Today we take a look at Arsenal's 2-1 victory over their North London rivals Tottenham Hotspur. This game was full of drama as it saw a Puskas contender from Lamela when he gave the visitors the lead with a rabona kick and then proceeded to get sent off in the second half for collecting two yellow cards. Arsenal equalised just before the half time with a goal from Ødegaard and Alex Lacazette scored from 12-yards out to give Gunners the lead in the second half which was enough for them to see out the game.
With this victory Arsenal are now just 4 points behind 7th placed Tottenham and with 10 games to play this season, the Gunners have certainly given themselves a huge boost to close that gap and qualify for European football for a 26th year in a row. This defeat ends Tottenham's 5 match winning streak in all competitions and leaves them 6 points behind 4th placed Chelsea - a major dent in their hopes of qualifying for Champions League.
There were rumors flying in about Arsenal starting with a back 3 against Spurs but Arteta sticked to using 4-2-3-1 with Ødegaard and Smith-Rowe both in the starting XI for the first time. Ødegaard played the no.10 role, regularly shifting to the left or right flank and with Tierney and Cedric constantly moving forwards in support of the attack, lending Arsenal numerical superiority on the flanks. Instead of pressing, Arsenal players opted to remain deep in their own half whilst Spurs players formed a mid block around the central area which forced Partey, Luiz and Gabriel to go long at times.
Spurs matched Arsenal's 4-2-3-1 formation with Kane playing up top along side Bale on the left and Son on the right side. Lucas Moura played at CAM suggesting Spurs were relying on the pace of Bale, Son and Moura on the counter attack. Shockingly Spurs were unable to find a footing once the whistle rang managing just 3 shots throughout the 90 minutes. Their xG of 0.47 shows that Spurs lacked that attacking intent and were unable to create any chances throughout the match. Proof perhaps that attacking cohesion is more than just throwing lots of talented players together.
Arsenal were very lively upto Lamela's goal causing problems for Spurs defence and creating a chance almost every 5 mins. A lot of this came from the left flank (Spurs right side of defence). Bale who was playing on the right wing for Spurs hardly got back to provide cover for Doherty. This created a lot of free space for Tierney and Smith-Rowe to operate into and Doherty had to deal with two opponents on his own.
In the above image we can see that Tierney is almost in line with Smith-Rowe who has been marked by Højberg at the moment, but as soon as play moves forward Højberg leaves Smith-Rowe and is forced to check Ødegaard's movement. This leaves Doherty to decide either to press Tierney or to stay with Smith-Rowe. This left Doherty in two minds and with 1-2 combinational play Arsenal were into the penalty area.
Recently in the past few games Arsenal were criticised with regards to their defensive displays and were termed "Their own worst enemy". But today Arsenal's defence was rock solid and it limited Spurs to just 3 shots for the whole 90 minutes. Arsenal followed a man-to-man marking system which was triggered whenever they were defending in their own half especially on the flanks. It can be seen through the graphics that Tierney and Cedric followed Bale and Lamela respectively even though other players were around them. Partey was also in check with all the activities from Moura in the first half.
Spurs were on a roll since the turn of this month winning 5 matches and that too in a convincing matter. It was expected of them to take on Arsenal and play on the front foot but the reverse happened. Spurs formed a low block of 4-4-2 or 4-3-3 instead of pressing a dodgy Arsenal defence who have made silly mistakes in the past 3-4 matches consecutively. Concrete proof that Spurs had a negative mentality. Other than Lamela's Rabona kick and Kane hitting the crossbar from free kick, Spurs failed to deliver any impact in this game
A great victory for Arsenal who now have a slight glimpse of finishing top 7 in the league to qualify for Europa League. With just 4 points gap and still 10 games to play Arteta might hope that they can get European places via the league. For Spurs though a very tough loss to take and it's their defensive approach to blame here. In a space of 3 months they have fallen from title contenders to 7th. Had Spurs taken the initiative to press hard from the get go and dominated a bit more possession, we could have talk about different things. Still credit goes to Arteta who stuck to his belief and had faith in his players.