Emmanuel Adebayor’s dismissal early in the North London derby has coloured the reaction to the game, but Arsenal’s attack took apart Spurs defence through brilliant play, not simply because of a numerical advantage.
When Adebayor left the field on Saturday, after an awful challenge on Santi Cazorla, Spurs held a slender 1-0 advantage. However, given the recent history of the match, and the form of each side’s defence, it would be a stretch to suggest that there wouldn’t have been several more goals in the game.
For the rest of the first half, Arsenal ran riot against a shell-shocked Spurs back line, and this has as much to do with superb attacking play as Adebayor’s red card.
Restored to the Arsenal starting line-up Theo Walcott looks in wonderful form, and he gave Kyle Naughton a torrid time down the right flank, eventually sending over the cross that Per Mertesacker converted into the equaliser.
Whilst the German was on a rare foray forward, Arsenal now have Olivier Giroud as a permanent physical presence in the centre, and with Walcott also in the side, they suddenly look a real threat from crosses.
The Frenchman has found his scoring touch, and the short period of patience Arsenal required with him, may now be repaid in spades. It’s almost become a novelty to see Arsenal looks so threatening in the air, and it adds a welcome variation to their attacks.
However they still rely on a certain kind of player for the bulk of their attacks, and in Santi Cazorla they have the perfect man to bring the play forward through the centre. I would venture that much of his very best play has come away from the Emirates this season, that is until yesterday, when he found space in between Spurs’ lines, and ran the show in the final third.
Andre Villas-Boas tactics at the start of each half were to surprise Arsenal with an attacking formation, first with a 4-4-2, then switching out his full backs to create a 3-2-3-1. On both occasions Spurs started well, but Arsenal reacted and came on strongly by the end of the half. In the first, the red card aided them, in the second Spurs tired after a brief burst of hope after Bale’s goal.
But the game was not settled by Spurs’ actions, teams have won games, drawn games and lost games with ten men, and Arsenal’s attacking play is what won them the derby, not Emmanuel Adebayor.
image: © Ronnie Macdonald