Home » EPL, Latest » Match Report: Tottenham 0 Arsenal 1

While a footballing earthquake is taking place just now in the North West, the balance of power in north London has rarely looked more settled.

The only tremor at White Hart Lane yesterday arrived courtesy of Tomas Rosicky, whose second-minute winner was struck with sufficient power to momentarily stun even the Arsenal supporters. Delirium then followed as Arsenal’s third victory against Tottenham Hotspur this season also almost certainly ensured a 19th successive season in which they have finished higher in the Premier League than their great rivals.

The contrast with a year ago could hardly be more marked. Inspired by Gareth Bale, Spurs were 2-1 winners of a match that gave them a seemingly impregnable seven-point lead over Arsenal and also prompted the now infamous observation from Andre Villas-Boas that Arsène Wenger’s team were stuck in a “negative spiral”. After a third defeat in eight days, there can be little doubt which team are now consumed by negativity.

Wenger’s response to last season’s defeat was to sanction a clear-the-air meeting between his defenders and to select Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker as his new centre-back pairing. Clean sheets have since become a regular feature of their matches and the familiar chant of “1-0 to the Arsenal” has rarely been sung with more relish.

While Spurs’ hopes of qualifying for the Champions League have surely now ended, this win also keeps Arsenal in contention for what is a four-way race for the Premier League title. Even with injuries mounting and their form uncertain, an unlikely third Premier League/FA Cup double of Wenger’s tenure would just be feasible if Arsenal somehow got through looming matches against Chelsea and Manchester City unscathed.

It took a mistake from Sandro and a strike from Rosicky of quite stunning power for Arsenal to settle yesterday’s match after only 72 seconds. It had been slightly surprising that Wenger had started Rosicky out wide on the right rather than in Mesut Özil’s usual playmaker’s place but the positional decision was quickly vindicated. Rosicky had fed Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain after Sandro lost possession and, although there was some fortune at how the ball cannoned back into his path, his half-volley finish was simply breathtaking. Hugo Lloris in the Tottenham goal barely had time to dive before the ball simply rocketed past his right shoulder and into the top corner.

It was an early warning of the perils of playing such a high defensive line but the strategy of Tim Sherwood, the Spurs manager, continued. It meant that the match settled into a consistent pattern. Spurs were dominant both in possession and territory but Arsenal’s counter-attacks always carried the game’s most potent threats.

Spurs were again almost punished in the 15th minute. Nabil Bentaleb made a mistake, allowing Oxlade-Chamberlain a clear run on goal but his attempted chip over Lloris was miscued and trickled harmlessly to safety. Sherwood was apoplectic at a second defensive lapse and, turning to his bench, hurled his gilet into the second row of the assembled coaching staff and substitutes.

He then repeatedly ran onto the edge of the pitch – arms flying in all directions – to remonstrate with his players. Nuanced tactics were evidently not being relayed. There was another very public display of anger from Sherwood when Bacary Sagna sent Danny Rose high into the air with a tackle that, while full-blooded, was neither studs-up nor particularly late. Referee Mike Dean correctly showed no more than a yellow card.

Whether Sherwood’s extraordinary touchline antics were having any tangible impact is debatable but the Spurs players did gradually begin to turn their possession into clear chances. Emmanuel Adebayor was proving to be a talismanic figure in attack against his former club and he almost glanced a Kyle Naughton cross beyond Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny.

Aside from Adebayor, Tottenham’s only threat was down their right where Lukas Podolski was providing limited defensive energy for Arsenal in support of Kieran Gibbs. Andros Townsend flashed one cross along the six-yard box, while Mertesacker was also needed to make an important block to deny Christian Eriksen.

The great dilemma with Podolski is that he is also the best finisher at Arsenal and he did almost turn a half-chance into a goal when he smashed Gibbs’s pass into the side-netting. Arsenal’s supporters were repeatedly taunting Spurs with the observation that “Tim Sherwood’s a gooner” but his 15 minutes with the players at half-time did seem to illicit some response.

Tottenham’s problem was that the best chances kept falling to Nacer Chadli. Szczesny wobbled badly and spilled two crosses in the space of one minute but was rescued by Sagna and Koscielny as Chadli hesitated. Chadli then missed another opportunity to restore parity when Adebayor had brilliantly released Townsend, only for his inviting cross to go between the legs of the Belgium winger as he attempted an extravagant back-heel.

The match ended amid further touchline fun from Sherwood, who became involved in an altercation with Sagna over his rather vigorous attempt to get play restarted quickly. It was a futile and faintly desperate gesture that summed up his increasing helplessness.

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