SUNDAY 14TH MARCH, 2021
ARSENAL 2(1) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1(1)
Lacazette (pen), 64
Referee:- Michael Oliver
Assistants:- Stuart Burt, Simon Bennett
Fourth official:- Kevin Friend
VAR:- Paul Tierney
Assistant VAR:- Lee Betts.
Arsenal (4-2-3-1):- Leno; Cedric, David Luiz, Gabriel, Tierney; Partey, Xhaka; Saka (sub Pepe, 46), Odegaard, Smith-Rowe (sub Willian, 77); Lacazette (Capt.) (sub Elneny, 88)
Subs not used:- Ryan; Bellerin, Holding, Chambers; Ceballos; Aubameyang
Booked:- Xhaka (foul on Lucas Moura)
Spurs (4-2-3-1):- Lloris (Capt.); Doherty, Sanchez, Alderweireld, Reguilon; Hojbjerg, Ndombele (sub Dele, 62); Bale (sub Sissoko, 57), Lucas Moura, Son (sub Lamela, 19); Kane
Subs not used:- Hart; Aurier, Dier, Davies; Winks; Vinicius
Booked:- Reguilon (foul on Saka), Sanchez (foul on Lacazette), Lamela (foul on Partey)
Sent off:- Lamela (second yellow for foul on Tierney, 76)
“Best goal ever” not good enough
Erik Lamela's "best goal ever" was not good enough for Spurs today. His goal was our only shot on target (probably on goal at all) until he had a header held after 70 minutes. Erik then blotted his copybook by getting sent off for a second yellow card after which Spurs' 10 men played better than 11 had all game, and might even have snatched an undeserved equaliser. The players and manager (for I think he got his team selection wrong today) have to ask themselves some big questions.
The caption for the picture in the Spurs Tweet above was “Sergio is all of us right now”, posted after Lamela’s incredible rabona goal after 33 minutes. The image is not dissimilar to the famous “Scream” image, lifted quite a few years ago to deride Arsenal fans after a defeat. The trouble is that negative image and feeling probably describes accurately the feelings of Spurs fans about most of the game. In fairness, most were initially happy with the selection, but as Arsenal relentlessly and successfully attacked our weak right flank, it soon became evident that Jose Mourinho had picked the wrong right back, and gave him insufficient support as Gareth Bale was not tracking back enough. Mind you, Doherty himself was not often to be found in his defensive position as it was Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg trying (and too often failing) to cover his ground. The pace of Aurier was required here against the youth, zest, pace and not a little skill demonstrated by 20-year-old Emile Smith-Rowe, ably supported by left back Kieran Tierney.
My view is that Tanguy Ndombele is not the player for that defensive position next to Hojbjerg, and ultimately Jose realised that Sissoko was better fitted to the role in this type of game, after trying Ndombele further forward. Lamela didn’t even start the game, but came on for Son who seems to have suffered a muscular injury, perhaps a hamstring, as he had to be replaced after 19 minutes. Lamela paid for his spiky, and over-aggressive attitude in the second half.
All the talk before the game was about Arsenal’s club captain Aubameyang being dropped for “disciplinary reasons”, which were not disclosed by Mikel Arteta. Aubameyang was still named on the bench though, so his offence could not have been that great. Lacazette was named as captain, but I did not see him wearing the armband. Perhaps Aubameyang had hidden it in a hissy fit!
Arsenal kicked off and played towards the “away end”. After two minutes Lacazette was fouled by Sanchez just outside the area, but Spurs defended the free kick okay. Until he conceded the second half penalty which lost us the game, I thought Sanchez played very well. Smith-Rowe was milking that space on the left flank and so did Tierney. Lacazette who was in space had a shot blocked and Tierney hit a cross wide across the goalmouth. Spurs were not getting out of their own half, but they did conjure a move which involved a number of passes, which ended with a short pass by Doherty to Bale who tried an audacious shot with the outside of his left foot, but that floated directly into Leno’s hands.
Arsenal persisted with their attacks down the left flank and Tierney had a dangerous cross cleared. Alderweireld managed to clear off the feet of Saka on the other side of the area, conceding a corner. This was also cleared. Most of the time Sanchez’s name was being associated with our clearances. Xhaka tried a shot from distance, but this passed over. Lloris wasn’t being seriously tested.
In my preview I referred to two recent comedy errors by the Arsenal defence which arose through failing to play out from the back. Spurs nearly had a similar event and it was Reguilon who over-hit a short pass which led to the ball falling to Arsenal and a right foot shot by Smith-Rowe which hit the bar with Lloris beaten.
