Tottenham Hotspur 1 – 2 Arsenal
0 – 1 Flamini (28)
1 – 1 Chambers o.g. (56)
1 – 2 Flamini (78)
Matthieu Flamini, joint top scorer for Arsenal from his one appearance this season. Footballing sensation, Harry Kane, has scored zero in his half-a-dozen club matches so far.
It’s a funny old game.
That’s the way the footballing gods like to roll these days. Kick a club when it’s down, offer that branch of hope with a twinkle in their eyes which asks, “Did you really think I’d forgotten you?” I can’t think immediately of a least likely hero for the night nor a performance like it, to bring yourself back to everyone’s attention.
Heavily linked away with a move in the summer, only to remain at the club heading toward another Bosman in 2016, Flamini had been absent from first team action. I was surprised when the line-ups were announced, to see his inclusion in the starting XI alongside Mikel Arteta. The pair – the Spaniard to a lesser degree – compensated for Francis Coquelin’s absence and in Flamini’s case, Olivier Giroud’s barren spell in front of goal.
The time to focus on Saturday’s encounter with Leicester will come. Let Flamini enjoy his day in the sun, bask in the glory of night which he won’t quickly forget.
It is just bizarre to think that Flamini has as many goals in one night as the club’s strikers. I’m not thinking about what that says about their form so far, simply enjoying the smile thinking that Tottenham were entirely undone by a previously forgotten man. He won’t be any longer.
The two finishes were excellent in their own respect. Yes, the first relied on Vorm’s mishandling of Oxlade-Chamberlain’s shot but Flamini followed it in with a poachers instinct, providing a lifted shot high into the net, out of the goalkeeper’s reach.
As for the second, if that had been Özil or Sanchez, everyone would have been purring about the technique and how only football’s elite can provide those moments. It wasn’t, it was a thirty-something midfielder driving his legs forward in support of his team-mates who provided the perfect volley as the ball looped into his path.
You can only tip your hat to the man.
It was a strange night, London’s premier derby with the supporting cast on show providing a lower key affair than normal. On the pitch at least. Off it, the usual tales of Neanderthals and blood-letting surfaced post-match, some not returning home as safely as they had left; a swift and full recovery to you. Some things never change around this fixture; it was a vile place to travel to thirty years ago; nothing much has improved.
Arsenal rarely look in genuine trouble. Tottenham exploited the lack of protection afforded Mathieu Debuchy and his own insecurities to attack down the Arsenal right. The time out of the game since Arnautovic’s unwarranted assault comes with ring-rustiness but not being restored to the starting XI immediately, has destroyed his confidence. When you make Danny Rose look a good player, you know it’s not a good night.
Overall, the defence did well. I can’t recall any opportunities of note before Flamini’s first goal and afterwards, Kane’s shot which was superbly defended by Gibbs on the line and a couple of Ospina saves, there wasn’t a real threat. Yes, Tottenham attacked down the right but they fizzled out for the most part in wayward passing and timely interceptions by Mertesacker and Chambers.
The latter has been paying attention. Unfortunate on Saturday when the ball cannoned off his back into the net, he was unlucky once more as he stretched for the ball ahead of Ospina and diverted it into the net, as the Colombian dived behind him to gather the ball safely had he not intervened. A lack of communication between the pair is the root cause, something they will overcome but it’s the sort of early season misfortune which dogged Laurent Koscielny for his early years at the club so at least Chambers is learning something…
Arsenal’s reward is a trip to Hillsborough for the sixth meeting with Sheffield Wednesday in this competition. A reminder of Wembley glory and a repeat of Martin Hodge’s generosity toward Nigel Winterburn wouldn’t go amiss. For a trophy that Arsenal have a genuine chance of winning, it was a relatively kind draw. The remaining ties are shaping this to be a Premier League Reserve Cup this season with no Football League presence guaranteed in the next round.
Spurn the opportunity of silverware? I wonder if Arsène will look more seriously if his charges reach the last eight? I’m sure Mathieu Flamini will beg to differ.