Coming into the weekend it looked like a tough one for the Gunners, could they potentially lose ground on the title contenders as they prepared for a North London derby. Man city had pulled off an impressive victory taking into account they were down to ten men after ten minutes of their game v Hull City, Chelsea were likely to follow suit and stretch their lead to a morale sapping ten points. Aston Villa had something to say about that and following a crisp finish from Fabian Delph the ball was firmly planted back into Arsenal’s court.
When opportunities come your way you have to take them, Aston Villa’s win would have all been in vein if the Gunners did not get a result at White Hart Lane. Especially given the fact that Liverpool quite impressively dismissed Manchester United in the earlier Sunday kick off. They avoided their banana skin and so the Arsenal needed to follow suit and get something from the game to shove two fingers up at the doubters that have prematurely written them out of the title race.
Whether you think Arsenal will win the league or not the additional threat from teams below the top four places provided the motivation for the Gunners to do all they can to keep them at bay. It may seem farfetched to believe Tottenham, given their past 7 days were storming towards nicking the Arsenal’s position in the top four but as the saying goes forms goes out the window in derby games. The Bale inspired teams of the past have given Spurs the belief they can get something out of games against Arsenal. Not so much the matches hosted at the Emirates but certainly games at White Hart Lane provide a threat, a defeat would have sparked the ‘squeaky bum time’ comments whilst a victory would ease the pressure somewhat. A draw would have been good for Everton who have been creeping under the radar.
So taking all that into account the silky humdinger blasted in by Tomas Rosicky in the second minute to settle the game provided a welcome result for all connected to Arsenal. Mathematically it is still possible for the current top four teams to be caught but psychologically it’s a massive blow to the chasing pack.
The goal itself was something special, the return ball to Rosicky from Oxlade-Chamberlain may have been somewhat fortunate but the finish there was no doubts over any fortune. The connection was so sweet the ball whistled into the back of the net as sharply as a bullet. The kind of finish you would expect from Rosicky. There are certain players that produce special finishes as if it’s programmed into their DNA. It can be 50/50 whether the ball flies into row Z but when they do connect correctly there is nothing more beautiful in the game of football. Andrei Arshavin had a similar knack for the special though it was his work rate that set him apart from Rosicky.
The defence as well deserve plenty praise for their performance yesterday, they stood strong and dealt with everything thrown at them. It wasn’t easy for the back four, the early goal adjusted the game plan slightly as the team were encouraged to soak up the pressure and hit on the counter. Although comfortable in the first half it was a different prospect in the second half as the expected pressure from Spurs intensified. Adebayor was always a threat and 100% concentration was needed for the entire 90 minutes. All the hard work was almost undone by a crazy moment from Szczesny when he dropped a routine catch at the feet of Chadli but a combination of Mertesacker and Koscielny doing their best Gandalf impression ensured the ball did not pass the goal line.
At the end of the day you have to take your chances if you want something in a game. Arsenal took one of their chances while Spurs wasted their gift, the stats showed that the Gunners had one of their lowest possession stats in a Premiership game but it’s what you do with the ball that makes that stat relevant.
The visit of Chelsea is next for the Gunners, never an easy game especially against a Mourinho team but the victory yesterday should give them great confidence leading up to the game. Roll on Saturday!