Arsenal 2 – 0 Tottenham Hotspur
1 – 0 Cazorla (31)
2 – 0 Rosicky (62)
“Tell me the child’s name.”
“I hereby christen this child Offside Adebayor”
“No, it’s Emmanuel”
“Trust me, he will get used to it”
The rows of empty seats didn’t tell their own tale, they told the whole tale. Tottenham were well beaten, unable to resist Arsenal’s attack, incapable of breaching their defence and their supporters were not waiting around for the North London sky once more to be painted red. Goals by Cazorla and Rosicky settled the tie but there were many other positives, not least of which was an assured performance from Serge Gnabry. The German youngster was praised by Arsène post-match,
Today he has shown he is quality. He had a very good game.
He displayed that intelligence for Cazorla’s opening goal. Dragged out of position by Theo Walcott’s run, Tottenham’s defence parted. Gnabry serged across the pitch, slipped Cazorla clear; the Spaniard’s first time shot arrowed unerringly into corner with Lloris fooled entirely. That was a notable highlight, the key was the consistency of his performance whether it was advancing into the Tottenham danger area on regular raids or falling back to provide support to Bacary Sagna. It is occasions such as these where the Frenchman’s value to Arsenal really shines through. Were he to leave, the prospect of Jenkinson and Gnabry on the right would be discomforting, not because of their abilities but the inexperience. Sagna regularly talked to the youngster, guiding, encouraging, providing confidence to enable Gnabry’s talent to flourish.
Wenger will have been very pleased with the pace Arsenal displayed by Arsenal from the kick-off. Tottenham may have fortuitously carved the first opening when Erikson was denied by Fabianski’s sturdy block but from there on, they were worn down, their belief eroded and mistakes forced. That was never more evident than in Rosicky’s goal. Danny Rose has no doubt dined out on his winning goal a couple of seasons back, he may be more reticent to mention it now. The Czech robbed him of possession and kept his cool as younger, more athletic defenders sought to catch him, offering them a glimpse of the ball before lifting it gently over the advancing Lloris. Any pretence that Tottenham had that they were going to forge a way back into the game was crushed in that moment. In the build-up to the match, The Guardian ran a piece which offered reflections on previous cup meetings between the two sides. Of the 2001 semi-final, Tim Sherwood offered the view that Arsenal should have scored “seven or eight” on that day; he could have few complaints if his side had been beaten by five yesterday.
This was a return to form for Arsenal. Points had been eked out during the Christmas period but yesterday saw fluidity in the passing and dynamism in the movement that had been missing. Reassuringly, the defence looked secure without Per Mertesacker in the first half. There has to be sympathy off Thomas Vermaelen when injury deprived him of a rare ninety minutes. Personally, I thought he did well, particularly in making a superbly timed tackle moments after he had been cautioned for for a professional – read cynical – lunge to prevent a Tottenham attack moving to a more threatening position. A rare plaudits to Mark Clattenburg for not being seduced by the visitors histrionics as they sought an unjust punishment for the Arsenal captain. After the second goal, the tactic of retreating to allow Tottenham possession became a training ground exercise as Arsenal become more familiar, more comfortable with that style of play.
The knockout nature of the game lent itself to a more charged atmosphere in the stands, a greater needle on the pitch. Wilshere and the rest of the Arsenal midfield refused to be cowed by their opposite numbers as a more inexperienced triumvirate might have been. The most impressive of the three for me, was Wilshere. He prompted and probed, tackled and niggled; very reminiscent of how North London Derbies of yesteryear were played, pegging his opposite numbers back with ball and his movement whilst getting under their skin when they did not have it, particularly Dembele. It was a nastiness to Arsenal’s game that has not always been evident. I know the Derby brings that to the fore more but hopefully it is a sign of knowing the dark arts which his predecessors in successful Arsenal teams were never afraid to use. He has always been able to respond to provocation but yesterday, he initiated matters, he was the provocateur. A subtle difference.
The footballing puritans have moved into full swing, seeking to flay Theo Walcott for his ridiculing of Tottenham supporters as he was carried around the track under a hail of coins and missiles. It is ludicrous that the focus is on a forward who entered into banter is being subjected to criticism – and the puritans want him censured – whilst criminal acts are being blithely dismissed. Football really does need to look at itself and get to grips with the real problems. If authorities or puritans do not want players to engage, that’s fine but they might as well construct perspex shields between the pitch and stands, kill off the game entirely. If supporters want to hand out jibes, they take it back. If they want to throw coins, clubs should be punished but I doubt he new zeal at the FA extends that far! it never did before.
Walcott’s injury is a problem for Wenger. Nicklas Bendtner is out for a month, anything that long for Walcott and he may be forced into the transfer market. Listening to Arsène, you sense he is more inclined toward a loan deal to cover such problems, preferring instead to invest funds in the summer. Maybe that is the ‘feedback’ the club are getting from players and agents, that there is a reluctance to moved with a World Cup Summer coming. Certainly the club will end paying more for deals concluded after the World Cup Final has finished. There’s always some angle where players have been improved by their international performances isn’t there. A quick dip into the market such as the signing of Rosicky before the 2006 Finals began is the only sure way of getting that elusive bargain.
As it is, we’ll just have to seek solace in waiting for today’s FA Cup Fourth Round draw. What will Tottenham be doing? Who cares…