Tottenham Hotspur vs. Arsenal: 6 Things We Learned from the North London Derby

Willie GannonSenior Writer IMarch 16, 2014

Tottenham Hotspur vs. Arsenal: 6 Things We Learned from the North London Derby

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    Matt Dunham/Associated Press

    Arsenal beat Tottenham Hotspur in the North London derby after Tomas Rosicky's thunderous goal after just 72 seconds was enough to see off the Gunners' high-spending rivals.

    Heading into the match, Tim Sherwood wanted his team to give a reaction after sobering defeats to Chelsea and Benfica. Arsenal were beaten against FC Bayern Munich in the Champions League midweek and also needed to bounce back. Liverpool's 3-0 destruction of Manchester United at Old Trafford also meant that both sides needed to win to keep their seasons alive.

    Spurs, so badly out of form, needed a performance as much as a win, and Arsenal needed to keep their North London rivals at arm's length.

    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 neighbors. Since then they have played 174 times, and no top-flight rivalry has featured more goals.

    The game started at a frantic pace, with Tottenham tearing into the Gunners, but it was Arsenal who drew early blood when Rosicky's tremendous shot found the inside of the far post from the right-hand side of the box. It was a truly exceptional goal from the 33-year-old Czech international.

    For the second time this season against Spurs, the Gunners finished on the losing end of possession. Andre Villas-Boas' Spurs team recorded 57 per cent possession in September and more shots on goal. Today, Sherwood's team recorded 59 per cent possession and more shots on goal.

    However, once again, it was the disciplined Gunners that claimed all three points.

    Here, Bleacher Report offers six things we learned from the match.

     

Tim Sherwood Has a Long Way to Go Before He's Arsene Wenger

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    Tim Sherwood, the least experienced manager in the Premier League, has a long, long way to go before he will be as good as Arsene Wenger, the most experienced manager in the English top flight.

    The Spurs boss, managing in only his 19th game as a gaffer, went into battle against the legendary Frenchman who was taking charge for the 999th time as Arsenal boss.

    For the most part, Sherwood's team were far better than Wenger's, but there is no doubting that the Arsenal man will be happier with the result.

    The ex-Blackburn Rovers captain is still trying to impose his footballing philosophy at Spurs, and he should take the chance to learn from the great Frenchman when they share a glass of wine after the game.

    One of the reasons that Wenger has been so successful as a manager is that his teams have bought into his philosophy so completely. They have a fundamental belief in their system and that Wenger's way is the right way to win matches.

    One common misconception is that Wenger is so good because he has been given time at Arsenal.

    Nothing could be further from the truth.

    Wenger has been given time at Arsenal because he has been so good.

    Sherwood should take his short time with Wenger and learn as much as he can; it will serve him well as he embarks upon his managerial career.

Spurs Won the Tactical Battle, but Arsenal Won the War

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    Back in September, Tottenham dominated possession and the game, but were undone by Olivier Giroud's solitary strike. The North London derby today was an incredibly similar affair.

    Spurs bossed the game completely, leaving Arsenal with just 41 percent possession, their lowest total of the entire season.

    Tim Sherwood learned from his tactical mistake in the FA Cup, where he used a 4-4-2 against Wenger's fluent 4-2-3-1 formation. Spurs were outplayed in the all-important high ground of central midfield and were easily second best in the one sided game.

    Today, Sherwood went with a 4-2-3-1. His team lined up man-for-man and won the vast majority of their own personal battles. In the run up to the game he called for his team to compete and show some real "blood and thunder," as per the Metro.

    The Spurs defense pushed up with his midfield to squeeze the Gunners in midfield and it worked to a great extent until they began to tire in the second period. This was hardly surprising considering many Spurs players played in the 3-1 loss to Benfica on Thursday night.

    According to WhoScored.com, Spurs had 63 percent possession in the first half as they forced the pace. Arsenal had their defense to thank on more than one occasion as they kept Spurs from getting a single shot on goal during this period.

    Over the course of the entire match, Spurs had 17 shots on goal, but only had two on target. 

    Spurs had all the ball in the game and peppered Arsenal's box with crosses and shots. Wojciech Szczesny, however, did not have a meaningful save to make. 

    There is no doubting that Spurs were the better team over 90 minutes, but they did not have the cutting edge that Arsenal had.

    That, ultimately, is what separated the teams and is why Spurs won the battle but Arsenal won the war.

    That said, Sherwood will have to be happy with the manner of his team's performance. Not one player hid and each and every one gave a good account of themselves. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain Will Be a Star

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    Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has a huge future ahead of him. The 20-year-old Arsenal star is possibly the most mature youngster England has produced since the great Bobby Charlton made his debut, as a 19-year-old, for Manchester United in 1956.

    Like Charlton before him, Oxlade-Chamberlain began his football career out on the wings. And also like Charlton, the Arsenal youngster will eventually move inside to where he will become the very heartbeat of whatever team he plays in.

    As teams, Spurs did it to great effect at times, tighten midfield against Arsenal and make it a congested battle ground, players like the Ox and Aaron Ramsey become all the more important. Both men have the ability to break swiftly from the middle, particularly in Oxlade-Chamberlain's place because he has the ability to do it at a great pace and with the ball.

