Inside Lane: A Spurs fan's verdict of the victory over Arsenal
PUBLISHED: 17:00 04 March 2013 | UPDATED: 18:39 04 March 2013
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Tottenham blogger Daniel Grigg gives his views of yesterday’s 2-1 triumph over the Gunners at White Hart Lane
Tottenham held on doggedly as they recorded yet another single-goal winning margin and a second successive 2-1 win over Arsenal at White Hart Lane to move back to third in the Premier League table.
Both sets of fans – in the first half at least – were proven right in a great many of their pre-match assertions, the theme of which being that Arsenal’s central midfield three of Jack Wilshire, Mikel Arteta and Aaron Ramsey could and should be able to outplay and dominate Spurs’ trio of Mousa Dembele, the out-of-form Scott Parker and a marauding, unconstrained and often out-of-position Gareth Bale.
For the first half hour or so, the predictions proved fairly prophetic; Arsenal were the better team before Tottenham’s two goals in two minutes changed everything. Spurs came into the game far more from that point onwards, receiving the ball under a lot less pressure. As Wilshere’s influence steadily diminished, he ended up having one of his worst games of the season.
Arsenal’s particularly high early tempo, while not exactly catching Tottenham out – this was a north London derby after all – was certainly something which needed to be weathered by the hosts.
Spurs fans had spent all week hyping up that man again. Gareth Bale was facing the club against whom he’d scored more goals than any other, with the exception of Norwich City.
He had already come close to breaking the offside trap to get on the end of Gylfi Sigurdsson’s cross in the first half, before the two combined again to see Bale played through one-on-one with the ‘keeper. His tidy finish brought up his ninth goal in seven games.
At the other end, Arsenal’s Theo Walcott barely had a sniff of goal, as he was well-marshalled alongside the likes of Santi Cazorla and Olivier Giroud. Arsenal were ultimately unable to create enough real chances or threats on Hugo Lloris’s goal, despite sending a fair old time around the edge of the box trying to slip through cute little through-balls.
Arsenal fans had been worried that their static and distracted back four would let them down, and so they did. Thomas Vermaelen was caught day-dreaming to an alarming, almost comical extent when Aaron Lennon sped in behind them for the second goal.
The defence was also pulled badly out of line for attempting to Bale onside for the first, thanks surprisingly to Emmanuel Adebayor’s run dragging his marker back towards his own goal.
Jan Vertonghen, often linked with a move to Arsenal in his days at Ajax, was deservedly awarded the man of the match award for all his calmness and positional sense at centre-back. A couple of times Arsenal almost broke in down the right but were narrowly thwarted, while Ramsey wasted the best chance they created all day from open play.
Besides the goal, Bale didn’t really do that much, or even need to. He was, occasionally, guilty of trying to do things a little single-handedly, though who would blame him, given his current form?
He seemed a little bit too aware of the massive importance of the game and his role within it, letting out some emotion having raced over to celebrate by the pitch-side television camera, and trying to run the ball into the corner very early into stoppage-tine when Spurs might have attacked.
Again though, it was Emmanuel Adebayor, with his ability to frustrate both sets of supporters, who was to prove the low point of another north London derby. The striker, given the nod over Jermain Defoe, who had only just returned from injury, was ineffective until he was stretchered off after the hour-mark.
Defoe came on at 2-1, immediately reinvigorating Spurs’ attack and taking some pressure off the defence as a result. Cutting in off the right, he was slightly reminiscent of his fantastic goal against West Ham back in November.
This time, though, rather than cutting back and shooting, he ended it with a perfectly judged ball for Sigurdsson down the left, slicing the Arsenal defence in two.
That should have been 3-1 and home sailing, but the Icelandic international not only failed to score, he even failed to shoot, overrunning the ball slightly and looking to find Bale for a tap in which never resulted.
Spurs in recent games have often been accused of being over-reliant on the Welsh midfielder. Well Sigurdsson, himself posted out on the left wing specifically to allow Bale a free reign infield, and also as recognition for his substitute appearance against West Ham, certainly was that time.
As for whether Spurs should have stopped playing for Cazorla’s supposed injury - before what ended up being the winning goal - I don’t believe they should have.
The Spanish midfielder went down belatedly, maybe a second or so after initial contact had been made, just as Spurs had been handed the opportunity to counter attack.
Arsenal themselves also played on in the second half when Adebayor, albeit quite melodramatically, went down injured. The difference being, they couldn’t capitalise on it.
Spurs’ next league game is the rather tricky visit to Liverpool, though four straight wins in the league against West Brom, Newcastle, West Ham and Arsenal is a terrific boost heading in.
Before which, Andre Villas-Boas’ side face Inter Milan at home on Thursday for the first time since the famous 3-1 victory back in 2010.
Follow me on Twitter @daniel_grigg.