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Arsenal 2-0 Tottenham Hotspur

For Tim Sherwood, his first experience in direct opposition to Arsène Wenger ended with long, gloating cries from Arsenal's fans questioning whether it was true Tottenham's new manager was actually a Gooner. His team had been well beaten, fortunate in many ways that Wenger's side had not taken more of their chances, and the crowd were determined to milk the moment.

They had plenty to enjoy because the imbalance in talent between the two sides was considerable. Arsenal had played with great expertise whereas Spurs chose a bad moment to put in their worst performance since their change of manager. Sherwood's tactics have to be questioned, bearing in mind the way they were crowded out in midfield, and there was a certain amount of ignominy attached to the moment when Tomas Rosicky made it 2-0.

Rosicky had been presented with the ball on the half-way line by the Spurs left-back, Danny Rose, and gratefully ran clear to dink the ball over Hugo Lloris and add to Santi Cazorla's first-half goal.

Rose had been careless in the extreme and, for some Spurs supporters, it was the final indignity when Theo Walcott held up his fingers to remind them of the score as he was carried round the pitch on a stretcher, having landed awkwardly. All sorts of items were thrown from the away end in those moments and, in hindsight, Walcott will probably reflect it was not the smartest move on his part. He had, however, been outstanding, in keeping with most of the players in red and white.

Walcott's elusive positioning and willingness to run directly at Tottenham's defence made him a constant menace. Olivier Giroud was missing because of a virus and there is no like-for-like replacement at Arsenal when it comes to shielding the ball and bringing other players into the game. Instead, they had to rely on their other qualities in attack. Behind Walcott, there was the trio of Serge Gnabry, Jack Wilshere and Cazorla. In the more withdrawn midfield positions, Mikel Arteta was paired alongside Tomas Rosicky. It is not often a Premier League club will field a team with this lack of inches but Arsenal are one of the few with the speed of passing and refinement on the ball to make it work.

Walcott alone had manufactured three shooting opportunities before the swift, penetrative move that scythed through Tottenham's defence for Cazorla to score with a wonderfully taken finish. Bacary Sagna started the attack on the right and when the ball was played into Gnabry it was his change of direction, from right to left, and Walcott's dummy run in the other direction that left Spurs vulnerable. Kyle Walker was sucked out of position as he tried to close down Gnabry and that left Cazorla with far too much space. The Spaniard took aim with his left boot and scored with a spectacular, diagonal shot.

The pressure had been building. A few minutes earlier, Hugo Lloris had kept out Walcott with his legs. Gnabry, showing flashes of real talent, had curled a left-footed shot over just over the crossbar and Tim Sherwood was looking increasingly dissatisfied in the visitors' dugout. At one point the Spurs manager could be seen angrily remonstrating with the fourth official after Roberto Soldado had turned away from Thomas Vermaelen with an exquisite piece of skill and then been brought down in the follow-up challenge.

Vermaelen had already been booked and another infringement there would surely have seen him dismissed. As it turned out, the replays showed Vermaelen had timed his challenge impeccably and the referee, Mark Clattenburg, had made the perfect call. Vermaelen gashed his knee in the same challenge and was withdrawn at half-time.

Sherwood's frustrations at that point probably stemmed more from the fact his team had been unable to build on a fairly encouraging start. They had passed the ball with confidence in the opening exchanges and ought really to have taken an early lead when Laurent Koscielny kicked the ball straight against Christian Eriksen and the rebound fell nicely for the Dane to scamper into the penalty area. Eriksen never really looked fully confident, maybe taking one too many touches, and Lukasz Fabianski, deputising for Wojciech Szczesny, was quickly off his goal-line to narrow the angle and keep out the shot.

For long spells there was little evidence of the form that had seen them accumulate 10 points out of a possible 12 in the four matches since Andre Villas-Boas's removal, and in particular the New Year's Day win at Manchester United. Nabil Bentaleb, the 19-year-old Frenchman, had a difficult full debut, playing in an outnumbered midfield. Soldado's turn away from Vermaelen was one of the game's outstanding moments but there was not a great deal after that and Emmanuel Adebayor had one of those games when his shoulders are sagged and his touch is erratic. Sherwood's return to an old-fashioned 4-4-2 system has brought some early success but on this occasion it looked flawed. Sherwood did at least recognise as much, taking off Soldado and bringing on Nacer Chadli to play on the left, with Eriksen moving infield in a 4-2-3-1 system, but there is also a reasonable case he waited too long.

When the change was made, it was a direct response to Rose's horror moment in the centre-circle. After that, there was never the briefest moment when Spurs looked capable of rescuing themselves.


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