Arsenal (0) 0 Tottenham Hotspur (1) 2
Carabao Cup (EFL Cup) Quarter Final
Emirates Stadium, Drayton Park, London N5 1BU
Wednesday, 19th December 2018. Kick-off time: 7.45pm
(4-2-3-1) Čech, Maitland-Niles, Sokratis, Xhaka, Monreal; Torreira, Guendouzi; Mkhitaryan, Ramsey, Iwobi; Aubameyang.
Substitutes: Lichtsteiner, Elneny, Lacazette, Koscielny, Martínez, Nketiah, Willock
Yellow Cards: Xhaka, Guendouzi
Referee: Jonathan Moss
And we meet again, and so soon, as well. Obviously our N17 adversaries enjoy playing at The Emirates, as this is the second occasion in fifteen days; let’s hope that we end up with the same scoreline as well! This match reminds me of a two-legged semi-final in this competition that I recall being present at in November and December 1968. A solitary John Radford goal saw us win the first leg at The Old Place quite comfortably, and a fortnight later an extremely bad tempered match at White Hart Lane which ended in a 1-1 draw (courtesy of John Radford again) somehow saw us through to our second appearance in the League Cup Final a year after losing to Leeds United via a controversial goal. In this particular Wembley final our opponents were lowly Swindon Town of the (then) Third Division, and surely none of us of a certain age wish to be reminded of the appalling horror that unfolded in front of our very eyes on Saturday, 15th March 1969. A deep unhealed scar that is best left in the past where it belongs.
The usual physical sparring between these two rivals certainly became apparent in the early stages with free-kicks being given away by both sides with few chances becoming available. After twenty minutes of strong play, an Arsenal attack that was broken up by the Spurs defence saw Dele Alli create a through ball that was picked up by Son Heung-Min who wasted no time in placing it in the back of the net. Being 0-1 down so early in the match can always do one of two things to a team; either capitulation or inspiration. Thankfully it was the second one that Arsenal decided on. Although we went into the break in a deficit situation, there were some good chances created by the strikers, and it looked as if we could level up the scores at any time in the proceedings.
Arsenal started the second half with Laurent Koscielny replacing the ineffective Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and almost immediately The Gunners showed purpose and vigour by putting the Spurs defence under extreme pressure time and time again. Although Spurs tried to use the same tactic that in the first half led to a goal, they were unsuccessful, and the pendulum of the match swung back our way again. On the hour, Alex Iwobi was substituted by Alexandre Lacazette and just minutes later, we were caught again by a long ball situation. Harry Kane lobbed the ball into the path of Dele Alli who scored the second of the night for the visitors. Still we were not finished; a little more than a minute after the restart, Alexandre Lacazette unluckily hit the post with a right-footed shot. Eddie Nketiah replaced Matteo Guendouzi with 25 minutes left on the clock, and right away we played with more desire and purpose. After a chance out of nothing by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang bounced off the top of the crossbar, Granit Xhaka picked up a yellow card for a pointless incident. Although we tried our best, the match started to slip away, and despite a late rally by our forwards, it was to no avail.
This was the first time that we lost back-to-back matches since the beginning of the season, and I have to say that we deserved more from this match than we actually got in the end. The major issue again for us is the one of our defence. The ease in which Spurs put through their passes for their players to score two goals, which in essence were quite soft, was truly appalling, and unless Mr. Emery signs defenders in the January transfer window, other teams will see our Achilles heel and act on it, just as the visitors did here tonight. Of course, there is no criticism over their spirit nor desire; but unless the defence issue is not resolved soon, then one fears for our chances to win trophies both domestically and in Europe this season. The solution is in our hands; whether we are able to sign new defenders next month is now open to conjecture. Remember everyone, keep the faith, get behind the team and the manager, as these early days are going to be crucial for our future success in all competitions. Stick with the winners. Victoria Concordia Crescit.
Too Dearly Loved To Be Forgotten: Arsenal v Racing Club de Paris 1930-1962 by Steve Ingless (Rangemore Publications, ISBN 978-1-5272-0135-4) is now available on Amazon.