Carling Cup: Arsenal 1 – Tottenham 1

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Football
January 10th, 2008 • 9:28 am

Mmm. Maybe it is time to mentally adjust to the fact that this particular crop of “young guns” might not make it to the final, let alone win it this time.

It all started pretty brightly. The Gunners effectively dominated the first half-hour and created a couple of good chances. But the Tottenham team was always dangerous on the counterattack, and there was simply too much febrility in our defence. They opened the score, and after that they were the dominant force throughout the rest of the game.

Wenger made a couple of changes at half-time, which is rather unusual for him and reflects his concern about the situation. Djourou was off, with first-team regular Sagna back in his regular spot and Hoyte switching to central defence. And van Persie, whose presence in the starting lineup was a bit of a gamble on Wenger’s part, given his lack of match fitness, was replaced by Eduardo.

Eduardo did not score, but he did create the equalizer with an inch-perfect pass to Walcott. Theo made a mess of it under pressure from the Tottenham defenders, but somehow the ball bounced off his chest and beat the keeper. There was a touch of luck in the finish, but not in the buildup. Simply put, Eduardo’s pass deserved a goal, and the Gunners got their equalizer, although they scarcely deserved it.

Where they were really lucky is not with Theo’s goal, but with the numerous chances that Tottenham failed to convert. Far too often their attacking force seemed to outnumber the Arsenal defence and players would pop up unmarked with clear goal-scoring opportunities. Whether it was due to the lack of experience of the back four or to the lack of cover from midfield, I do not know (Diaby in particular looked unacceptably lazy). It was probably a combination of both. The personnel changes helped, but not to the point that the balance of power was restored.

So it is 1-1 in the first home leg and Tottenham now have the psychological edge. It does not mean that the tie is over, but this team of young Gunners will have to improve substantially if they want to have any chance of reaching the final.

Wenger has already said that he does not plan to make personnel changes in light of this first-leg performance, but I still wouldn’t be surprised if a couple of first-team regulars made their way back into the team. Wenger will want to give this team of youngsters the chance to prove the doubters (now back in numbers) wrong, but at the same time the team cannot afford this amount of defensive frailty a second time.

It will be an interesting return leg at White Hart Lane to say the least. We know that Arsenal is capable of winning there, but we also know that there is a risk of seeing the same scenes as last night repeated, this time with more goals for Tottenham and little or no response from the youngsters.

But before that we are back to the English Premier League with a couple of fixtures (Birmingham at home and Fulham away) that the Arsenal first team will be expected to win in order to maintain their hold on the top spot in the league, especially since Manchester United (Newcastle at home and Reading away) will also be expected to win theirs.

Comments are closed.

Leave a Reply

Comments are closed.