After what was a pretty dire first half in which Spurs had the better chances, the lads managed to go up a gear or two to just about finish Tottenham off. The first goal was a moment of beauty and from here there were a few inevitabilties. Arsenal have never lost a game when Emmanuel Adebayor scored and the players and the fans celebrated like we were on the way to three more points. However events swung the other way and having equalised, Berbatov won a penalty.
Robbie Keane is one of the best penalty takers in the League. He simply does not have a set method to his penalties and it is very hard to predict where he will put the penalty. Normally one would back him to score, this time it just seemed fate that he would miss. I just had this feeling he would be denied, and denied he was by Almunia. Praise must go to the Spaniard who has been brilliant recently and this topped it off. If this gut feeling was right, the next was nearly at the level of very wierd.
Rosicky tumbled in the box under what looked like an unfair challenge but Adebayor did well to win the corner with no support whatsoever. It was then that Arsene Wenger earned his money. He wanted to bring on Bendtner for the ineffective Eboue (more of this later) and he was desperate to get him on before the corner was taken. Spurs are susceptible from set pieces and from the moment he jogged into the box my mind was saying: “Go on Nicklas, head that ball home!”. Guess what, he did and what a header it was. It was madness, how did I know it was going to happen? I don’t know but it doesn’t really matter. Once more the Emirates exploded and it was one of those hug the guy in the row in front moments.
From then on we held on a bit, as we had done really all match but once Berbatov got frustrated and almost gave up – the game was won. As I have said Tottenham were arguably the better side in the first half and had the better chances. The problem was the space granted to Berbatov. I lost count of the times he was allowed to bring the ball down unchallenged and was able to dictate play. Neither the centre backs nor Flamini got close to him. Clichy could not leave Lennon free and one of the three mentioned really should have taken it upon themselves to sort him out. Another inevitability was that Berbatov would have a say in this game and he very nearly won the game for Spurs. His goal was a great finish and had Keane scored the penalty won by Berbatov I would not have seen us coming back.
Almunia was solid with what he had to do and excelled with his penalty save. Sagna and Clichy were fantastic for me. Clichy was up against one of the best wide men in the League in my opinion and he rarely gave him a sniff. Lennon had one or two good moments which should have led to a goal for Keane but for most of it Clichy stuck to his task, as well as getting forward as much as possible. Sagna was brilliant going forward and seemed to be doing two jobs for a lot of the game. Why was this?
Emmanuel Eboue is the answer. He really is the most frustrating player in our team right now. His “injury” disappeared very quickly when it looked very serious and today he really did look off the pace with a lack of commitment. He rarely went past his man and his crossing was poor. He cut inside quite a lot and dallied on the ball too long. He had one moment of note and this was a shot Robinson did well with. He failed to track back with any urgency and left Sagna two on one on numerous occasions. One moment really summed Eboue up. He was going at Lee in the Spurs box, he stopped, then tried to accelerate on the outside, was easily shrugged off and he fell to ground way too easily. Sounds very familiar where Eboue is concerned. He was then substituted and the game changed.
We went from a 4-4-1-1 which for me does not give us nearly has much potency as a 4-4-2. Adebayor was isolated in the first half and there was not enough midfield runners to give that cutting edge. In the second the runners started to come but the goal was our only real chance. As soon as Hleb moved to the right and Bendtner partnered Ade, the Spurs defence had far more to deal with. Up till then, Adebayor was marked by two defenders and had to come wide to get the ball. Once we had a two pronged attack, he was left alone 1 v 1 and he caused far more problems. Hleb also looked good out on the right and was able to link with Cesc and Rosicky a lot more. The same happened when Van Persie came on against Chelsea and earlier in the season we scored more goals with two up front. I cant wait for Van Persie to start up front and we can bench Eboue and put Hleb back to the right where he does look more comfortable.
I have a feeling Wenger told Cesc to push on in the second half. In the opening 45 he was far too deep and we could not link midfield to attack but in the second period he gambled a bit more, vindicated with the perfect pass for the first goal. What a pass it was as well! What a sublime backheel to Ade, many would not have had the vision to see Ade and the skill to pull it off. That is why we missed Cesc so much.
Rosicky came into it more in the second half but I thought he was one of our better players. He was always trying to make things happen but also made sure he helped Clichy as much as possible. He drives the team forward and adds a perfect balance to Cesc and Hleb who like to be patient and wait for things to happen. He can carry the ball as well as joining in with the passing game. He always gives his all and if he can keep fit he will be a massive player this season.
I have mentioned Ade a little but feel he deserves further praise. Early on in his Arsenal career he may have missed the chance from which he opened the scoring. Now he seems confident he will score every time. He works so hard and when he can he holds the ball up so well and waits for support. He does look more comfortale with a strike partner but will always try if up on his own. Bendtner was the one to partner him in this game but will it be the Dane or RVP? Van Persie is such a threat when he plays and in that withdrawn role makes Arsenal tick but Bendtner has impressed so much of late. If he can add more goals in open play he really will give Wenger a selection headache.
The last thing to say about this game is: Please sell Gilberto. He came on to add security to the midfield but kept giving the ball away and could not get close to the Spurs midfield. Diarra was brilliant in midweek and surely it is only a matter of time before Diarra replaces him in the squad of 16? Maybe Wenger is putting Gilberto in the shop window? It is backfiring as teams are seeing his weaknesses, take the money and run.
Creidt must go to Spurs – however much I hate to say it – but we got the three points and that is all that matters in these derby matches.
Almunia – 8
Sagna – 8 — Gallas – 7 — Toure – 6 — Clichy – 7
Eboue – 5 (Bendtner – 7) — Cesc – 7 — Flamini – 6 — Rosicky – 7
Hleb – 6 (Gilberto – 5)
Adebayor – 7