Arsenal 2 Tottenham 0: Three lessons learned
Arsenal 2 Tottenham 0: Three lessons learned as Santi Cazorla and Tomas Rosicky net in north London derby
Walcott an effective lone gunner
With Olivier Giroud out ill, Arsene Wenger started Theo Walcott as a lone striker. Many doubts have been raised about the 24-year-old’s ability to play in this role – it was a major sticking point in his protracted contract talks this time last year. Walcott has made no secret of his desire to play more in that position rather than out wide – but his end product has improved markedly in the last couple of the seasons, and he was more than up for the task on Saturday. He found space very well, twice early on going close with shots from just outside the box, and a clever run drew away two defenders to allow Serge Gnabry to run in and thread Santi Cazorla through for the first goal. Often on the last shoulder of the defender, his performance here could well register him in Wenger’s mind as another attacking option to the more physical target man Giroud and the inconsistent Nicklas Bendtner. Walcott himself was obviously pleased with his performance, applauding the home fans and cheekily gesturing the scoreline to the baying Spurs fans when stretchered off late on, with what Arsenal fans will be pleased to see seems like a not-too-serious injury.
Arsenal find hidden depths
Many fans and pundits have questioned Arsenal’s strength in depth this season, claiming it might cause the Gunners’ title challenge to fade away in the second-half of the season. But this does not the case from Saturday’s performance, despite the absences of Wojciech Szczesny, Per Mertesacker (in the first half), Kieran Gibbs, Mesut Ozil (late substitute appearance aside) and Giroud. Aside from the aforementioned Walcott, Gnabry, on the right, was particularly impressive – dropping off cleverly then running in and supplying a perfectly weighted ball for the first goal, and generally lively throughout. This was still, however, a fairly strong team from Arsenal. It will be interesting to see the calibre of team Wenger fields in the rest of the competition; to ascertain how much the strength of this team was due to his priorities – the FA has often been far from top priority – in what is a busy season for Arsenal, and how it was just get one over their resurgent north London rivals.
Soldado shoots blanks
Since his club-record £26m acquisition from Valencia in the summer, Roberto Soldado has scored a fairly meagre five league goals in 18 games – and all but one of those have been from the spot. This stat casts the Spaniard in a fairly harsh light, particularly given his good link up play with Emmanuel Adebayor since he returned to the fold, but the marksman’s finishing has fallen far short of expectations (including his own) and his price-tag. Today, he didn’t pose much threat, partly because of lacklustre service from the midfield and the fairly anonymous Adebayor, but only partly. He dragged two shots badly wide his right foot. They were half-chances, but what surprised was the mediocre technique, or maybe more how typical that has been of his season. If Tim Sherwood continues with the 4-4-2, will Jermain Defoe see a return to the team any time soon?