Arsenal 2-3 Tottenham.
Arsenal are finally beaten at home by their biggest rivals after 17 years. That run couldn't have gone on forever, but the timing of this defeat is what makes it all the more devastating.
Arsenal had the chance to go top of the table with all three points against the Spurs. However, football is not a game of one half, as Arsenal found out in the derby.
At half time, an aura of jubilation glowed in and around the Emirates, but the celebrations were short lived as Harry Redknapp's side listed one of the most spectacular wins in the history of the Premier League.
You thought it was done and dusted at halftime, but that same thought resulted in your undoing.
Call it complacency.
Arsenal started brilliantly and exposed to the world that Huerlho Gomes is only a good keeper—not excellent—when Samir Nasri scored the first goal from a near impossible angle.
The Gunners were compact and soon made it 2-0 following a quick counter-attacking move which was finished off by Marouane Chamakh. That was all Chamakh had to do for the whole afternoon and he was guilty of squandering numerous chances later.
On the other side, Tottenham's hopes were resting on the shoulders of their wonderboy Gareth Bale. However, he did very little in the first half/allowed to do very little by Bacary Sagna and Co. At times, Bale found himself in a 1-on-3 situation, which manifests the homework done by Arsene Wenger for this game.
For a moment you would have thought Wenger had summoned the soul of George Graham; that's how good Arsenal were defensively in the first half.
The real Arsenal turned up in the second half, though. Redknapp's substitution did the trick. Jermaine Defoe came on and changed the whole complexion of the game in the second half as if he hadn't missed a single game over the last two months.
Deservedly, Tottenham were rewarded with a goal for their perseverance. Scorer? No prize for guessing. Bale showcased his finishing prowess with a composed final touch to a move that came as a result of Arsenal's blunder (more on that later).
If you thought Rafael Van der Vaart had a poor game, think again. In terms of efficiency, he had a very good game. Before the big derby you might have heard Robin Van Persie stating how Van der Vaart turned Tottenham from a good side to a top one. He said he tried to persuade Wenger to sign the talented Dutch playmaker.
Ask Wenger why he didn't buy him? I know the answer so you don't have to approach the furious manager. No, it's not the price. Arsenal have too many dud midfielders, so there is no spot for a world-class midfielder.
Back on track. Tottenham pushed further forward and Fabregas gifted them the second just to avoid the embarrassment of conceding a brace to Bale(!). Fabregas handled the ball inside his own penalty area, worst piece of defending you could get (sometimes you wonder why you need a defensive wall during freekicks).
Van der Vaart wasn't going to miss from 12-yards out, was he? The Dutchman levelled the score with a perfectly placed penalty and the dramatic comeback was finished when Younis Kaboul fired in the third bullet into Arsenal's heart (as if his head is a pistol!). Certainly he knows how to head a ball and Van der Vaart finished off with two assists and a goal. Would you believe he had a poor game?
On that note, a few words on Arsenal's centrebacks. A centreback is expected to be a good header of the ball. But again, this is Arsenal, and you can't expect them to stick to the norm. So, Wenger bought in defenders who are weak in the air as if he had plenty to choose from in that position. A couple of injuries would force Arsenal to field a pair of nothing and his brother at the heart of the defense.
More on the game, Arsenal had the chance to score the third, but Koscielny missed from six yards out, a header that was easier to miss than score.
I request you all not to remind me of his woeful miss against Chelsea from a similar sort of area.
If you thought he had a good game defensively, then you're mistaken. He failed to win balls in the air and was also at fault for the third goal, as he was the one who fouled Bale.
He could have outpaced Bale (you know how easy that is) and kicked the ball out of Emirates to safety (maybe to White Hart Lane) but his rough tackle resulted in Kaboul's goal from the subsequent setplay.
Do I need to even tell that Cesc Fabregas had lost his shooting boots while playing for Spain in South Africa? He had a good game but looks average in front of the goal.
This is certainly not the Fabregas who was the topscorer for Arsenal last season. I know what you are going to say next. He's only 99 percent fit. Last week it was 95 percent, wasn't it?
Why Arsenal lost the game:
• Arsenal played well for one half. In the second half, they were too ambitious. Instead of focusing more on defense, they strolled forward. For instance, Arsenal conceded the first goal because of their over-eagerness to score the third. You may want to ask Wenger what is the need to commit defenders for freekicks when you are two goals up? Unassailable lead? For that you need to protect what you've got. Safety first. Sebastien Squillaci was in no man's land when Bale nestled in the first goal.
