Tottenham 2-1 Arsenal: Rating the Arsenal Players in the North London Derby
In both teams' biggest game of the season, Arsenal capitulated to Tottenham by the score of 2-1 at White Hart Lane.
The match epitomized both clubs' respective seasons.
Though the Gunners started composedly and assuredly both in attack and defense, two lapses in concentration resulted in two moments of utterly atrocious defending.
Gareth Bale was allowed to run clear of everyone, and there was no doubt that the Welshman would finish when one-on-one with Wojciech Szczesny.
Just two minutes later, Arsenal embarrassed themselves further by going to sleep and letting Aaron Lennon run in behind, and he had the easiest of tasks to poke into an empty net after Szczesny misjudged the winger's run.
As they have all season, the Gunners gave themselves a sharp uphill climb in the second half, and it looked for a time like they might actually be able to get back into the game. Per Mertesacker scored his second ever goal for Arsenal (both against Spurs) off a Theo Walcott free-kick, and Arsenal had new life.
But, unlike in their historic comeback a year ago, the Gunners did not come close to scoring five unanswered goals to put the game away. Instead, Tottenham held very firm at the back, Arsenal never really threatened to score and are now seven points behind their rivals at this late stage.
Let's break down each Arsenal player's performance on the day.
Lukas Podolski: 6.5
Podolski should have had much more time to make something happen, but Arsene Wenger inexplicably waited until the 77th minute to bring on the German for Mikel Arteta.
The German looked threatening immediately, nearly running through on goal at one point and unluckily having a searing volley blocked by the exceptional Michael Dawson.
Tomas Rosicky: 7
Why the Czech does not get more playing time is utterly beyond me. Rosicky instantly added positivity and energy to Arsenal's midfield, and was the main force driving the Gunners forward late in the match. He should start against Bayern Munich in 10 days time.
Wojciech Szczesny: 5.5
The Pole did not have very many saves to make, but foundered when spontaneously called upon.
While the center-backs should bear most of the blame for Lennon's winner, Szczesny was totally caught out, and made it extremely easy for the winger to take the ball around him and place it into the empty net.
Carl Jenkinson: 6
I remember seeing Jenkinson during his first couple games for Arsenal last season and remarking about how well the lad could cross a ball.
While the boundless energy that also characterizes his game does not seem to have deserted him, Jenkinson was not much help when it came to putting the ball into the box.
He did make a few good runs down the right flank and managed to not make any major errors on the defensive end, but Jenkinson showed once again that he is not fit to start ahead of Bacary Sagna.
Per Mertesacker: 5.5
Sure, Mertesacker scored a goal to at least nominally get Arsenal back into the game, but his contribution up front was far outweighed by his errors at the back.
The towering Teuton did make some good challenges and read the game well at times, but he was ill-equipped to deal with the searing pace of Tottenham's strikers and wingers.
Why Mertesacker was played in such a high line eludes me, but he failed to track either Bale or Lennon and ultimately played a large part in losing Arsenal the game.
Thomas Vermaelen: 5
Everything said above about Mertesacker can essentially be echoed about Vermaelen, except the part about goalscoring.
If Mertesacker was more at fault for Spurs' first, Vermaelen was totally culpable on their second, going to sleep for just enough time to let Aaron Lennon race past him and make it 2-0.
The Belgian had defended so well before the goals started flowing that his lapse is rather inexplicable. But there, again, is the difference between a decent defender and a great defender.
Nacho Monreal: 6.5
Monreal made very few negative contributions to the game and generally helped Arsenal get forward, especially in the final minutes when every player was needed in attacking areas.
He suffered a bit from lack of support from Santi Cazorla and let Aaron Lennon get the better of him once or twice, but it was a generally decent outing from Arsenal's newest signing.
Mikel Arteta: 5
Every time I try to criticize Mikel Arteta, someone pulls out a statistic that shows an incredibly high pass completion percentage, which supposedly illustrates his value as a holding midfielder.
But no stat can convince me that Arteta was an asset to Arsenal today. He just was not. With seemingly no urge in driving Arsenal forward, the Spaniard was atypically a liability.
He fully deserved to be substituted—the switch just should have come sooner.
Aaron Ramsey: 7
Before you see that bold number and immediately decide to scroll down and berate me in the comments, have a little read.
It is, and always has been, extremely easy for Arsenal fans to use Ramsey as a scapegoat for poor performances. There are many to choose from today, but the Welshman is not one of them.
Was he exceptionally good? No. Did he score the winner, or provide the assist for it? No. But did he work harder than any other Arsenal player in two different positions to keep the comeback alive? Absolutely.
He completed 94 percent of his passes (via EPLIndex), and was constantly bombing forward when deployed as a right back, a position that he has no right to play, despite little help from Theo Walcott.
Ramsey certainly did not have the best of games, but he was better than the rest of his teammates.
Jack Wilshere: 6
By his usual standards, Wilshere had a very sub-par game in the type of fixture where one would expect him to step up.
There were the usual mazy runs through tight spaces in the Tottenham defense, but for what purpose? Seldom, if ever, did Wilshere's little passes and dribbles actually produce anything, and he was never able to break down Spurs' resolute back line.
In exactly the sort of situation that seemed primed for the Englishman's talents, he performed well below the level expected by now.
Santi Cazorla: 6
Considering Santi Cazorla's outstanding display against Aston Villa last weekend, it was shocking to see him be so marginalized by Tottenham's defense.
Perhaps some of the reason for the Spaniard's isolation lies in the fact that he was started on the left wing by Arsene Wenger in a bid to retain more of the ball. Well, it didn't work. Instead of drifting inside to devastating effect like he did against Villa, Cazorla played tame balls back to the midfield.
Theo Walcott: 5
Talk about being marginalized. The good news for Walcott is that he completed every one of his passes, according to EPLIndex. The bad news? He only attempted 12 during the entire game.
That's right, a dozen. It is extremely difficult to remember a single meaningful contribution that Walcott made to the game, other than the free-kick delivery that met Mertesacker's head.
He was a bit better from set pieces, putting a handful of decent deliveries into the box from corners and coming close with a free-kick, but that is not the reason why he is in the team, and is Arsenal's highest-paid player.
Olivier Giroud: 4.5
I really hate to agree with Piers Morgan on anything, especially considering the foamy, vitriolic bile that the Arsenal "fan" was spewing on Fox Soccer before and after the game. But he is right when he says that Olivier Giroud is only a good striker when pitted against mediocre teams.
The Frenchman is a decent target man at the moment, but that's about it. One would expect more than a single shot on target from Arsenal's starting striker in a game like this, but Tottenham's defense neutralized him from start to finish.
For Giroud, and Arsenal, it was a game to forget, but one that is merely indicative of more significant issues that threaten the club's participation in the Champions League next season.
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