at a headline somewhere hinting that this result has reaffirmed Arsene’s faith in his policy and the direction the club is going. That is worrying.

      As great as the result was, it would be counter-productive if it papers over what are some pretty big cracks and Wenger thinks it justifies him handing out three year contracts to under-achievers like Djourou.

      There is still a lot wrong at Arsenal.

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  2. Rahul

    Perfect. Arsenal should not get carried away, but the showed amazing mental strength to come back into the game.

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  3. BigDave

    I suspect that a lot of the inconsistency this season has been brought about by defensive injuries, so let’s hope we can get them all fit! Similarly, Rosicky hasn’t been himself since he got injured but now he seems to be getting it all back. As for Theo, his flick to RvP in the first half, in the build-up to Sagna’s eventual goal, must have given him confidence, it certainly was a turning point for him. But he is so fast that sometimes his very presence scares opponents.

    As for Arsene, I think without him, given our resources etc, we would be a mid-table team. It’s all his own fault for spoiling the fans so they want more!! 😉

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  4. DanS

    I’m waiting for the headline this week that Rosicky has proven his worth and has been handed a lifetime contract, and a choice parking spot. All because he finally scored a goal.

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  5. tool

    still a library

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  6. a yid

    lets be honest my team were utter rubbish in all areas of the park…..with a left back who just had a groin op and bale who is a left winger on the right handside which let with let theo have the freedom of being totally unmarked in the 2nd half and midfield that went missing a player in luka who sat far to deep we have a striker who a week ago was world class and this week blue square prem…mr king looked so off the pass my gram can turn faster….it pain me to say it cos i hate you lot and being on this site alone has raised the blood pressure but unlike so many im not gonna hide im not gonna give it the large all im gonna say is we were lucky to score 2 and we were lucky not to let in more and when you play a set up like we did we were asking for trouble……..long way to go and i look forward to the run in…enjoy your dvd fuckers we will bounce back and when we do be ready…..COYS

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  7. Chris

    Theo Walcott provided one of the fastest turnarounds in football supporters history yesterday at the Emirates. He went from villain to hero during the match against Tottenham, ending the game with two goals to his name and a standing ovation which looked unlikely before half time when Arsenal fans were calling for him to be subbed.

    No one can deny that Walcott has not performed to his usual levels this season yet many people forget he is only 22 years old and still learning his trade. Many point to his 6 years at Arsenal and cannot see the development in his game. Stats have been paraded around recently regarding is crossing which highlight a factor no one seems to remember about Walcott, he is not a winger; he is a forward and has been forced to play as a winger by Arsenal.

    When Walcott signed for Arsenal many journalists and fans made comparisons to Thierry Henry and proposed that he could take over from the great Frenchman when he eventually left Arsenal. When he signed in 2006, how many people predicted that the striker from Southampton would be employed primarily as a winger for a top Premiership club?

    At Southampton, Theo’s pace and finishing ability made him a great threat for the then Championship club and during his time as a regular England Under 21 international, Walcott grabbed a number of important goals when being employed as a striker. Yet during his 6 years at Arsenal, I cannot remember one match where Walcott has played as an outright striker.

    For me, now is the time for Walcott to play as a striker and it is up to Arsene Wenger to realise this and play him in his rightful position. Recent comparisons between Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is like comparing chalk and cheese. ‘The Ox’ started life as a central midfielder due to his technical ability whereas Theo started as a striker due to his pace and finishing. To compare them as wingers, therefore, is unfair as it’s easier for a central midfielder with bags of technical ability to play well out wide than it is for a striker turned winger famed only for his pace.

    Wenger needs to pair Walcott and Robin Van Persie up front, utilise Walcott’s pace and ability to stretch defences to give more time and space for players like Rosicky, Van Persie and Aaron Ramsey. Walcott has served his time as a winger and matured immensely during his 6 year stint at Arsenal. Now its time to fulfill his potential as a forward in order to help Arsenal reach their ambitions this season and show the country the real Theo Walcott.

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  8. Shanzuman

    A valid observation Chris and agree with your well written analysis. I still have a little concern re Theo though and that he is slow to gain that drive and confidence to develop his full potential. Once he is over this maturity ”slowness” he will be a force to reckon with perhaps after yesterday he will be that force. But not yet for young Oxlade he has much to learn at this level which ever position, winger or in mid-field.

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