Arsenal vs. Tottenham Hotspur: 6 Things We Learned
Heading into the match, all the impetus seemed to be with Spurs. Arsenal were well-beaten against Aston Villa in the opening game of the season, while Tottenham saw off Crystal Palace and Swansea City without breaking a sweat.
But in the North London derby, everything goes out the window.
Arsenal and Spurs have an incredible rivalry that dates all the way back to the early part of the 20th Century, when Arsenal moved from South to North London, annoying their new neighbours. Since then they have played 174 times: No top-flight rivalry has contributed more goals.
The game started at a frantic pace, with both sides tearing into each other. Spurs dominated possession without really hurting Arsenal, before Giroud scored—and in many terms they bossed the match.
For once, the Gunners finished on the losing end of possession. Andre Villas-Boas' Spurs team recorded 57 percent possession and more shots on goal. It was the disciplined Gunners, however, that deservedly claimed all three points.
Here, Bleacher Report offers six things we learned from the match.
Arsene Wenger 1-0 Andre Villas-Boas
Everyone was watching to see how this newly assembled Spurs team would deal with an Arsenal side that have been together for the past couple of seasons.
Today, it was an experience and cohesion that overcame youth and exuberance.
The same could be said of the battle in the dugouts.
Arsene Wenger, beginning his 18th season with the Gunners, outsmarted his Portuguese rival. Villas-Boas joined Spurs last season and is still establishing his philosophy at Spurs. The fact that eight players have joined this summer does make that job any easier.
Wenger has suffered huge criticism from Arsenal fans this summer for not signing players. But he is wise and knows that too many players at once could destabilize all his previous good work.
Today, Arsenal's side were compact at the back and suffocated most of Spurs' attacks. Their midfield overcame Spurs' powerful midfield through guile and determination.
The two managers surely shared a bottle of wine after the game—and there is much that Villas-Boas, for all his potential, could learn from the great man.
Defending Is an Art Form
The old adage that "strikers win matches but defenders win leagues" was more than apparent at the Emirates Stadium.
Spurs had only allowed 12 shots on their goal prior to the derby—the lowest in the Premier League. The Lilywhites were praised for their solidity while Arsenal were ripped to pieces for their ramshackle performance against Aston Villa in the opening game of the season.
Today it was the Gunners' defense that called all the shots and won the game.
Carl Jenkinson started off shakily but grew into the game, as did Kieran Gibbs. The real heroes for the Gunners were Wojciech Szczesny, Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny. These three players kept Roberto Soldado quiet all game and organized the defense perfectly.
They provided the foundation for all that was good about the Gunners and deserve their praise.
Highly Mobile Teams Are King in the Premier League
There can be little doubt that team shapes and tactics have become more flexible in the last couple of decades. Highly mobile and flexible players who can shift shape, tempo and position over the course of a match—never mind a season—have now become the norm.
Tottenham's new-look midfield containing Mousa Dembele, Paulinho and Etienne Capoue are one of the most mobile and adaptable triumvirates in the Premier League. However, it was Arsenal that set the standard for a three-man middle in England.
Over the last couple of seasons, Wenger's midfield three have overrun unsuspecting opponents to the extent that 4-4-2 has become impossible to use against them.
Jack Wilshere, before he was replaced by Mathieu Flamini, Aaron Ramsey and Tomas Rosicky struggled to come to terms with Spurs' midfield power. However, Spurs most definitely struggled to deal with Arsenal's pace.
Time and time again little Rosicky and Ramsey would take the breaking ball and announce yet another lightning Arsenal attack. They got their just rewards on one such attack, when Theo Walcott's near-post cross set up Giroud to open and finish the scoring.
Arsene Knows Best
Before the match, Arsene Wenger warned Villas-Boas and Tottenham that losing Gareth Bale would have a "negative impact" on their team. He also warned of the danger of signing too many players, because it would "unbalance a little bit the stability" of his squad.
Yahoo Sports had a correspondent present at the pre-match press conference.
It has a negative impact when you lose your best players, always. Because you are perceived as well by your fans [for] a lack of ambition, by the rest of the squad, they look for strength in their team.
We have gone through that process consistently and it demands of course always a mental adjustment, again, to keep your ambition alive.
There is a technical risk when you buy more than three players always because you unbalance a little bit the stability of your squad.
We will see how well they integrate and how well they will do. It is very difficult to predict that.
The performance of both teams would suggest that Le Prof was right on both counts.
£104 Million to Make Up 1 Point Might Not Work
To say that Tottenham Hotspur have invested heavily would be an understatement.
So far in this transfer window—more players may join before Monday's deadline—Spurs have spent £104.7 million on eight players. They have broken the club transfer record three times and they have signed real quality.
The truth, however, for Spurs fans, chairman Daniel Levy and Villas-Boas is that these eight players will take time to integrate into the team. Although they will improve the side, and it is no exaggeration to suggest that Spurs will be title challengers in two to three seasons, they will continue to fight for a place in the top four this term.
On this evidence, Arsenal might just pip them to fourth yet again.
Olivier Giroud: Born Again
The Frenchman did not have a stellar debut season with the Gunners. He even found himself left out of the team on occasion as Wenger thought he was coping poorly with the pressure of playing for a top club.
His Premier League goals return of eight in 34 games was poor, to say the least. That being said, his average of 3.1 shots per game is decent and shows off-the-ball awareness.
Giroud lacks pace, an international-quality first touch and possesses no real creative vision. His lack of vision can be seen in only one key pass per game and just 0.3 dribbles per game last term. Considering the Arsenal's style of play and ability to break quickly and get behind teams, these returns are poor. His pass completion percentage of only 64 percent aligns him with Stoke City more than Arsenal.
He does, however, possess a fearsome physical presence.
The Premier League is an incredibly tough league to acclimatize to and one must give Giroud credit for finishing strongly after starting so badly.
So far this term, the big Frenchman has scored three goals in three games and is on fire.
If Giroud can improve upon any of these offensive statistics he will become the striker Arsenal needs.
Bonus: Spurs Will Miss Gareth Bale After Real Madrid Confirm £85m Capture
Bale has officially and finally joined Real Madrid in an £85 million deal according to the BBC.
Last season, Bale scored more goals from outside the box than any other player in Europe.
Against Arsenal, Spurs struggled to penetrate a disciplined Arsenal backline and really could have done with a player with an eye for goal from outside the box.
They simply did not have the guile to break down the Gunners' defense. As attack after attack crashed upon a stern Arsenal wall, the game was crying out for a Bale screamer.
They will face similar tests this season and need to find goals from midfield somewhere.