    After scoring, Arsenal were forced to camp out in their own box for the rest of the first half. Each one of their ensuing attempts on goal involved the Ox in some way shape or form.

    He was competent in possession and helped control midfield and showed great character when other Arsenal players were wilting.

    In March 2012, Arsene Wenger told Arsenal.com that Oxlade-Chamberlain's future was in center midfield. At the time, he admitted that the youth was not ready to take on the role. He went further by stating that the then 18-year-old would have to serve his time playing for the team before eventually moving inside.

    The high praise came after the youngster impressed the world's media with a stunning performance in center midfield against AC Milan in the Champions League.

    He will play [in center midfield] again, but I think he has to play where he is needed basically. The most important thing at the moment is that he develops well. 

    But he will certainly develop into it [a center midfielder] in the future.

    This week, Wenger told Arsenal's official website that there was more to come from the young star.

    He has the sense of positional play and he has the qualities which you want to see in the modern game. He has that capability to break through because there is a lot of pressure in the modern game.

    Those players who have the ability to get out of that pressure are of course very important, he has good vision.

    He has shown potential, I think there's a lot more to come from him in many areas but there's potential to work on. There is still a lot of work for him, but he has interesting qualities in this position.

    From here it would seem that the Ox has moved a rung or two ahead of Jack Wilshere on the Arsenal midfield ladder, and there is definitely more to come from the Brazil 2014 World Cup-bound star.

Is Roberto Soldado Too Technical for Spurs?

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    Roberto Soldado has suffered a tough first year in the Premier League, despite scoring 11 goals in 31 games.

    He has flitted in and out of the Tottenham team all season and has struggled to adapt to his team as much as the physicality of the league.

    The English top flight is a notorious place to play in, especially when the player is used to technical football. Soldado played in La Liga with Valencia before his move to Spurs and was rightly regarded as one of the best technical strikers in Europe.

    He is an intelligent player and always knows what he is going to do with the ball before he receives it. In this regard, he is something of an anomaly at Spurs.

    Under Tim Sherwood, Spurs have become a side that breaks swiftly from defense and are one of the better counterattacking sides in the league. Soldado, quite simply, does not fit the centre-forward template as a counterattacking striker.

    He drops deep to initiate attacks and links well with his midfield. All too often, his teammates look bewildered when they receive the ball so quickly from him. In short, he is a step or two ahead of them.

    As a technical player, he is always available and knows where the ball is going before it is given to him. By contrast, many of his teammates, perhaps with the exception of Christian Eriksen, only seem to know what to do with the ball after they have taken their first touch.

    At present, Soldado doesn't fit in. 

    What is most worrying is that the Spaniard looks no further to fitting in now than he did last August.

    This cannot be allowed to continue, for the good of the player and most importantly, the team.

Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny Deserve Huge Credit

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    Once again, Arsene Wenger and his team have their defense to thank.

    The Gunners' back line was stubborn, resilient and well organized in the North London derby against Spurs.

    Make no bones about it, Arsenal would have got nothing from this game if it were not for the defensive contributions of Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny.

    They were easily Arsenal's best players.

    Mertesacker and Koscielny battled throughout and kept the Spurs attack at arms-length despite them dominating the tempo of the game. Who Scored stats determined that Spurs has 17 attempts on goal, but only managed two on target as the defense blocked an outrageous 10 attempts.

    The Gunners' defense was in a rearguard action for most of the game as their midfield conceded the central battleground completely, with only Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain impressing in there. Even then, his best contributions came in attacking terms.

    Their back line was under constant pressure throughout. While Wenger will obviously be furious with how his team played, he should be overjoyed with his central defender's contribution.

Tim Sherwood Should Consider Resigning If Spurs Do Not Look After Him

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    According to a multitude of sources, ESPN being just one of them, Louis van Gaal is being heavily linked with taking over at Tottenham Hotspur in the summer.

    However, one has to ask the question: Would any manager have done better had they been given the same hand as Tim Sherwood?

    The Spurs boss did not sign one of these players, and it is arguable that Andre Villas-Boas did not sign them either. Therefore, they are not his players.

    He showed his inexperience and the growing pressure he is under when he called out his players following their capitulation against Chelsea. It was a brave and honest thing to do, but ultimately it was unwise because he runs the risk of losing the players he criticized.

    There is no doubting that Spurs needs major surgery on their starting team. The team does lack character, and it seemingly lacks leadership of any kind. These are the type of players that need to be brought in. Spurs fans have been saying the same thing for 30 years, though. All too often, Spurs have signed style over substance.

    Sherwood has done well, but not quite as well as Villas-Boas, who eventually paid the ultimate price.

    There is a definite case to give Sherwood a chance during the summer and to let his impose his philosophy upon the club.

    Unfortunately, the trajectory of Sherwood's career and Tottenham's needs to not form a tangent, and it is unlikely he will be kept, especially if van Gaal becomes available.

    With that in mind, Sherwood should consider making a statement about his future. He does not want his managerial reputation to be blackened by being sacked by Spurs. If he is not awarded with the technical director's role, he should look at resignation.

     

    All statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com unless otherwise stated.