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article imageArsenal break past Spurs, thus ending their top four aspirations

By Tyrrell Meertins     Mar 16, 2014 in Sports
Arsene Wenger’s team selection was predictable due to several injuries within his squad, but in retrospect, the options at his disposal proved to be beneficial.
Lukas Podolski, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Tomas Rosicky all featured in Wenger’s starting line up –– players that offer dynamism, pace and a direct threat going forward. It took Arsenal 72 seconds to take the lead, as Hugo Lloris was unable to prevent Rosicky’s wonder strike from flying into the net. Rosicky and Chamberlain broke into Spurs’ third, and the Czech midfielder pounced on Oxlade-Chamberlain’s inability to control the former’s pass –– The 33-year old's first time strike sailed into the top left corner.
Tim Sherwood’s approach was reminiscent of Arsenal’s display in the same fixture a year ago, in which Aaron Lennon and Gareth Bale obliterated Wenger’s side in the opening half. Spurs dropped into two banks of four without the ball, with Sandro closing down Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Nacer Chadli occasionally limiting Mikel Arteta’s threat in midfield.
Spurs’ high-line was the main concern for Sherwood’s side because his midfield failed to press Arsenal as a unit in midfield, and the advanced positioning of Kyle Naughton and Danny Rose left vacant space for Wenger’s men to exploit. Rosicky played a simple pass to Oxlade-Chamberlain, and he easily bypassed Nabil Bentaleb at the halfway line, in which he was free on goal, but his poor finish kept Arsenal’s lead at one.
Afterwards, a simple pass over the top played in the uninspiring Olivier Giroud, but Lloris quickly jumped off his line and nodded the ball clear of safety. Then, Cazorla dropped deep into midfield and played a defence-splitting pass to Podolski, who cut the ball back towards Oxlade-Chamberlain but again his finishing was dire. Podolski and Oxlade-Chamberlain received opportunities towards the end of the first half to double Arsenal's lead, but dismal finishing kept Spurs in the match.
"From time to time, it's important to know you cannot always be super-dominant in a season. And to win games when you're not is important," Wenger said. "We scored an early goal, so we were protecting our lead and we didn't take advantage enough of our counter-attacks, especially in the first half.”
Considering Giroud lacks pace, the decision to play a high-line and prevent the Frenchman from linking play, and inviting runners into space behind him was logical. Sherwood’s side failed to press in midfield, and Arsenal’s creative players were awarded time and space to deliver well-weighed balls behind Spurs' back-line.
Also, Arsenal found Rose's role beneficial during the early stages of the match. With Christian Eriksen drifting infield, Rose was instructed to take on Bacary Sagna, thus preventing the fullback from surging into advanced positions. Arsenal aimed to play balls into the space behind Rose when they broke on the counter, and Rosicky’s ball to Oxlade-Chamberlain should’ve double Arsenal’s lead, when he forced the Spurs left back to concede possession.
Spurs, however, dominated possession, as Arsenal was keen on dropping into a 4-5-1 without the ball. Wenger’s side didn’t have an issue with Spurs pushing men forward, seeing as they easily got into good positions on the counter. Sherwood’s men found joy down the right flank, where Naughton and Andros Townsend cleverly combined on numerous occasions.
Similar to Arsenal, the finishing of Nacer Chadli and Emmanuel Adebayor was putrid. The duo squandered several chances to equalize, as Spurs were fairly direct in attack. Townsend evaded challenges in deeper positions and Adebayor peeled off defenders inside the box, but the home side wasn’t clinical in the final third.
"I thought we were better than them. I thought we played well and created chances today. We played on the front foot and defended together,” Sherwood said. "We can't just do that in north London derbies. If the players give me that between now and the end of the season, no problem, we'll be where we need to be.”
Naughton received ample amount of space in the second half to deliver crosses into the box, but apart from two Wojciech Szczesny errors in the early moments, the impressive Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker thwarted every clear-cut chance around the final third. The centre back duo are pivotal towards Arsenal’s quest for silverware, and for the umpteenth time this season they displayed why they’re arguably the best centre back partnership in the league.
The significance of this result in terms of European football next season was imperative, as it all but ends Spurs’ Champions League dreams. Arsenal’s pace on the counter, along with the remarkable defending from their centre backs secured their third North London Derby victory this season against a directionless Spurs side.
More about Arsenal, North London Derby, Tottenham, Spurs, Tomas rosicky
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