Arsenal revert to pre-Wenger era with hard fought win at Tottenham
PUBLISHED: 17:58 16 March 2014 | UPDATED: 23:49 16 March 2014
Premier League: Tottenham 0 Arsenal 1
Arsene Wenger marked his 999th game in charge of the Gunners with a performance that reverted back to his early days at the club as they beat Tottenham.
Delighted supporters in the away end sang ‘1-0 to the Arsenal’ at the final whistle and the scoreline barely reflected the state of the game.
Spurs had 59 per cent possession and 17 shots on goal to their north London rivals’ seven.
However, their attempts on goal were weak with only two goalbound efforts in the 17, while the Gunners worked Hugo Lloris on more occasions.
Supporters outside White Hart Lane had placards calling for chairman Daniel Levy to leave the club and their anger won’t have subsided after their third north London derby defeat of the season.
The Lilywhites’ problems mounted after just 72 seconds when, from Arsenal’s first attack, Tomas Rosicky produced a piledriver into the top corner that Spurs goalkeeper Hugo Lloris could do nothing about.
Tottenham, who collapsed against Benfica and Chelsea in the past eight days, avoided a repeat of their mistakes and dominated possession but often failed to test goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny.
The closest they came was of the keeper’s own doing as he dropped a high cross but the impressive Laurent Koscielny blocked Nacer Chadli’s effort on the goal-line.
Spurs made four changes from the side that was beaten 3-1 by Benfica – the injured Kyle Walker was replaced by Danny Rose in the starting line up. Nabil Bentaleb, Nacer Chadli and Andros Townsend came in for Paulinho, Aaron Lennon and Harry Kane.
Wojciech Szczesny returned to the Arsenal XI after being banned for the 1-1 draw at Bayern Munich, replacing Lukasz Fabianski.
Kieran Gibbs came into the side for Thomas Vermaelen, while the injured Mesut Ozil was replaced by Rosicky in the team.
Incredibly, it was the Czech Republic international who gave his side the lead 71 seconds into the match.
He broke free in the middle of the pitch before charging at the Tottenham defence, playing a one-two with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, before unleashing a rocket from 20 yards that flew into the top corner.
The goal silenced the majority of fans in White Hart Lane and sent the travelling supporters wild as they reminded their rivals that they were off to Wembley for the FA Cup semi final next month.
Gradually, the Spurs fans found their voice and they returned to backing their team, who appeared unfazed by the early setback.
It could have been worse for Tottenham as Oxlade-Chamberlain broke free, but he should have done better with his effort going harmlessly wide – Spurs head coach Tim Sherwood was so angry he threw his body-warmer at the bench.
Emmanuel Adebayor was naturally up for the contest against his former club, his acrobatic volley flying high and wide but he was closer when he connected with Townsend’s cross as the ball went just wide.
They went closer when Christian Eriksen’s free kick didn’t dip enough as the Arsenal goal led a slightly charmed life.
Arsenal were happy to invite the pressure on as they looked like scoring every time they went forward and Lukas Podolski nearly capitalised on a mistake by Younes Kaboul but his shot went into the side netting.
For all of Spurs’ possession and territory they were unable to muster a shot on target as the first half died out.
Tottenham started the second half on the front foot and Szczesny was lucky on two occasions when he fumbled high balls.
The first time, Bacary Sagna was able to clear the ball away with Nacer Chadli looking to pounce.
He was luckier the second time as the Belgian saw his effort blocked by Laurent Koscielny with the Polish stopper nowhere.
Both the Frenchman and his defensive partner Per Mertesacker were outstanding as they kept Spurs at bay.
The pressure continued and Adebayor went close after a deep cross from Nabil Bentaleb but his header dropped wide.
Sherwood twisted with 22 minutes to go introducing Paulinho and Gylfi Sigurdsson, who replaced Sandro and Nacer Chadli respectively.
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger also looked to shore things up replacing Rosicky with Mathieu Flamini.
The Gunners, having weathered the storm, should have had a penalty when Jan Vertonghen hauled down Koscielny in the area.
Lloris was called into action when he had to dive quickly to his right to deny Mertesacker.
Roberto Soldado was brought on nine minutes from time replacing Christian Eriksen – a decision home supporters were unhappy with as they booed his departure.
Tim Sherwood was lucky to stay on the touchline as he threw the ball at Bacary Sagna but referee Mike Dean believed a telling off was more appropriate.
Spurs came close two minutes from time as Adebayor curled the ball around a series of Arsenal players but Szczesny was equal to his effort.
That was as close as Spurs would come as Arsenal celebrated victory and the home fans sounded their frustration at the final whistle.
Tottenham: Lloris, Naughton, Rose, Kaboul, Vertonghen, Sandro (Paulinho 68), Bentaleb, Townsend, Chadli (Sigurdsson 68), Eriksen (Soldado 82), Adebayor.
Unused Substitutes: Friedel, Walker, Lennon, Kane.
Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Gibbs, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Cazorla, Rosicky (Flamini 68), Arteta, Oxlade-Chamberlain (Vermaelen 85), Podolski (Monreal 77), Giroud.
Unused Substitutes: Fabianski, Sanogo, Jenkinson, Gnabry.
Referee: Mike Dean.