Tottenham 3-3 Arsenal: chalkboards
Another exciting north London derby finished all-square at White Hart Lane.
Harry Redknapp chose to use both Peter Crouch and Roman Pavlyuchenko upfront together again, with Rafael van der Vaart going to the right in place of Aaron Lennon.
Arsene Wenger brought in Abou Diaby for Jack Wilshere, and Bacary Sagna replaced Emmanuel Eboue at right-back, but he used the same front four as against Liverpool.
This was a very open, exciting game. Both sides needed the victory, and both attacked relentlessly throughout the game. Tottenham’s urgency was because, in basic terms, that is how a 4-4-2 often needs to play against a 4-2-3-1 – to bypass the midfield battle, get the ball wide and then into the penalty box quickly, in order to take advantage of having two strikers.
That said, Redknapp’s use of Rafael van der Vaart on the flank was in recognition of the fact that Spurs needed to ‘narrow it up’ (see the report of the Arsenal v Spurs game earlier this season) to prevent being overrun in the middle of the pitch.
Equally, Arsenal wanted to catch Tottenham’s defence high up the pitch. Spurs defended brilliantly in this fixture last year by playing deep and narrow, but with Robin van Persie dragging the centre-backs around well here, Arsenal wanted space to break into.
The result of this was an end-to-end game – here’s some chalkboards on the key points:
Having been named PFA Player of the Year the previous weekend, all eyes were on Gareth Bale to turn in a performance worthy of his new status.
He came up against the PFA’s choice as right-back in the team of the year – Bacary Sagna, who largely kept Bale quiet for the second time this season. Bale lost all eight challenges in the match, following just a 25% success rate earlier in the season in the fixture at the Emirates.
Arsenal didn’t defend well enough against Spurs’ left-back, Benoit Assou-Ekotto. He was given too much time on the ball to drift long passes towards Peter Crouch at the far post, and Arsenal had to try and deal with his knock-downs inside the box.
Szczesny / van Persie
Tottenham often looked to press Arsenal’s back four when goalkeeper Wojiech Szczesny had the ball. This meant he had to kick the ball downfield, but Robin van Persie hardly ever beat Michael Dawson or William Gallas in the air – by the end of the game, he’d effectively given up:
Arsenal’s first goal was a classic 4-2-3-1 v 4-4-2 goal. The central playmaker, Cesc Fabregas, received the ball in space between the lines, which forced one of the centre-backs towards play – this space was then exploited by another player. The move was very similar to the way Holland tried to catch out Spain in the World Cup (where Arjen Robben was denied by Iker Casillas) particularly the way Walcott took up a very central position.
Samir Nasri’s strike was a fantastic example of how effective one-twos can be in football, when combined with good movement. From picking the ball up on the touchline, he plays three one-twos to get into a central position, before unleashing a good shot into the net.
Tom Huddlestone was another player who scored a fantastic goal, but his overall performance was disappointing. He has a reputation as a good long-distance passer, but he gave the ball away far too frequently in this game.
The different patterns on the clearance chalkboards reflects the different threats of either side – almost all Arsenal’s clearances are from inside the box, when Tottenham played longish balls in from wide areas, whilst much more of Tottenham’s are outside the penalty area, as Arsenal tried to pass the ball through the middle.
Tottenham 3-3 Arsenal: chalkboards