Arsenal (1) 2 Tottenham Hotspur (1) 1
Emirates Stadium, Drayton Park, London N5 1BU
Sunday, 14th March 2021. Kick-off time: 4.30pm
(4-2-3-1) Bernd Leno; Cédric Soares, David Luiz, Gabriel Magalhães, Kieran Tierney; Thomas Partey, Granit Xhaka; Bukayo Saka, Martin Ødegaard, Emile Smith-Rowe; Alexandre Lacazette.
Substitutes: Hector Bellerin, Dani Ceballos, Willian Borges da Silva, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Rob Holding, Nicolas Pépé, Calum Chambers, Mohamed Elneny, Mat Ryan.
Scorers: Martin Ødegaard (44 mins), Alexandre Lacazette (64 mins)
Yellow Cards: Granit Xhaka
Arsenal Possession Percentage: 53%
Referee: Michael Oliver
Assistant Referees: Stuart Burt, Simon Bennett
Fourth Official: Kevin Friend
VAR Team at Stockley Park: VAR Paul Tierney; AVAR Lee Betts
Attendance: A maximum of 300 attendees due to UK government coronavirus restrictions
Like so many of our matches recently, this is a “must-win” game against our traditional North London rivals today. Bearing in mind that we have won just two of our past seven Premiership fixtures, and have failed to keep a clean sheet in any of our previous matches, this Mothering Sunday shoot-out at the Emirates is as crucial as any of late, and because our N17 opponents are three places and seven points ahead of us at the time of writing, we desperately need to close that gap twixt us. Let’s go!
We started the match well, putting Tottenham Hotspur under pressure early in the game, and as such, imposed ourselves very well on their defence. Bukayo Saka and Martin Ødegaard were very unlucky not to score in the first ten minutes, with two excellent attempts on the Spurs goal that the visiting team were very fortunate to clear. Emile Smith-Rowe hit the crossbar with a superb effort from twenty yards after fifteen minutes, and at this point in the match, we were totally dominating the proceedings, with Kieran Tierney doing some sterling work on the left-hand side of the pitch. Thomas Partey snapped in a quick first-time shot from twenty-five yards that went way off target, and a couple of minutes later, Alexandre Lacazette was desperately unlucky not to score when Emile Smith-Rowe took the ball to the byeline and slotted it back for the Frenchman’s sliced shot, which zipped by the far post with the goalkeeper beaten. After thirty-three minutes, totally against the run of play, Erik Lamela flicked the ball in a Rabona-style shot through the Arsenal defence to beat Bernd Leno to score the opening goal today. A little while later, Cédric Soares hit the Spurs post with a strong shot from the edge of the penalty area, and a minute before the break, Kieran Tierney completely lost his man out on the left, crossed the ball at no more than grass height for a waiting Martin Ødegaard to equalise the scores from close range, a goal which we richly deserved for our efforts in this half. Honours even at the break, and we can feel that we more than deserved to be in the lead in this game today, being the more dominant side of the two overall.
Nicolas Pépé replaced an injured Bukayo Saka at the beginning of the second half, and although the visitors started this half stronger than they did the first, we still did enough in the opening stages to suggest that we can end up winners here this afternoon. Alexandre Lacazette was unlucky not to score our second with a super long-range shot which was smothered by Hugo Lloris, ten minutes after the restart, and we constantly pressurised the Spurs defence with some clever play, and after sixty-two minutes, a desperate foul on Alexandre Lacazette by Davinson Sanchez saw us awarded a penalty, in which our number nine had no problem in scoring. After the penalty incident, the visitors attempted to put us under pressure for around five minutes or so, but they did not create anything of any use, and as such, our defenders easily cleared their lines. Spurs went down to ten men with fifteen minutes of the match remaining, when their goalscorer Erik Lamela was dismissed for putting his forearm into Kieran Tierney’s face, which was a very stupid thing to do, especially when he was in front of referee Michael Oliver. Emile Smith-Rowe was replaced by Willian shortly later, and after a silly Granit Xhaka foul (that led to him receiving a yellow card for his trouble), our hearts stopped when Harry Kane headed the ball into our net from a Lucas Moura free-kick, but thankfully, he was offside, which was a relief. Mohamed Elneny replaced Alexandre Lacazette with four minutes of the match remaining, and then, almost out of nowhere, Gabriel headed the ball off the line after Harry Kane hit the post with a long-range free-kick after beating a blindsided Bernd Leno. Despite one or two dodgy moments in the five minutes’ injury time (where did that come from?) we held out to earn a deserved three points here this afternoon. Well done chaps!
A superb performance by us here at the Emirates, the result of which mean that we are now tenth in the Premiership table tonight. Despite missing skipper Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang due to “a breach of pre-match protocol”, we were organised, solid, taking control from the very start of the match, we were in no mood for mistakes today. Arsenal played a high-tempo, pressing game, one that Spurs could not match, and in the end, we finished the game as worthy winners.
Remember everyone, keep the faith, get behind the team and the manager, as this season is going to be crucial for our future success in all competitions. Stick with the winners. Our next match: Olympiacos at the Emirates on Thursday, 18th March at 5.55pm (Europa League). 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.