Yesterday's 5-2 thrashing of Tottenham will remain in the minds of Arsenal supporters for years to come. But beyond the brilliance of RVP, Benayoun and Rosicky showed why they should remain in the side...
After impressing the boss in the midweek win over Norwich for the reserves, the man snapped up by Wenger until the end of the season was chucked into a starting line-up which also included the industrial Tomas Rosicky (who had no scored for over 2 years) and an inconsistent Theo Walcott as the supporting line tucked behind the ever-present Robin van Persie.
The inclusion of Benayoun was a surprise to many; his name rebounding around Facebook and Twitter as English wizzkid Oxlade-Chamberlain was left warming the bench despite an impressive debut Premier season with many questioning Wenger’s motives of siding with experience rather than pace.
Despite quickly going 2 down from a wicked deflection and a debateable penalty, it was the workmanship of Benayoun and Rosicky throughout the pitch that turned the tie in favour of the home team. While Walcott frustrated on the right wing and Arteta looked to be a touch behind the rest, Arsenal started to press the Tottenham midfield; passes were being intercepted by the relentless Israeli and Rosicky was quickly on the heels of Parker and co before breaking away in numerous Arsenal counter attacks.
Benayoun really showed Wenger that injuries to his big guns such as Wilshere and Ramsey doesn’t spell the end of the world
Having a midfield which is considerably narrower tactically without Oxlade-Chamberlain or Gervhino enabled the Gunners to compete with Tottenham – Parker, Modric and Kranjcar were given less time to pick out that killer pass which has helped Spurs climb up the table this season. The high pressing of the Arsenal midfield was rewarded as a Tony Adams-esque header by Sagna and a fantastic turn and shot from Robin van Persie meant the chorus of boos was postponed as the teams went in at the break at 2-2.
The second half saw old ‘Arry make changes to combat the Arsenal midfield dominance with Van der Vaart and Sandro coming on in an attempt to overrun the middle of the park. Despite the changes, the focus on the middle of the park and the removal of Louis Saha enabled the impressive Bacary Sagna to move into a more forward role as Arsenal started to exploit the wide areas more frequently. Benayoun once again showed his starting berth credentials with a mazy run resulting in Brad Friedel tipping his shot around the post.
The Gunners continued their dominance and were rewarded with a Rosicky goal not unlike the numerous bagged by Freddie Ljungberg in the 2002 double winning season. The hard working Rosicky banged in his first goal since 2010 as he started the move, exposing the narrow Spurs midfield before finishing Sagna's cross at the feet of Friedel. Rosicky has suffered a lot of criticism over the last 24 months; the Arsenal faithful expecting to see a 30 yard screamer every other game have sometimes been guilty of overlooking his work ethic and off the ball runs. His performance today should see many more supporters spotting the amount of work he puts in over 90 minutes.
Today’s fixture was really the day for the overlooked and maybe unsung heroes of the Arsenal squad. As Tottenham pushed forward to look for the equalizer, the fitness and stamina of Benayoun and Rosicky really shone through – despite not owning the pace of Gervhinio or Oxlade-Chamberlain, both were able to run in and out of the flanks while the opposition were tracking back.
As well as the midfield pair, Sagna’s movement into a more attacking role throughout the game saw him delivering quality balls into the Spurs box with Walcott occupying a forward roll alongside Robin van Persie. Walcott’s deeper role was rewarded with a quick fire double before the 70th minute, finally putting the nail in the Spurs coffin. In front of a miserable future England manager, as well as the gloomy caretaker manager - Walcott’s impressive finishing wouldn’t go unnoticed.
Despite having to wait until February 2012 to start his first ‘big’ Arsenal match, Benayoun really showed Wenger that injuries to his big guns such as Wilshere and Ramsey doesn’t spell the end of the world; there’s always room for a combat-ready veteran who has a footballing brain. Of course any real chance of a trophy this season has slipped away from the Gunners, but a convincing win over their north London rivals shows that the coveted 4th position is definitely a possibility.
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