Arsenal once again fell foul to their old habits of failing to break a down deep and determined defence as Spurs’ rearguard action ensured they put an end to Arsenal’s title hopes.
The early post mortem results are in for this season and there is one name that dominates the answers: Robin van Persie. Of course it is purely hypothetical to assume where Arsenal would have been had they had a fit van Persie for most of the season but the way he “transformed” Arsenal according to Arsene Wenger and gave the side an efficiency in possession that they were missing, speaks volumes of his influence to Arsenal’s style. Thought to be the vital cog in the changing mechanism of the side, van Persie’s movement creates space for others in the 4-3-3 while his ability to get behind gives greater variety to play.
His immediate introduction brought a great save from Heurelho Gomes, getting on to a chipped pass from Abou Diaby and expertly volleying a shot which was fantastically stopped by the Brazilian. And his movement helped create the first goal, dropping into the space between the midfield and defence to feed a ball for Walcott to cross in low for Bendtner. It was an urgency and penetration that was greatly missing from Arsenal, that van Persie brought to the game and with that defeat, surely brings about an end to Arsenal’s title dream.
Ultimately this was a season of learning – seemingly the perennial excuse – but encouragingly, certain players have made big strides to ensure Arsenal can mount a serious challenge on all fronts next campaign. However, despite those improvements, the Gunners fell foul to their old habits of failing to break down a determined and organised Tottenham defence. Wenger’s idea of playing one dynamic winger on one flank and one half-winger on the other fell flat also – Emmanuel Eboue and Tomas Rosicky were essentially the latter meaning it was all about control and despite monopolising possession, a lack of movement made it all very easy for Spurs to defend. They were very compact and disciplined – as typified by Luka Modric who reigned in as much of his attacking tendencies to play a great box-to-box covering role, making 5 interceptions and 11 attempted tackles.
Calls of signing a new defender have been justified although Sol Campbell put in a performance as good as anyone on the pitch. He would have been disappointed with how the second went in, especially being after the restart but his calmness and pace, kept the Spurs strikers at bay for most of the game.
Rosicky had a busy first-half and Wenger tried to get more out of his Czech Maestro by moving him to the right for the ineffective Eboue but being his job as a wide forward to also get behind, Rosicky went about searching for the crucial killer ball that no-one wanted to receive. Eboue’s poor showing displayed once again his inability to play in front of Bakary Sagna with the Ivorian being to the type of player who thrives on movement to make late driving runs instead of starting the moves for someone else. The Gunner’s liking to playing short, neat passes compromised their ability to get behind and many moves were easily anticipated because of the lack of movement. Decision-making also took a hit but that may be linked to the unwillingness to make runs beyond the Spur’s backline.
As it was, it was van Persie’s introduction, along with Theo Walcott’s directness that seemed to change Arsenal’s mentality and nearly inspired a comeback. The switch to a 4-4-2 was necessary and finally allowed Nicklas Bendtner some room to play off a team-mate but with Gomes making a series of fantastic saves, ended any hopes of Arsenal adding any silverware this season.
Tottenham’s total interceptions of 33, all in their own half, displays their compactness and determination to stop Arsenal from creating chances. It also highlights the lack of movement from the Gunners, making it easy for Spurs to anticipate passing moves.