Wenger targets trophy as Arsenal outclass Tottenham’s second string
PUBLISHED: 20:01 22 September 2010 | UPDATED: 09:38 23 September 2010
WHILE there were plenty of lessons to take from Tuesday’s derby, one fact was particularly apparent – Arsenal are desperate for a trophy this season, any trophy, and Tottenham are not.
The Gunners may have ended up playing 120 minutes of football, only sealing their 4-1 victory in extra time, but half of the battle had been won before kick-off, when the two managers chose their line-ups.
Team selection was always going to play a massive part in events at the Lane and, when it came down to it, Arsene Wenger simply wanted it more.
Arsenal’s midfield featured Jack Wilshere, Tomas Rosicky, Denilson and Samir Nasri, who were all involved in the Gunners’ league outing at Sunderland on Saturday.
Redknapp countered that with 21-year-old debutant Sandro, who had never kicked a ball in English football, 20-year-old Jake Livermore and Wilson Palacios.
Spurs fans would have been excited about seeing Sandro and Livermore, as well as Stipe Pletikosa and 18-year-old centre-back Steven Caulker, but that exuberance quickly wore off.
Tottenham’s line-up, shape and tactics all left them exposed. Redknapp went 4-3-2-1 with Livermore, Sandro and Palacios in the centre, and David Bentley and Giovani supporting Roman Pavlyuchenko. It was a disaster.
Of course, the Spurs boss may have been expecting Wenger’s academy. He may also have intended his Lilywhites to adopt a five-man midfield when his side were chasing the ball.
But in that case he reckoned without the sullen laziness of David Bentley and Giovani Dos Santos’ lack of positional sense.
Bentley was back to his most frustrating in his first start of the campaign while Giovani – who starred in this same formation for Mexico at the World Cup – looked utterly lost in that very same system.
The 21-year-old provided no width, no attacking threat and no protection to right-back Kyle Naughton, who had a torrid evening.
Giovani was hauled off at the break, but by that time Arsenal were ahead, having outnumbered their hosts down that flank.
Rosicky fed the overlapping Wilshere and his low driven cross from the left was converted by Henri Lansbury, from Potters Bar.
In the centre, Spurs’ Sandro, Livermore and Palacios had clearly decided that they were all auditioning for the role of the first team’s ‘midfield enforcer’, and consequently decided to see who could put in the biggest, and crudest, tackle on Wilshere.
Spurs had a powerful midfield engine but no possession master who could match the visitors’ fluent passing.
It was an unfamiliar line-up featuring new players who were all operating in an alien system. Mercifully Redknapp halted the execution at half-time, replacing Giovani with Robbie Keane and Livermore with Aaron Lennon and switching to 4-4-2.
Keane equalised within minutes of the restart, collecting Naughton’s through ball and seeing a weak effort fortunately slip past Lukasz Fabianski.
Finally the derby was a contest, with chances going begging at both ends. However, Wenger had trump cards up his sleeve and, with 20 minutes remaining, on came Andrey Arshavin and Marouane Chamakh.
Spurs were forced onto the back foot from then on but, as the 90 minutes ended 1-1, both sets of fans prepared for a tasty half-hour of extra time.
Unfortunately, the match was decided in the first five minutes. Sebastien Bassong was adjudged to have fouled Nasri, who converted from the penalty spot, and the promising but inexperienced Caulker made exactly the same error moments later in hauling down Chamakh – with the same result.
A painful 25 minutes lay ahead and, as the neutrals watching on TV switched off, so did Naughton – strolling away from the ball after a foul and allowing Arshavin to collect a quickly-taken free kick and fire past Pletikosa.
Spurs fans abandoned ship at half-time and the tortuous last 15 minutes merely confirmed that Spurs had suffered their heaviest defeat in 11 months – a 3-0 derby defeat to Arsenal at the Emirates last October.
This was Tottenham’s biggest derby defeat in 32 years, and the first time that the Lilywhites have fallen at the first hurdle in the League Cup since 2005.
There were positives, particularly the fact that Sandro already looks like an advanced model of Palacios. He has the same energy and aggression but is bigger, and a more complete, well-rounded model: Palacios 2.0.
And, when all is said and done, the Spurs fans who left the Lane with the Gunners’ taunts in their ears will be back next Wednesday night to witness a Champions League group match in N17.
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