Toby Alderweireld hit a long ball, intended for Son, but it was too long, running to Leno. Son over-stretched trying to reach it, and needed treatment. He walked off, but had to be replaced by Lamela. Lucas Moura moved to the left, with Erik in the middle. It wasn’t long before he was upsetting various opponents. First though, Smith-Rowe got the bye-line and found Lacazette in space in the area. Thankfully the Arsenal striker mis=-kicked and the ball went harmlessly off target.
There had been some good play by Lucas Moura who had been fouled, but referee Michael Oliver played an advantage, which did not work out. Then came the goal which astounded us, especially after seeing it two or three times! Bale hit a long cross from the right flank, which was fielded by Reguilon, who passed short to Lucas Moura. Lucas passed to Lamela who a) nutmegged Partey with his shot, b) placed his shot perfectly inside Leno’s left post and c) did all this with another rabona shot. His previous rabona had been against Asteras Tripolis in 2014 This was our first shot on target.
Arsenal responded by beating the defence and the goalkeeper again as Smith-Rowe crossed again from the left, Lacazette left the ball, which ran to Cedric who rattled the post with his shot.
Reguilon showed indiscipline when fouling Saka, and was justifiably booked. Odegaard headed wide from the middle of the area after another Smith-Rowe cross. To be frank, Arsenal’s equaliser, just before the break, was deserved. Tierney crossed this time, and Odegaard was in space in the middle of the area (why?) and beat Lloris to his left with his deflected shot. It was Odegaard’s first Premier League goal. He is another Real Madrid loanee.
In the first half, we had chosen to stay in our own half for too much of the time. In the second we were forced back, and seemed unable to break out. Arteta replaced Saka with Pepe at the break. Bale did send a long cross to Reguilon on the left, who tried to tee up Kane, but Odegaard was the man who cleared.
Smith-Rowe found Lacazette with a short ball forward and Lacazette’s 20-yard shot was held by Lloris. Jose’s first unenforced change was to take off the unhappy Bale and put on Sissoko. This allowed Ndombele to be pushed forward. Lamela moved to the right flank, with Lucas on the left. Hojbjerg was given a “final warning” by Mr. Oliver following a shove on Partey near the half-way line. Hojbjerg cannot be exonerated from some poor passes today. Partey had a right foot shot go wide before Ndombele was replaced by Dele. I think Jose had made reference to players “going missing” and I think Ndombele might have been one of these.
After 62 minutes the ball was fed into the Spurs area and I thought Lacazette had been offside, but this proved not to be the case. Sanchez was rash and swiped at Lacazette’s legs, after Lacazette was probably mis-kicking his effort anyway. A penalty was the result, supported by VAR and Lacazette scored inside Lloris’s left post with Hugo having committed the wrong way.
Lamela was booked for a foul on Partey. After 69 minutes, Harry Kane hit a cross from the right, into the danger zone, but the ball passed just in front of Dele’s attempted header. Hojbjerg hit a ball quite powerfully into the Arsenal area and this was met by a good header by Lamela, but the ball was held by Leno. Now came Lamela’s last moment of madness. The offence was committed near the half-way line and was a second booking for swinging his arm up across Tierney’s upper torse.
Suddenly the ten men started playing like men possessed. I couldn’t tell you how we covered the deficiency, but I suspect we played three at the back and put the same numbers into attack. Effectively that turned out to be more than we had with eleven on the field. Lucas Moura was a hero during this period, getting fouled time and time again. Xhaka was booked for one offence. Lucas took the free kick and Harry Kane headed the ball into the net, but he had been correctly adjudged offside. Another Lucas cross was directed at Kane but David Luiz put the ball out for a corner, which came to nothing.
With time running out Partey fouled Kane and Harry hit the post with his kick. The ball rebounded and Sanchez hit the ball goalward, but Gabriel managed to head clear. In the third minute of added time Lucas was fouled again. Harry Kane stepped up but hit his kick well over the target. Spurs were beaten.
Even the BBC’s Mark Lawrenson had predicted a Spurs win. I mistakenly did the same, but most of my predictions fail these days. Arsenal celebrated their win with great exuberance, but they remain four points behind us. We did beat them on aggregate this season, if that’s any consolation. We have still managed just two away wins against Arsenal in the Premier League, and one of them (in 1993) was against a team weakened for a forthcoming FA Cup Final. Remember them?
Our fading hopes of a top four place were severely dented today. That is the bottom line. I’m just glad I did not have to slink away from The Emirates among all those gloating gooners, but then I am used to doing that.
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