By Walter Broeckx
No live match report this time as I had to be with a rather large group of Arsenal Belgium members who gathered in Leuven to see the match against our neighbours. So this is written a few hours after the match and not during the match as usual. So the shape and context are different.
Arsenal didn’t start at their best in this match. We couldn’t get our fluency against the 5 man defence from Tottenham. People talk about 3 defenders….err… in my opinion it was 5 defenders with 3 of them playing central. Tottenham tried to make life difficult with lots of people around the ball and Arsenal struggled with that approach for a while. They tried to play the ball deep a lot in the hop that Kane would be on the end of it. They almost had a chance but lucky Monreal stuck his foot between the cross and Kane and the only real chance I can remember for them was gone.
The longer the match went on the better Arsenal became. A fine combination ended in front of the feet of Iwobi who really should have done better with his shot. Alexis crossed to Özil who had a first time shot that went through the legs of Vertonghen and wide. And then Walcott blasted a shot against the top of the goal post and Özil missed the difficult rebound that came at him at high pace. That Walcott shot was the best shot of the whole afternoon on goal. It deserved a goal but Theo didn’t got it.
Arsenal pressing more and more and when Arsenal got a free kick the Özil whipped it in front of the goal and Wimmer headed it in his own goal. Much debate about the fact that Alexis was offside. Being offside is not enough to be punished. One has to be active and with being active it means that the player has to try to play the ball. I certainly didn’t see Alexis coming close to the ball to be honest so he wasn’t active. I heard Howard Webb found it a good goal and as far as I could see on the screen 3 meters high, I think the same.
For the rest what struck me (and certainly the head of Theo) was the mis-use of the arms of Wanyama that flew against the head of Theo as if it was a punching ball. They always looked deliberate to me as he had Theo in front of him and so he knew that raising the arm/elbow and making contact from behind is dangerous and should have been booked by ref. Clattenburg letting himself down there.
And also how on earth Vertonghen getting away with the clearest shirt pulls on Koscielny…. later on Clattenburg would show that he had an eagle eye for a small contact in favour of Tottenham.
Arsenal going in at half time with a 1-0 lead but this is the NLD and nothing is for granted.
Both teams evening each other out and I felt Clattenburg let a few fouls from Tottenham unpunished at the start of the second half. Then Dembele went on a run and I will use the words (more or less from the back of my head) to describe the penalty for Tottenham: “Dembele on a run towards the penalty area and looking for a penalty and getting it”.
Koscielny sticking out the leg Dembele was waiting for and Clattenburg blew for the penalty. I would have no complaints but you just know that is the kind of penalty that Arsenal haven’t got for…. well…. can you remember Arsenal getting such a penalty in the last decade ? But against us… oh yeah… plenty. It is that kind of inconsistency that brings a sour taste to the mouth. Kane made no mistake from the penalty spot.
What followed was Arsenal trying to win the match and Tottenham trying not to lose it. Iwobi, Theo and Coquelin going off in the second half and Giroud, Ramsey and The Ox coming on for Arsenal. The Ox had a bit of a nightmare game with messing up a few easy passes, being punished by Clattenburg whenever he came near a Tottenham player. It wasn’t his day.
From one of those easy given fouls Tottenham hit the goal post. How on earth Clattenburg didn’t see that Koscielny was thrown in the air by a clear push in the back is a thing that remains unknown.
Tottenham players falling down, trying to get the tempo out of the game that Arsenal was trying to raise but the 5 man defence from the totts didn’t give much away. A few half chances when Xhaka just came late on a cross, Giroud with a header but straight at Lloris. Özil just couldn’t turn the ball to Giroud as Lloris stuck out his leg. And at the other end Cech had to push a shot away from Janssen. And then Cech almost messed up when he slipped after a ball was played to him from a throw in but luckily he could recover in time to win the ball back.
In the end you want to win the NLD. But if you can’t win it for whatever reason… then make sure you don’t lose it.
And I think that was the feeling that was hanging around the Emirates for large parts by both teams. Tottenham are a team difficult to beat with all their defenders and defensive midfielders and then hoping and speculating for the counter or a dead ball. Arsenal didn’t get their best passing game together for most of the match and so a draw seems to be a fair result maybe in the end.