This was indeed Arsenal’s best starting line up as the game kicked off today. This time Wenger opting to spearhead the attack with Aleksandr Lacazette – a player who I highly rate.
Arsenal started on a positive note with the midfield energetic and the defence playing a high line. Both Kolasinac and Bellerin played wide and the duo of Sanchez and Ozil took narrower positions. This allowed a more balanced side that could press from the front while defending and forming a solid defence at the back (when the wing backs fell in, it became a 5 man defence).
The first chance came in the 5th minute when some superb pressing by Lacazette forced a weak clearance from Dier, but the French man’s shot from the successful ‘nick’ found the sky as an unmarked Ramsey raised his hands in frustration. On analysing the replay, it is true that Lacazette could have found the Welshman and IF that happened we may have led. Yet, its hard to blame the striker for not trying and in split-second decision making moments like that, I felt it was fair.
The second real chance came when Ramsey’s ball from the middle found Bellerin’s run behind the Spurs defence but no sooner had the Spaniard shuffled in a low cross than David Sanchez struggle off Lacazette to make a last-second clearance for a corner.
In the 36th minute, we led.
Shkodran Mustafi found the back of the net in his first game since October from a cross from Ozil. It was one of those headers in which you follow the trail of the ball after its been head, right into the net – an exquisite finish as the German jumped and made a quick adjustment seconds before the ball landed on his head.
Coming to the off-side perspective of this goal – if you go by the rulebook, Mustafi is offside but from a footballing perspective if plays like this are given offside (5% of his body was off), it would really hamper fluidity in the game – This would be my opinion even if we had conceded in the same manner.
5 mins later, it was 2. Bellerin’s sneaky pass found Lacazette’s perfectly timed run (against a 5 man Spurs defence playing a moderately high line) and the Frenchman fed a delicious ball into the 6-yard box to Sanchez. The Chilean making no mistake as his 2 touches (one to set it up and another to fire it) found Lloris’ net.
As the first half ended, one could feel proud of the way Arsenal played. They did not give away silly balls and were professional at the back. They had this sense of hunger and urge to score – something this Arsenal team has been missing for a while. It was indeed great to see them play like this.
The second half, as expected started with some immediate Spurs pressure, but Arsenal just about managed to hold them off. It seemed like the Wenger had told his players to step down a gear while Pochettino said the opposite. Arsenal was content with their 2 goal lead and wanted to hit Spurs on the counter-attack. (A tactic I could absolutely see work if the defence held up good)
In fact, the majority of the second half was based on this approach. Arsenal waiting, soaking in pressure from Spurs until they could counter-attack when they had the ball. This almost came to fruit too as in the 78th minute, Sanchez had a superb chance from close range, but Lloris did well to block out the Chilean for number 3.
It’s not that Spurs did not try. Rather it was just some good organisation (sometimes not so good) and shabby Spurs football that rendered the away side useless – Dier came close in the 80th minute but his header was saved by Cech and Son squandered away a good chance moments later firing his shot wide as the Arsenal defence was asleep.
The only 2 real chances for them in this game.
When Ozil left the field, the man was given a standing ovation – and it was well deserved given the way he handled himself today. He ensured that no one was left wanting for the ball, found every man (including Mustafi for the 1st goal) and he worked when he did not have the ball. One of the best performances of Mesut Ozil against a top side for a long time.
As we hit 90, Sanchez almost got another. From a long ball the Chilean powered off David Sanchez to make it 1 v 1 against Lloris, but again the French GK prevailed – denying Sanchez and saving Spurs from a red face – it could have been 4!
FT: Arsenal 2-0 Spurs
Cech – Maybe 3, or 4 saves to make this game. Nothing to bother him…. 7
Koscielny – He made sure the defence was intact and had a decent performance… 6.5
Monreal – Same as Koscielny. I liked the way he supported and covered Kolasinac when the latter attacked…. 7.5
Mustafi – His goal was outstanding and he put in a solid performance at the back. I like this combination with Koscielny, maybe some more game time with both will nurture their partnership and understanding of each other…. 9
Kolasinac – Made some good runs from the back to support Sanchez and he helped out at the back too. His physicality is a huge bonus and he did a good job today… 7.5
Xhaka – Supported the defence and played some good long balls. Decent overall… 6
Ramsey – Made some good runs into the box and protected the defence. One of the most versatile positions in the team, I liked the way he balanced going up and defending today. He needs some more consistent performances like this…..7.5
Bellerin – His runs from the wing are getting better and better. He helped out the back, but less compared to the others. I like the way he found Lacazette for the second goal – the pass was good and this is a side of Bellerin which can be nurtured. He needs to be a little better defensively but that is the pay-off if you are a wing back playing the 3-4-2-1.. 8.5
Alexis – Alexis doesn’t need to be rated. He gets a default 9 for his performance. If I am going to be critical he stole the chance to get a hattrick for himself (although he made those chances) and give millions of Gooners around the world eternal bliss…9.5
Lacazette – As I said, I rate this man highly. He makes good runs (as he did for the second goal), his understanding of the game becomes better and better with each game and he’s fast. The usual Lacazette score-card … 8.5
Ozil – MOTM – The standing ovation from the Emirates says enough for Ozil. Today he showed his true German self and exactly why he is worth the 42 million we paid for him. His runs, work-rate off the ball and of course his passing – made the afternoon …10