Saturday, February 7, 2015

Spurs 2 Arsenal 1

Just finished watching the North London derby. There were parts of the game that were exciting and other parts that were frustrating to watch. Some random thoughts on the match.

  1. Considering Arsenal's recent form where their midfielders have dovetailed well with Olivier Giroud, was it necessary for Arsene Wenger to start Danny Welbeck as soon as he came back from injury? It can be argued that Welbeck's pace on the break was crucial in Arsenal scoring the opener, but in attempting to find the Englishman and Giroud quickly, the Gunners kept ceding possession and with it control of the match.
  2. With Spurs having 64% possession it felt inevitable that the Arsenal goal would be bombarded in the second half. It was no surprise when Spurs found a equalizer eleven minutes after the restart and then in typical fashion Arsenal allowed their opponents to launch raid after raid on their goal. A second Spurs goal seemed inevitable as Wenger's men kept gifting the ball away amidst a phase of non-stop amateurish defending from the midfield and the back four.
  3. David Ospina has been receiving plenty of praise from everyone since he replaced Wojciech Szczesny in goal, but the Colombian international has to take some responsibility for Tottenham's first goal. At first glance it looked like Ospina made a great save from the headed corner, but replays revealed that it was straight at him and any goalie worth his salt should have tipped it over. In stead he directed it back into the danger area and Harry Kane had the easiest of finishes. There were a few more occasions when Ospina's parries were not the most convincing. A few more performances such as these and Szczesny may still have a say in Arsenal's home stretch this season.
  4. "That reminds me of Alan Shearer in his pomp." Those were the words of Danny Mills who was doing colour commentary on the Premier League's international feed. Harry Kane has alleviated Spurs goalscoring issues this season with his consistency. As the goal tally increases so does the hyperbole. Finishing of course, is not an easy skill. That being said, comparing him to a different legend every week is premature in the extreme. Kane is good, but this observer is hesitant to consider him even very good, let alone great at this point in time.                                                                                                                                               
  5. Christian Eriksen didn't have his best game in Spurs colours. In his stead, Moussa Dembele had one of his better midfield performances in a long time. Michael Cox recently talked about how Dembele's football education was based on succeeding in dribbling first and foremost without much consideration to the end product. Today was one of those days when the Belgian turned it on, taking shots, ghosting past players and setting up his teammates. If Mauricio Pochettino can eke out consistency from his talented midfielder, Spurs may well end up staying in the race for fourth the whole distance this time around.
  6. Let's say you are asked to choose a three-a-side team against your best friend. You choose Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Ozil and Santi Cazorla. Your friend chooses Nabil Bentaleb, Ryan Mason and the aforementioned Moussa Dembele. There might be some appreciation for Dembele's technical ability, but you would feel pretty smug about your choice ahead of your friend's. If you were Arsene Wenger though, you would succeed in making your friend's selection the best midfield trio in the history of the game. You could make a case for players taking some responsibility, but whether it was a case of motivation, mental fragility or just plain tactical ineptitude, its a damning indictment on the French men that his technically superior midfield were outplayed by their Spurs counterparts. The old bugbear of physical inferiority could hardly be used as an excuse either. Just another example of weak management in a big game from Le Professor.
  7. At the other end of the spectrum, Mauricio Pochettino is ensuring progress at White Hart Lane. Spurs being Spurs, it still wouldn't surprise anyone if they followed it up with a defeat in their next game at Anfield. Still, Pochettino has now masterminded victories over both major London rivals. The Argentinean deserves credit as his pressing philosophy remains effective in particular against big teams, with the results now adding more credence to his management. Another area of encouragement for Pochettino is Spurs' resilience, as his team have now recovered 12 points from losing positions already this season. This was the first instance in three years of Arsenal failing to win a match in which they were leading at half time. The last time Spurs beat Arsenal and Chelsea at White Hart Lane, they qualified for the Champions League. Amongst all the fantastic stats, it is the last fact that Pochettino will want repeated this season as he cements himself in Spurs folklore.