I can’t really argue with the above, but let’s look at a few things we can take from the game.
Theo Walcott is a viable option up front
With injuries to Giroud and Nicklas Bendtner (who could face up to 2 months out), Theo Walcott was handed a start in his favoured role up front for Arsenal.
Theo hasn’t played up front save for a few games during his contract negotiations last year. There was no goal to round off his performance but the old adage about there being more to a striker than just his goals certainly rings true. After the turgid performance of Podolski, the constant movement and threat provided by Theo Walcott was refreshing. His movement for the first goal dragged the defenders away from Gnabry allowing him to slide the ball into Santi Cazorla.
Theo surprised us all with his header against West Ham, and his ability to hold the ball up today was even more unexpected. A fantastic bit of hold up play from Theo out to the right wing before laying the ball off, ended with Walcott spinning off the defender and attempting to beat Lloris when he really should have squared it for Monreal to finish into an open net.
He was clearly under instruction to not press in the same manner as Giroud often strolling around up top when out of possession. His constant desire to run in behind forced the Tottenham backline deep creating plenty of space for the midfield trio, something which they have been deprived off for the majority of this season.
The question on Wenger’s mind tonight is most certainly: “Do I need another striker?”
Mertesacker is vital
In truth, Vermaelen had a fairly good game. He was only in trouble once when he was spun by Soldado (who then promptly disappeared for the remainder of the game) and also picked up a yellow card. Spurs never really troubled Arsenal too much but the collective angst of the fanbase when Per is missing is telling. Vermaelen is a fine third choice centreback. There are not many better in the league. It must be difficult to deal with being club captain and knowing how much the Mertesacker- Koscielency partnership is loved. He has acted as a model pro throughout and done a good job when called upon.
Yet, the importance of the German for the defence cannot be overstated. It’s impossible to know if we would have been as comfortable when down to 10 had Vermaelen remained on the pitch but I think we all accept we wouldn’t have been.
Gnabry is a massive talent
Gnabry has been very much a bit part player this season. Given his performances, this speaks far more about the midfield resources available to Wenger than it does about Gnabry. When we were missing Podolski and Walcott this season, we have at times been crying out for a bit of pace and directness and it has surprised me to see how reluctant Wenger has been to use Serge. That said, I wouldn’t class him in the same category as the aforementioned, he is far more similar to Oxlade-Chamberlain with his technical ability and unpredictability.
His role behind the striker was a surprise given the personnel on the pitch but he more than proved his worth. Wenger was wary of putting any pressure on Serge but will we (and should we) be seeing more of him this season.
The mystery that is Jack Wilshere
I felt that Jack was average today, he had some flashes but yet again he seemed more interested in getting involved with Moussa Dembele. I think we all realise the potential that Jack has, and also how difficult getting over an injury can be (see one Aaron Ramsey) but he has confused me in recent weeks. When he had the chance to play in the more advanced role against Cardiff, I thought he excelled. Given that his breakout season was alongside Alex Song, I find it hard to rationalise the thought that playing in the pivot is why he hasn’t performed as much. His tendency to hold onto the ball is more detrimental to the team there certainly. Given the model set by Aaron Ramsey, it’s clear that there is the scope to push forward more and contribute to the attacking phase from the deeper role yet Jack really hasn’t been doing this.
Does Jack lack the stamina to truly play as a box-to-box midfielder or is it frustration/his injury that lead to his weaker performances as a central midfielder?
Spurs are sh*t
I know the title is “5 things we’ve learnt” and that we’ve always known this but please don’t haul me up for false advertising. I did wonder whether the Arsenal fan, Tim Sherwood, would change his system or stick with his 442. He did the latter and it ensured that Tottenham never really threatened. There’s a reason such a simple version of the system has fallen out of favour and the inability of their midfield or attack to establish themselves illustrated it perfectly. It was a naïve decision but I think that our performance is evidence for the fact that we’ve struggled recently (performance wise) as teams really dig in against us and force us to break them down. The fact that we’ve managed so often is testament to our “mental strength” and lack of reliance on one player/route as we did with Cesc Fabregas.