Big day, big game, a rather tepid contest. Arsenal didn’t have it so easy before, at least on derby day. Tottenham fans were left disappointed with no bragging rights; and it wasn’t until Theo Walcott’s stupid taunt that they finally raised their voices. Arsenal meanwhile had a cakewalk, never felt in any danger, and had the game under wraps long before full-time. Tim Sherwood’s baptism of fire in a North London derby turned sour, although he being an Arsenal fan hogged much of the headlines before kick-off and even during the game. They put in a banner at a stand, which read, “I’m an Arsenal fan. I love to see them do well.” Gooners obviously love digging it up on their local rivals.
Back to the pitch, and Santi Cazorla’s two-footed brilliance might be a mystery to many, he is so good with both feet. Cazorla lit up everything; swivels, turns, wriggles, and even a shot from inside his own half, not to forget his goal. Roses are generally appealing as greetings and gifts, and Danny Rose provided a sweet little one tonight to Tomas Rosicky, the all-action veteran putting in a fine shift. And a very glowing praise of Arsenal’s German starlet. Only Serge Gnabry knows how to pronounce his own surname, the little man had a night to remember in his first ever derby.
CAZORLA AND ARSENAL DOMINANCE
Santi Cazorla is a phenomenon. No wonder why he was once coveted by Real Madrid. He oozes class, has the confidence of a player at his peak, is a box of tricks, and is equally proficient with both feet. But Cazorla doesn’t do justice to himself; he rarely scores, and isn’t quite a leader. Tonight was a cut apart though; he was everywhere, pinging balls, nutmegging, running, and scoring. A performance worthy of gracing any game on any stage, Cazorla was close to being irresistible. He had the second most touches, second most shots, and a reasonable pass completion of 81% (not bad when you’re a winger feeding forwards).
But the man who played like it was a community game in his own backyard was Serge Gnabry. Calmness personified, the German played the perfect game, probably his best ever in those red and whites. Gnabry’s stats tell the whole story; 6 key passes, 87% pass completion, immaculate through ball accuracy, and 5 tackles meant that he was all over the place. He overshadowed most of the established crew, and vindicated Wenger’s trust.
Tomas Rosicky’s goal put the game to bed. Unlikely source he may be, but the Czech continues to prove doubters wrong with energetic displays. His harrowing of Danny Rose led to the goal; you wouldn’t find many a 33-year-old doing that stuff after defending a corner.
Arsenal had the better personnel on the pitch; Laurent Koscielny was rock solid and Arteta functional. Arsenal hardly played beyond second gear, Tottenham looked utterly toothless. Danny Rose was a calamity, and when your best offensive player is your right back (Kyle Walker) you probably know something’s wrong. Adebayor and Eriksen came with reputations enhanced, but returned with hung heads. Tottenham matched Arsenal for shots, had more possession, but these things seem so trivial after a loss.
TOTTENHAM AND THEIR INADEQUACIES
Slating Spurs isn’t the aim here, but when you break the ceiling to land a 28-year-old who isn’t even a first choice international, you expect certain things. Roberto Soldado cannot be misfiring more; he was so abject and had virtually no frightening aura that strikers generally tend to possess. He made excellent runs on occasions, his finishing let him down. And then when he popped up unmarked in a dead-cert scoring area, his teammate never passed to him. Soldado’s stars are falling with each passing day, his hopes to book a ticket to Brazil fading quickly.
Danny Rose wouldn’t want to open his sense organs any time soon. It would be somewhat surprising if he isn’t subjected to abuses and expletives of all sorts all night. And all he did was to do a cutback on the center circle with no teammates around and Arsenal players dangerously lurking. Spurs’ transfer policy baffles me; they loaned out their first choice left back Benoit Assou-Ekotto in the summer and signed no replacement. Strange things happen when a Director of Football is in the system; and Rose’s spotlight error would certainly open many eyes.
Talk of derby debuts, and the exceptional Gnabry will be the name on everybody’s lips. Nabil Bentaleb and Christian Eriksen too made their bow, and both would want to forget their forgetful performances. Bentaleb didn’t do much wrong though; he attempted the highest number of passes (82) with 93% success and held his own in a tense game. He didn’t do anything meaningful and was worked around with ease by Arsenal’s stunning passing combination at times. He might have a bright future, the Frenchman certainly not the finished article as of yet.
And the less we talk about a certain Aaron Lennon, the better. Adebayor was booed all night long by the raucous Emirates crowd, and as much as he might deny, the verbal stick did affect his performance. He had his moment too; a well trapped cross and a shot-on-the-turn would have been goal bound on another day, but tonight was simply not his night. Things could also have been different had Eriksen beaten Lukasz Fabianski in a one-on-one.
TAUNTS, KNOCKS, SMILES BUT NO WALCOTT GOALS IN NEW ROLE
Theo Walcott was alone, he fell, took knocks, provoked the hapless, smiled away with claps and applauses. Walcott was the central figure in the Arsenal final third, and he could’ve scored had he not left his shooting boots at home. He played on the shoulders of the center backs, but his rustiness was evident (was caught offside a good 5 times). Walcott failed to find the net with any of his 8 shots (2 on target), but was a constant menace with his pace. Only worry would be Walcott’s injury; Arsenal already have a large treatment table contingent, and Walcott getting injured after only a month of coming back would be the last wish on Wenger’s mind. Stretchered away he might’ve been, but he produced the moment of the night as he aimed a jibe at those suffering Spurs’ fans with funny gestures down the touch.