October 2, 2011
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Aaron Ramsey’s goal – a Song run down the right causes havoc in the Spurs defence, and his cross finds Ramsey in space to finish.
Van der Vaart is very slow to get across and put pressure on Song, and Walker is holding his position to try to protect the near post. Note the four Arsenal players against three in the middle of our penalty area, where we have failed to re-organise effectively.
Song gets to the byline, having totally evaded van der Vaart and, although Walker is fairly well-positioned, he has plenty of players to aim at. Kaboul has got his positioning wrong, and now has three Arsenal players between him and the ball.
Redknapp played a risky game, changing formation from the previous Premier League win at Wigan, where we effectively played a 4-2-3-1, with Parker in deep midfield alongside Sandro, and opting to go with Defoe and Adebayor up front. This left us with a problem of three Arsenal central midfield players against two of ours and, as a result, they dominated possession throughout (62% according to Opta).
Arsenal play with a very high defensive line and, whilst we exploited this on a number of occasions, we could have done so more often had our strikers been able to stay onside. Also, had Sandro started, he would have given us the energy and extra body to allow us to win the ball higher up the pitch, and spring that high line on the counter attack. As it was, Parker and Modric generally had to get back behind the ball as quickly as possible and maintain shape whilst waiting for Arsenal to give the ball away.
Had Arsenal been confident and on top form they may have punished us but, in truth, despite their possession, they barely created any clear cut chances; their only real chance coming when van Persie beat Kaboul on the touchline before finding Gervinho, who steered the ball wide.
At the other end, Arsenal’s sloppy passing and collectively poor defending meant that we had three one-on-ones (Adebayor, Parker, Bale) amongst other good chances (the ball falling to Modric in the box from a corner for example).
I have seen lots of criticism for Rafael van der Vaart, suggesting that his continual drifting from his starting position on the right caused us problems; I must disagree. He scored a goal (having drifted in-field) and was involved in several other key moments and, whilst he didn’t have his best game, his “drifting” for me is a positive. The key issue, though, is that we need to have two defensive midfield players capable of covering in the full-back areas, as is often the case in a 4-2-3-1. In summary – van der Vaart from the right is good, but only with two holding players.
A word on Scott Parker, who I was not overly keen on signing (as I thought he was on the decline) – how wrong I was. I’m still not quite sure how he managed to keep going for the full 90 – he was clearly cramping up, he looked totally dead on his feet (having competed in a 3 vs 2 situation for such a long period), and yet he still made bursts forward. His stats were incredibly impressive – he made the most attempted passes in our team (40), had the highest success rate (88%), made the most tackles (7) and the joint highest interceptions (3). Fantastic performance from him!