Tottenham vs. Arsenal: 5 Things We Learned from the North London Derby
Today's North London Derby at White Hart Lane was particularly intense, as both sides had a lot to prove with Tottenham looking to break into the top four and Arsenal hungry for a league win after a rough start to the season.
Spurs came away with the 2-1 victory on a game-changer of a goal from Kyle Walker and Arsenal couldn't quite recover, with Bacary Sagna leaving the pitch due to injury.
There's a whole lot to talk about with both teams' performances, so without further adieu, here's a few things we learned from this round of the always exciting North London Derby. If you have more to add, tell us in the comments.
1. Francis Coquelin Deserves a Place in Arsenal's Starting XI
The 20-year-old defensive midfielder came on in the derby in what was only his second start for the Gunners, the first coming in that miserable 8-2 defeat at the hands of Manchester United. But today at White Hart Lane, he proved he should be making many more appearances.
Francis Coquelin was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise frustrating performance from the Gunners midfield. He showed intelligence and versatility, completed nearly all of his passes and executed some great tackles.
If he continues to have more first-team playing time and opportunities to further develop, he'll help strengthen the Gunners midfield and continue to impress the rest of this season and beyond.
2. Scott Parker May Have Been Harry Redknapp's Best August Addition
Emmanuel Adebayor may be the high-volume goal-scorer (although he went goalless in the NLD), but it was Harry Redknapp's other big end-of-transfer-window acquisition who turned heads today.
Former West Ham man Scott Parker has been a solid contributor since he joined Tottenham Hotspur on deadline day, but in the derby, he wowed. A tireless, persistent presence on the pitch, he busted up Arsenal's attack, excelling in defense as well as on offense with a couple of goal attempts that made Szczesny sweat.
That's not to say Adebayor didn't have some great moments today, most notably in his assist on Rafael van der Vaart's goal. If the (relative) newcomers keep it up, Spurs should be looking at a return to the Champions League.
3. Kyle Walker Is on His Way to Headliner Status at White Hart Lane
One shot, and he's gone from hyped newcomer to headliner.
Kyle Walker's goal is the kind of goal Spurs fans will go and tell their grandkids about decades from now. The firecracker from the right-back, who is still relatively new to White Hart Lane after cutting his teeth with loan spells at Queens Park Rangers and Aston Villa, sailed past Wojciech Szczesny, into the corner of the net and straight into Spurs' fans hearts.
Walker's goal was a game-changer on the pitch and off for the player himself.
Not only did his goal give Spurs the win and redirect the pace of the match in their favor, but it also caught the eye of Fabio Capello, who was sitting in the stands at the Lane. Walker earned his first cap for the England senior squad and will join the 24-man team when they face off against Montenegro during the international break next weekend.
4. You Can, in Fact, (Almost) Dive into the Crowd Without Punishment
Rafael van der Vaart shone during the first half of today's match, leading the charge with some powerful attempts and scoring a great goal (though hotly debated, as the chest bounce appeared to be a handball at first).
But it was what happened afterward that caught the attention of fans—and the ire of Arsenal supporters.
Van der Vaart's exuberant goal celebration included a near-leap into the audience to greet excited Spurs fans, which per FIFA regulations, would mean he should have received a yellow card and subsequently be sent off per his previous booking.
But Mike Dean let it slide and VDV was allowed to stay in the game. His presence in the game didn't have a whole lot of impact other than raising questions about the officiating; however he began to run out of steam and was replaced with Sandro a little bit into the second half.
5. Both Teams Have Something to Be Excited About in the End
Although one team had a decidedly better outcome than the other, both have some reasons to celebrate after the North London derby.
Tottenham's reasons will be more obvious: the tentative side we saw the first couple of weeks of the season is long gone and has been replaced with a strong, confident team with a formidable attack and imposing midfield.
August additions Emmanuel Adebayor and a versatile Scott Parker gave great performances, and Sandro injected life into the midfield after Rafael van der Vaart went off. And then there was Kyle Walker's goal, the one for the highlight reels, with Fabio Capello in the crowd.
Spurs have come back into contention for a top-four finish and have emerged from the past several matches as the team to beat to round out the list of Champions League contenders. If they keep playing like this, they'll have no problem.
Arsenal had their fair share of problems, especially a string of disappointments in the midfield. Mikel Arteta was lacking, Theo Walcott had trouble finishing, and not even an equalizing goal could save Aaron Ramsey from an otherwise dismal performance.
But that's not to say there weren't some improvements and even moments of brilliance for the Gunners
Walker's goal aside, Wojciech Szczesny had a strong showing overall, fending off some serious attempts from Emmanuel Adebayor and Scott Parker. Kieran Gibbs is improving in defense, Song did well at centre-back and set up Arsenal's only goal, and Francis Coquelin impressed with his second start for the club.
So not all bad at White Hart Lane today. Arsenal is improving and can still turn this season around if they build on said improvements.
What Coquelin and Gibbs especially remind us of is that Arsene Wenger still has an eye for promising young talent. Add them to fellow Gunners headline-maker Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Jack Wilshere once he recovers, and Arsenal will have an exciting future squad ahead of it.
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