The North London Derby for this season concludes at one a piece for each side. I’m not sure that means a big power shift but it certainly does mean that we’ve made it tough on ourselves to clinch a Champions League spot. 7 points is by no means an unassailable gap as there are still 10 matches left to be played but it’s still a sizeable task ahead of us. Unlike last season’s result, the momentum has well and truly swung in favour of the very small white half of North London.
The match itself must have been quite entertaining for the neutrals. In truth, it was a cracking game. Both sides displayed attacking intent and while neither keeper had too much work to be done, the game was played at a breath-taking pace. The statistical record will show that we edged them in almost every aspect with 60% of ball possession but the one number which matters is the final score. In the end, they did more with their limited possession than we did with our dominance in that aspect.
For the umpteenth time this season, we were undone by a spell of callousness defending. Not for the first time either that we have conceded two goals in quick succession against teams above us in the league. It’s also callous because we didn’t heed the warning signs before. Before Sp*rs got their opening goal, they tried the same routine twice. First it failed because Bale was offside and second one failed because the pass was too strong. Yet, no one organise the defence to negate this tactic from the home side.
No one stood up and instruct the defence to be wary of the runners between the centre backs. Not the captain or the experienced German centre back. Also there were no orders for the midfielders to close down Sp*rs midfield so that they could not make that pass. I’m also going to assume that there are no instructions from the bench to signal this and help with the organisation. The management gives too much credit to the players in hoping that they will be able to sort themselves out in any situation.
The clinical way in which the home side finished their chances was not matched by our own effort. Earlier Olivier Giroud did the hard part is escaping his marker and controlling a perfectly threaded pass but fluffed it with a weak shot. Just like in the Chelsea match, Giroud missed a good opening and we allowed the opponent to score theirs. Our only striker went on to have a torrid match in which he was efficient in winning headers but that’s about it for his contribution.
In the same way, the players who have contributed in other matches, failed to lived up to expectations. Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott were both equally as poor as Giroud, if not worse. The former’s movement on the ball was slower and his passing was at times, wayward. The latter had one of his anonymous games. If it was tactical for him to remain centrally most of the time, then it was a failed tactic. Easy to talk to hindsight but every time Carl Jenkinson had the ball on the right side, he was surrounded and had no release outlet.
To our one credit, we did make a right a go at it right from the start of the second half. Aaron Ramsey’s persistence won us a freekick and we got a goal back out of it. Leading up to the goal, we were faster to pressure and just more decisive with our play. Yet, rather than being inspired by the goal, it seemed to deflate us once again. That is a maddening trait of ours which is hard to comprehend. Why we eased the pressure when we had Sp*rs on the ropes, I will never understand.
Once again, the manager stuck his trusted players when it was clear that they were underperforming. Yes, I do realised that in Giroud, Walcott and Wilshere; there’s a chance that they could conjure up something special and we might get another goal from there. However, when we have to carry 3 players around, it makes it harder to create anything of note. Which makes the substitution that Arsene Wenger made very confusing. What could be the justification to put Ramsey as the right back when he’s already on a yellow card?
Of course it doesn’t help that the option from the bench are the most encouraging of people. It’s not like the trio mentioned are the worst players in the squad. They aren’t and even if we take them out, they wouldn’t be. Players aren’t machines, they cannot be expected to perform at 100% in every single match. Sometimes, they have poor games and that is fine. On such occasions, those of lesser talents could come on and maybe perform better in that specific match. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Francis Coquelin must be sitting there wondering when else are they going to get a chance if not in a match where their more illustrious compatriot are playing badly.
There are only 10 matches left between now and the end of the season. If you’re counting Champions League, then I have to ask – what’s wrong with you? We can console ourselves that Sp*rs have quite a tough run in. However, can this team of ours put in a consistent run of wins, even if Sp*rs drop points? You will find that the answer toward errs on the negative side.
It just got bleaker.