Game in a sentence
Emmanuel Adebayor provides one more assist for his former club, drawing a deserved red card from Howard Webb and in turn allowing Arsenal to take a vital three points at Emirates.
- The 151st derby in a storied rivalry was turned on its head by Adebayor’s reckless, studs up challenge on Santi Cazorla in the 17th minute. To that point Spurs were the better side, and looked like they would expose another shaky defensive performance from the Gunners back line.
- Jan Vertonghen delivered an excellent ball to Jermain Defoe in the 10th minute. Though Per Mertesacker was the goat on this play, Bacary Sagna also deserves blame for playing the striker on. Adebayor cleaned up after Wojciech Szczesny’s initial save. In the early going Gareth Bale and Vertonghen victimized the right side of the Gunners defense.
- With a cavalcade of former stars in attendance –including Sol Campbell doing his best trolling in a supporting role — Arsenal began to take the game to their North London rivals after the red card. Per Mertesacker pulled a reverse Adebayor, equalizing off of an excellent cross from Theo Walcott in the 24th minute. The lanky German did extremely well to put power on the header while standing still. Hugo Lloris had no chance.
- Lloris drawing the start drew much of the prematch commentary. The French captain made a series of fine saves, seemingly killing the dreaded ‘did AVB right the choice’ speculation that drives me to tears.
- Once again Mikel Arteta didn’t put in a top class performance. Walcott had Kyle Naughton in his pocket for much of the first half, only to be left wanting when Arteta failed to recognize his probing runs.
- Lukas Podolski’s deflected goal–assist to another former Gunner, William Gallas– in the 42nd minute was the death knell for the visitors, who would’ve considered 1-1 at the half a positive point to move forward from . Olivier Giroud made the lead two just five minutes later, capitalizing on an excellent run from Cazorla. The plaudits will go to the diminutive Spaniard, but Giroud extremely well to slot the ball past Lloris with his left foot while under duress.
- In an amazing feat of verbal gymnastics, the Sky pundits felt AVB should’ve recognized how excited Adebayor was for this match, ultimately blaming the beleaguered manager for not acting with foresight. This is how ridiculous narratives are built, off the backs of the chattering former pros who have nothing better to talk about. Good grief.
- AVB introduced Clint Dempsey and Michael Dawson –on for an over matched Naughton–after the break, reverting to a 3-4-1-1 formation that will leave formation geeks salivating. Arsenal, content to sit back, allowed Spurs far too much space. A two goal lead is anything but a sure thing for Wenger’s side, but they played as if it was.
- Alas, Arsenal made the lead three in the 60th minute thanks to some fine work for Giroud –flick on header– Walcott and Podolski, whose cross found an unmarked Cazorla in the box. 4-1. Surely the game had met its expiry date.
- It didn’t, it never does with this Arsenal squad. Once again Spurs were allotted acres of space. Gareth Bale brought the visitors back within two after strolling through the middle of the Arsenal defense. Bale could’ve made it a one goal lead if he found a wide open Defoe in the box for a tap in minutes later. Once again Arsenal and shambolic defending walk hand in hand.
- Walcott capped a brilliant performance with Arsenal’s fifth goal at the death. Though the scoreline mirrors February’s triumph at Emirates the feeling I take away from this match is much different. That comeback spurred Arsenal to an excellent run that buoyed the club to the third in the table. At this juncture the Gunners find themselves in a similar situation, but Wenger’s side were gifted a vital three points by Adebayor’s idiocy. There are positive takeaways –the summer additions played a crucial role in the victory– but lets wait a few weeks before we say this was the day when things changed.
1. Theo Walcott
2. Santi Cazorla
3. Olivier Giroud