Arsenal travelled to Wembley on Saturday lunchtime to face Spurs in the second North London derby of the year. Here is the full recap, all the highlights and analysis of the 1-0 thrashing.
Wrong formation. Wrong tactics. Wrong approach. Wrong players. There was very little right about Arsenal’s performance. Spurs, meanwhile, were ruthlessly excellent. This was a 1-0 thrashing if ever there was one. Arsene Wenger, his coaching staff, his players. They all have questions to answer, because this, in the most important game of the season, was simply not good enough.
The first half was a terribly tight and tense affair. Rather than chances, there were openings. Rather than the free-flowing football that is expected, it was a little bitty, especially from the Gunners, with the slight bounce of the ball, roll of the shoulder, or battle of the challenge tending to create, rather than the guile and the nous that both teams boast.
The best chance of the half fell to Harry Kane, as is often the case. Christian Eriksen, who was continuously seeking those pockets of space in between the midfield and defence that he exploits so wonderfully, had dropped into a slightly deeper position in the inside-left channel. Looking up, and with too much time on the ball to do so, he curled an inswinging cross into the penalty area, searching out Kane. It was a little high and he couldn’t quite direct it below the crossbar, but the prolific centre-forward did get contact on the ball and he may have expected better of himself.
There were other openings for Spurs: Moussa Dembele skewed a shot from a cleared corner that Eric Dier couldn’t divert towards the goal; Shkodran Mustafi forced a good save from Petr Cech after sliding in to intercept Dele Alli’s poked through pass to Harry Kane; Christian Eriksen attempted a looping header from Kieran Trippier’s driven cross, but couldn’t get the required height to beat Cech.
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At the other end, Arsenal managed to create openings on the counter attack, but lacked both the decision-making and quality to take advantage. Both Mesut Ozil and Henrikh Mkhitaryan were guilty of poor choices and poor technique, and the Gunners, while feigning a threat, could never quite deliver. Their closest opportunity came through the movement of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Jack Wilshere fed a lovely sliding through pass to dissect a number of Spurs defenders and find his striker, but the linesman, perhaps a little harshly, judged him to be offside.
While the goalmouth action was somewhat limited during the first 45 minutes, it was still an extremely intriguing game. The tactical battle of the two approaches — Spurs employing a high press with a fluidity of movement, trying to isolate the Arsenal full backs in one-on-one scenarios; Arsenal staying compact and disciplined, aiming to break with pace and precision, being a little more direct in their distribution — was fascinating. It may not have been the open, break-neck, heart-thumping game that many had expected, and perhaps hoped for, but it was still thoroughly gripping and enthralling.
The second half, though, started in a horrible fashion for Arsenal. The slow but impressing dominance of Spurs began to show, and as they were offered more and more time on the ball, they were able to play crosses of increasing quality. The first resulted in a Harry Kane headed goal. The second did not, but it certainly should have.
Ben Davies collected the ball in the left channel with time and space. Rather than dribble forwards, he looked up and floated a cross towards the far post. Harry Kane was lurking. He was also rising, towering over Laurent Koscielny. His header was directed, perfectly, back to the corner that it came from, leaving a stranded Petr Cech with no chance.
The second chance came from an Eric Dier cross. This time, it was from the right-hand side, but again from a slightly deeper position. Harry Kane had split the two centre-halves, Dier found him beautifully, but his glanced header was direct just past the far post. He should have scored.
Those goals set the pattern of the remainder of the game: Arsenal chase the game; Spurs break with pace. It did not look like a prosperous plan for the Gunners. Their passing was painfully loose, especially in deeper areas, while Spurs’ movement, distribution, fluidity and quality opened up their visitors at almost every opportunity.
Heung-Min Son sent a first-time effort into orbit. Dele Alli toed a one-on-one wide of the post after Laurent Koscielny gave the ball away. Alli then nearly intercepted Petr Cech with a poor pass. Cech made outstanding saves from both Erik Lamela and Kieran Trippier. All of these were genuine and significant goalscoring opportunities. Arsenal, meanwhile, had just the one, a curled effort from the edge of the penalty area by Jack Wilshere that was parried clear by an athletically diving Hugo Lloris.
Arsenal did huff and puff for their equaliser. They did not deserve one. Wenger threw on the likes of Alex Iwobi, Danny Welbeck and Alexandre Lacazette. None of them had an influence on the game. Well, a positive one. Iwobi lost possession on several occasions. Lacazette was camped offside, as well as volleying over the crossbar extremely poorly before sliding a one-on-one shot past the far post when he certainly should have scored. Welbeck, who enjoyed the best opening late on, could not control Jack Wilshere’s brilliantly fed pass.
By full-time, Spurs had had 19 attempts, six of them on target. Arsenal, meanwhile, had just four attempts in total, only one of them on target. That was the story of the game. The Gunners actually missed chances to haul their way back into this game. But even they had done, they most certainly did not deserve to. This was a 1-0 thrashing.