Arsenal 5-2 Tottenham
FA Premier League 26th February 2012, The Emirates
Battle of North London
The Premier League is renowned as the most exciting in the world. This game, between two of it’s heavyweights, North London rivals Arsenal and Tottenham, certainly lived up to that billing.
Wenger under pressure
Arsenal were suffering a poor season by their high standards.
The summer exits of Cesc Fabregas and Sami Nasri had left the team short of quality and the results had not been as good as expected.
The manager, Arsène Wenger, was under huge pressure from both his own fans and the media after being criticised for not buying any big name replacements for the departed stars.
For the first time in his career at Arsenal, serious questions were being asked as to whether he was still the man to lead the team forward.
Wenger owed a huge amount to star striker Robin Van Persie. The Dutchman had led the team throughout the season and was responsible for over 40% of the goals they had scored. Without his contribution, Wenger would surely have already been dismissed.
Spurs flying high under Harry
In contrast, Tottenham had enjoyed a fantastic season. Managed by Harry Redknapp they were in third position in the Premier League and still with an outside chance of winning the title.
They led Arsenal by ten points and looked likely to finish above their North London rivals in the table for the first time in more than 15 years.
Redknapp had Spurs playing exciting, entertaining football and was widely tipped to be the man to take over the England team, after Fabio Capello had resigned from his post just a few weeks earlier.
Both managers had brilliant squads to pick from. These were after all two of the best teams in the league.
Wenger’s side was as follows; Szczesny in goal, Sagna, Gibbs, Koscielny and Vermaelen in defence. Song, Arteta, Rosicky, Benayoun and Walcott in midfield with their captain and star man Robin Van Persie playing in attack.
Some were surprised to see the likes of Benayoun and Rosicky in the team ahead of established first teamer Gervinho and exciting youngster Oxlade-Chamberlain.
It was, however, one of the first times in the season that Wenger had been able to name his strongest back line after a horrific run of injuries to his defenders.
Tottenham’s team lined up like this; Friedel in goal, a back four of Walker, Assou-Ekotto, King and Kaboul. In midfield Redknapp named Parker, Modric, Kranjcar and Bale. New signing Saha and former Arsenal player Adebayor played up front.
Redknapp had some exciting players to pick from and it was a bold decision to start with two out and out strikers at Arsenal, most teams played a lone striker and five in midfield to try to stifle Arsenal’s passing play.
However, Spurs had nothing to fear, they led their opponents by ten points and were a team thriving under Redknapp’s guidance.
Saha strikes early
The game got underway and it was Tottenham that started the brighter. It didn’t take them long to open the scoring.
An Arsenal attack broke down and Spurs moved the ball forward quickly. Louis Saha was played in by Adebayor and had only Vermaelen blocking his path to goal with Gibbs out of position.
The Frenchman shifted the ball onto his left foot and shot from the edge of the box. Vermaelen got in the way, but only managed to deflect the ball up and over Szczesny and into the goal.
It was hard luck on Arsenal to go behind in such a way, but they had left themselves exposed after pushing too many men forward.
Arsenal responded well to going behind and dominated possession. They forced a couple of half chances, Van Persie missing the best one. The Dutchman should have done better from inside the box but shot just wide with his right foot.
Tottenham continued to threaten on the break and could have doubled their lead had Gareth Bale squared the ball to an unmarked Saha. Instead, he shot from the edge of the box for Szczesny to make a comfortable save. It gets worst for Arsenal – Read more