Champions League football is still possible for Arsenal next season, but there’s no denying that it’s going to be quite an uphill battle after dropping a 2-1 decision to Tottenham at White Hart Lane on Sunday March 3. Third-place Spurs are now seven points clear of the Gunners while fourth-place Chelsea sits five ahead of them. With 10 games to go though anything’s possible, but if Arsenal do happen to make it into the top four it’ll likely come at Chelsea’s expense now.
However, Spurs blew a 10-point lead over Arsene Wenger’s men last year and that’s always going to be in the back of their minds, especially with some tough games ahead for Spurs against the likes of Liverpool, Man City, Everton, and Chelsea. But Arsenal also has to be wary of Everton, West Brom, and even Liverpool behind them.
The north London derby was as thrilling as usual, but Arsenal’s defending was simply brutal during a two-minute spell in the first half and Spurs took advantage of it twice to build up a 2-0 lead. The Gunners started the game well possession-wise, but didn’t really create anything out of it or test Spurs keeper Hugo Lloris at all. If they hoped to win their first game at White Hart Lane in half a dozen years they were going about it the wrong way in the final third of the pitch.
Spurs jumped into a 1-0 lead in the 37th minute when Gareth Bale, who else, timed his run perfectly to get around the Arsenal back four and latched on to a pass by Gylfi Sigurdsson before sliding the ball past keeper Wojciech Szczesny. Just two minutes later it looked like a case of déjà vu as Scott Parker set up Aaron Lennon in an almost identical play and the lead was quickly doubled. Lennon easily took the ball around Szczesny and deposited it into the empty net.
The Gunners came out strong at the start of the second half as well and cut the deficit to 2-1 after 51 minutes when Per Mertesacker met an excellent Theo Walcott free kick from the left wing with his head. The ball deflected off of Bale’s head and past a beaten Lloris. Walcott then moved into the middle of the pitch and Arsenal kept pressing, but were also caught a few times by the counter attacking Spurs squad. Both clubs had a couple of chances to add to their total and Wenger put on Tomas Rosicky and Lukas Podolski, but the match ended rather tamely at 2-1 even with six minutes of injury time added on.
The Gunners have quite a break now as their next game isn’t until March 13 when they travel to Germany to take on Bayern Munich where they’ll try and reverse a 3-1 deficit in the Champions League. Their next league encounter is at the Liberty Stadium in Swansea on March 16. Wenger and his coaching staff should take the time to work with their defenders. Instead of standing around with their hands in the air trying to influence the linesmen to call offside, they should be taught how to defend with more determination.
After the match Wenger told the press, “We made it difficult for ourselves. We came back and dominated the game but the game was stop and go. It was difficult to get a flow in the final 20 minutes, we didn’t find the second goal.”
Arsenal Player Ratings March 3 vs Tottenham
Wojciech Szczesny 5.5
Szczesny didn’t really have much of a chance on the goals and most of Tottenham’s other chances were just off target.
Carl Jenkinson 6
Jenkinson had a decent game and was probably the best of the bunch in the back four. His crossing was pretty good as well, but he was sacrificed after 60 minutes when Tomas Rosicky came on.
Per Mertesacker 4.5
Mertesacker scored Arsenal’s goal with a fine header, but just stood around on Spurs goals with the rest of the back four. Trying to play the offside trap was a huge mistake.
Thomas Vermaelen 4
Was also responsible for brutal defending on then Tottenham strikes. Too much standing around trying to referee the game instead of defending with a purpose.
Nacho Monreal 4
The left back wasn’t too bad in the attack, but just see Mertesacker’s and Vermealen’s ratings for the rest of the story. Was easily beaten by Lennon’s run on the second goal.
Mikel Arteta 5.5
Arteta fared better than some of his teammates as he was influencing the midfield during the first 30 minutes. He wasn’t much help to the defenders on Spurs’ goals though. Came off after 77 minutes for Lukas Podolski.
Aaron Ramsey 6.5
I thought Ramsey was one of the Gunners better players on the day. He had a lot of energy and fought for the ball on every occasion. Was moved to right back when Rosicky came on.
Jack Wilshere 5.5
Wilshere wasn’t at his best today and he didn’t really have much of an impact on the match, not for a lack of trying though. His passing was definitely off the mark.
Santi Cazorla 6
Not a bad came by Cazorla, but not a great one either. He couldn’t really penetrate the Tottenham defence, but also out in a decent effort.
Theo Walcott 5.5
Like Wilshere, Walcott wasn’t on his game. It was a nice ball he put in for the goal though.
Olivier Giroud 5
Giroud tried, but he couldn’t achieve anything in the attack and didn’t help out much anywhere else either really.
Tomas Rosicky 6
Came on for Jenkinson after 60 minutes and added a bit of life to the team. He deserves a chance to start sometime soon
Lukas Podolski 5.5
Came on for Arteta after 77 minutes and also added a bit of a spark, but didn’t make a difference in the overall scheme of things.