• Denilson could have done much better. Instead of getting the tackles in, he was assaulting the opponents. He could have easily stopped the first goal if he had any positional sense. If you thought he could make up for his lack of positional sense with his pace, then think again. He's the slowest Brazilian alive(!). Is such a player needed at Arsenal, because he just doesn't look good for a top European club. Forgive me Denilson fans, I am not here to please you.
• Chamakh may have scored a goal. He may also be Arsenal's top-scorer but has he looked comfortable with his foot? In 1-on-1 situations, he's only good enough to come out as the second best. If your manager deploys a two-striker formation then it doesn't really matter, but if you are the lone striker that is simply not good enough. Robin Van Persie is back, and he should be the man to lead the line (full stop).
• Bale. He tormented Arsenal's defence in the second half. It's just so tough to keep this player quiet for the whole game.
• Van der Vaart's revenge! He might have expected Wenger to sign him before Tottenham did especially when Van Persie had been pressing Wenger to sign him. As it turned out, Tottenham won the lucky draw and now Arsenal are paying the price. Tottenham minus Van der Vaart wouldn't have won this game.
• Koscielny. Both offensively and defensively, mediocre. Probably you wanted Johan Djourou to continue. Koscielny is an expert at collecting cards. His favourite colour is red (though he only got a yellow today) and don't be surprised if he tops the charts for the most red cards at the end of the season.
• The main reason will be revealed at the end.
Wenger at his blunder best:
It's high time I analysed Wenger's latest defensive additions. Squillaci is one of Wenger's worst signings. He neither has pace nor the ability to win balls in the air. He could be a good backup addition to a side like Chelsea but not for Arsenal.
Wenger should also have sniffed out the potential danger of signing a player who had taken big steps in a very short time without really impressing anybody. Yes, I am talking about Koscielny.
Arsenal were in dire need of defenders and even if it was a matter of a few quids more than what Wenger eventually paid for reinforcements, he should have spent that sum and bought in more established defenders who can dominate the aerial play. You don't need an eye for talent, but an eye for the obvious.
Today's tactical blunders and baffling substitutions in the second half should raise a few eyebrows. You could be forgiven for thinking Wenger was a bit complacent at halftime. He should have asked his defenders and holding players to protect the lead in the second half. Safety first, but again, this is Arsenal, and no matter how many the Gunners score, opponents always have the belief that they can outscore them.
Wasting an in-form player on the wings? Samir Nasri has been wasted in this game on the wings. He's at his lethal best when he drops in and makes those late runs. It's difficult to mark you out of the game when you play through the centre.
In the second half, the first thing Tottenham did was to lock Nasri up on the flanks. He hardly got a glimpse of the ball and that development more or less took the spark out of Arsenal's attack. Wenger should have countered it by taking Denilson off and moving Nasri into the midfield.
Do you need two holding players? Particularly when Denilson isn't even good enough to be counted amongst decent holding players. Fabregas would be better of as a deep lying playmaker in the circumstances (his lack of pace and wayward shooting) with Nasri playing in the hole.
Alex Song is strong enough to shield the back four all on his own. Nasri has the pace to trouble any defender, exceptional dribbling abilities to fox markers out of the game, and more importantly, has better finishing skills to do a much better job than Fabregas as the trequartista.
Wenger, though, was keen on taking Nasri as well as Arshavin off, who was having a good game. The substitutions in the end turned out to be a nightmare with Theo Walcott even struggling to get the ball under his control.
And haven't you heard Wenger's claim that this is the best Arsenal team under his regime? But he couldn't beat Tottenham with the best Arsenal team? No matter what you say, this loss has incurred massive shame upon the Arsenal fraternity, including the fans of course. Wenger and his boys must share the responsibility rather than pointing fingers at each other.
Finally, all this happened in front of the greatest player ever to have played for Arsenal, Thierry Henry. Total disgrace, right? I didn't watch Nasri snubbing Gallas' hand in the pre-match handshake, did you? If you hadn't, then watch it because Nasri's refusal to shake Gallas' hand is the underlying reason behind Arsenal's downfall(!).
Don't frown. After all, it was an entertaining match.
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