NACER Chadli could barely contain his delight after his low finish had set up the smash-and-grab raid for Tottenham Hotspur, and he cupped his hand to his ear as he wheeled away in front of the Arsenal supporters. How about that then? What have you got now?
Arsenal did have an answer and it came in the form of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlainâ€™s clinically converted equaliser. The hosts had made the bulk of the attacking running, they had the majority of possession and chances, and it would have been galling for them had they been felled by Chadliâ€™s sucker punch. The draw was the least that they deserved.
There was little relief for Arsenal, though, and plenty of regret. It was noticeable at full-time that a few of their players sank on to their haunches, their glaze fixed upon the turf while the visiting Tottenham fans clapped their , and ArsÃ¨ne Wenger articulated the frustration.
The Arsenal managerâ€™s tetchy post-match mood was not helped by the muscular injuries that forced off Mikel Arteta and Aaron Ramsey in the first half. The midfielders, Wenger said, would miss the midweek Champions League home tie against Galatasaray and the trip to Chelsea on Sunday, with the fear being that they could prove longer-term casualties. Jack Wilshere also rolled his right ankle and is a fitness doubt.
Wengerâ€™s gripe was with Tottenham for slowing down the game and, to paraphrase him, denying the paying punters a proper spectacle but, more specifically, it was with the referee, Michael Oliver, for his failure to take action against the time-wasting.
â€œI would like, just once, to see the referee react against that,â€ Wenger said. â€œThe referee is there to make sure the flow of the game is respected. Itâ€™s only a respect of the people who pay money to watch football. Book the goalkeeper straightaway when he walks to the other side to take a goal-kick. The next time, he will take it from where the ball is.â€
Tottenham had a gameplan, which was to sit deep, stay compact and venture forward on the counter. And they stuck to it. Mauricio Pochettino, who started with Chadli pressed high up alongside Emmanuel Adebayor, made no apologies for the strategy and he praised his players for the hardiness of their mentality. Last season, he pointed out, Tottenham had lost in these sort of games. â€œIt is a good point,â€ Pochettino said. â€œWe have competed with a big team like Arsenal.â€
It was the sort of game, Wenger said, that Arsenal would have won had not they given away a goal. But they did give away a goal. Having started the second half at great pace and with threat in the final third, they were unhinged when they tried to play out from the back.
It all looked a little tight when Per Mertesacker rolled the ball into the substitute, Mathieu Flamini, who was pounced upon by Christian Eriksen and dispossessed. The ball broke to Erik Lamela, he fed Chadli and the Belgian shot low into the far corner. He was booked for his celebration. Nobody in Tottenham colours cared.
This was an away performance built upon solid foundations. The central defenders, YounÃ¨s Kaboul and Jan Vertonghen, were excellent and behind them, the goalkeeper, Hugo Lloris, was the man of the match. He made a handful of smart saves, with the best being that which repelled Mertesackerâ€™s header in the 58th minute. What makes Lloris so impressive is how he makes the difficult things looks routine.
Another positive for Tottenham was the polished performance of Ryan Mason in central midfield. Pochettino had lost Mousa DembÃ©lÃ© to an ankle twist in training on Friday, but he had no hesitation in giving Mason his Premier League debut, despite the scale of the occasion. Apart from one poor cross when well-placed in the first half, the 23-year-old barely put a foot wrong.
It was a predictably spiky occasion, underscored by full-blooded commitment and yellow cards. Arteta and Ramsey felt calf and hamstring muscles twang, but Wilshere was caught by Danny Rose inside the area, before coming down on his ankle in grisly fashion. Wenger said that the incident ought to have led to an Arsenal penalty. Wilshere battled on; he would be withdrawn in the second half.
Tottenham invited Arsenal on to them and they looked to counter, particularly through the revitalised Lamela. He missed one simple pass in the first half, which would have got Tottenham in on goal, but his deft touch almost teed up Adebayor on 39 minutes. Chadli also shot weakly following Ã‰tienne Capoueâ€™s through-ball.
Lloris clawed Oxlade-Chamberlainâ€™s deflected cross to safety and he saved from Wilshere and Oxlade-Chamberlain, again, in the first half and he kept out Mesut Ã–zilâ€™s shot early in the second period.
Chadliâ€™s goal raised the temperature further and Pochettino felt his temper boil over after a disputed throw-in. He raced over to confront the assistant.
Could Tottenham hang on? They could not. Calum Chambers had fizzed narrowly over the crossbar when Lamela miscued a clearance and the substitute Santi Cazorla shot through a crowded area. Danny Welbeck swung and missed in front of goal, but Oxlade-Chamberlain did not. – The Guardian