Thursday, September 24, 2015

Totttenham Hotspur 1 Arsenal 2 (Capital One Cup 3rd Round)

It's been a tough week for us. Following back-to-back defeats in Croatia and at Stamford Bridge, there was huge pressure on Wenger's side. Although the Capital One Cup might have been our lowest priority, another loss would have been detrimental to the players' confidence. With another away league game and a must-win Champions League game at home against Olympiacos on the horizon, getting back to winning ways as quickly as possible was an urgent requirement.

Arsene Wenger made it clear prior to the game that he would field an experienced side despite his traditional approach to the League Cup of blooding youngsters. The major reason was that he still had plethora of second-string first-teamers (although he refused to use those expressions, "second string" or "fringe") who desperately needed playing time despite a few injuries. Besides, promising talents, including Chuba Akpom, Gedion Zelalem, and Jon Toral, are currently all loaned out.

The Frenchman made 10 changes from the side who started in a 2-0 defeat against Chelsea on Saturday. David Ospina replaced Petr Cech, while Mathieu Debuchy and Kieran Gibbs came in for Hector Bellerin and Nacho Monreal, respectively. Fit-again Per Mertesacker and Calum Chambers formed a central defensive partnership in place of Laurant Koscielny and Gabriel. Although Gabriel was available after his three-match ban was rescinded, the Brazilian defender did not even make the bench. Mikel Arteta replaced injured Francis Coqulin, while Mathieu Flamini came in for suspended Santi Cazorla. Alex Oxlaide-Chamberlain and Joel Campbell were deployed on the wings. Olivier Giroud got the nod ahead of Theo Walcott who started on the bench. In fact, Aaron Ramsey was the only player that kept his place, starting in a No. 10 role. Among those on the bench were a 21-year-old goalkeeper, Matt Macey, Bellerin, Monreal, Alexis, Mesut Ozil, and Alex Iwobi.

The team performance was not entirely convincing. It was not a typical Arsenal game by any means. Our possession was 45.9%, while the average passing success rate of 72% was very poor by our standard. Our goals, both provided by an unlikely scorer, Flamini, came almost against run of play. Although the game had typical attributes of a north London derby with emotion, intensity and commitment, it was not an easy-on-the-eye game, apart from Flamini's stunning goals and the Ox's mesmerizing skill-set.

This was a massive win ahead of another tough game at the King Power Stadium. Arsene Wenger is likely to recall his first-choice players for Saturday's game, but the north London derby victory should give a much-needed morale boost to this group of players and the rest of the squad. We had to weather enormous pressure from Tottenham for the large part of the game, but it was us who were more likely to add to the goal tally in the latter stages of the game. Hopefully, we can carry on in the forthcoming games where we left off in this game.

Players ratings

Ospina: 7
Made a couple of great saves. Unlucky to concede a goal as he had Chadli's cross perfectly covered.

Debuchy: 6

Stats read favourably for him with 6 tackles, 4 interceptions and 5 clearance, but his positioning was suspect. No wonder he has fallen in the pecking order. Had a wild shot at goal.

Chambers: 6
Conceded an own goal again but otherwise a decent game.

Mertesacker: 6
Made his first appearance since August 16 after recovering from a chest infection.

Gibbs: 7
He has the knack of making crucial off-the-line clearances in important games. 

Arteta: 6
Shown an early yellow card, which could have been red on a bad day. Completing 90 minutes is a positive, but it makes us worried that our campaign could be jeopardised if Le Coq's injury proves to be a long-term one.

Flamini: 8
He was reportedly on the verge of leaving Arsenal this summer and he has struggled to get in the squad so far. Took those two goals very well, but making those runs was even more impressive. He certainly proved his critics wrong in this game. Hats off to Mathieu Flamini, it was not easy to come into the team and perform immediately. Unanimously chosen Man of the Match.

Campbell: 6
Spurned a glorious chance by heading off target the follow-on of Giroud's effort. Although he worked hard to track back, he did make little impact, going forward. Replaced by Alexis in the 67th minute.

Ramsey: 6
Ineffective. His misplaced pass triggered Spurs' counter-attack, nearly costing us a goal.

Oxlaide-Chamberlain: 8
He looked dangerous all the time and demonstrated his technical ability, but his final ball, whether passing or shooting, let him down. That said, his stinging shot led to Flamini's first goal as it was so powerful that Vorm was only able to parry it. Made 7 dribbles.

Giroud: 6
Anonymous for most part of the game. Nonetheless, he was involved in the build-up to our first goal by laying the ball for the Ox and won 10 aerial duels.


Alexis: 6
Replaced Campbell in the 67th minute. His introduction immediately gave us an impetus, but couldn't find the net.

Walcott: 6
Came off the bench to replace the Ox who was suffering from cramp in the 89th minute. Had a guilt-edged opportunity towards the end of the game, but he dragged his shot wide when he had other options.