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Sol Campbell, a man who knows a thing or two about the North London derby, gives Sportlobster his overview on yesterday's encounter at White Hart Lane and the red card that turned the game...
"What a brilliant game. Fantastic goals, great football and plenty of controversy. Everything you’d expect from a hotly contested North London Derby. I must say, after Coquelin was sent off and Kane scored to put Tottenham ahead I could only see one side winning it but Arsenal showed a lot of resolve to fight back the way they did. Tottenham’s goals came so quickly after the red card that I couldn’t see Arsenal coming away with anything so they must be delighted with the point and the way they performed with a man down. If it weren’t for a terrific last ditch tackle from Wimmer on Ramsey, Arsenal would’ve clinched all three points.
Overall, Tottenham had the lion’s share of the game and perhaps had more swagger than Arsenal but I feel Wenger’s side did well to threaten on the counter. Welbeck in particular led the line brilliantly and caused the Spurs defence plenty of problems. Wenger’s tactics were spot on. They let Spurs have the ball in areas of the pitch where they couldn’t be a threat and then came the sucker punch before the break. Bellerin’s ball in to Ramsey was superb, as was the Welshman’s flick and Spurs were left frustrated. The expect weaknesses of Arsenal’s defence weren’t in evidence as Gibbs, Paulista and particularly Ospina came in and played brilliantly.
Arsenal fans have been criticising their team for a lack of hunger recently but today the desire was there. They won a huge number of second balls, put their bodies on the line and worked hard for each other but that’s what you do in a North London derby. Form tends to go out the window and they’re almost always tight, frantic affairs. This performance doesn’t mean Arsenal have turned a corner, that remains to be seen in the coming weeks. If you can’t get up for a derby game, what game can you get up for? Wenger now needs to get his players to treat the remaining nine games like they’re derbies.
Arsenal’s endeavours yesterday were undone by Coquelin’s poor decision making. He dived in on Kane with plenty of players around him capable of dealing with the situation. All he needed to do was stay on his feet and see him down the line but to go in like that when you’re on a yellow card is crazy and I hope he’s apologised to the team and his manager.
That said, I can’t believe the ref didn’t go back into his pocket and give Dier a second yellow for his foul on Giroud. Shirt pulling like that is a yellow card every time so I was surprised Michael Oliver didn’t even things up. If he had then Arsenal would’ve had a great opportunity to go on and win the game so Spurs got away with one there. I suppose the area of the pitch the offence took place in might’ve saved Dier from an early bath but I’m not sure that should come into it. If that happens down the wing with the players one on one at pace, it would be a yellow card all day long.
Overall, Arsenal will be happier with the point bearing in mind the fortnight they’ve had and the injuries they brought into this game but the draw didn’t really help anyone, except for Leicester of course and in terms of the league table Arsenal probably needed the win more than Spurs.
As for Tottenham, they did well to control the game but poor deliveries into the box prevented them from really threatening during the first half and perhaps they’re high percentage of possession lulled them into false sense of security. Tottenham aren’t used to going into this fixture as favourites and I think that cost them. I have to say, Harry Kane’s goal to take the lead was absolutely fantastic and from that winning position Tottenham will be frustrated and annoyed not to have won the game.
I don’t agree with the ‘Arsene Out’ noises we’ve been hearing this week. There’s only two months of the season remaining and Arsenal still have it all to play for. The Premier League title is still within reach and the situation calls for calm. Let’s see what happens, they’re still in the hunt in three competitions. I think the Barcelona game is key now. Even if they lose and go out, it’s how they lose that will show what this side is all about. They need to show fight, spirit, togetherness and be prepared to gamble. Personally, I don’t think they can go through but you never know. Win or lose, how they approach that game could help define the rest of their season. Taking a point at White Hart Lane with ten men could be the beginning of that process to getting back on track.
We’re now seeing what the pressure is doing to the teams at the top. It’s not easy at this stage of the season to win week after week. Spurs have had a mini set-back but there are still 27 points to play for and it’s all to play for. Every title winning side goes through a difficult spell and if this is Tottenham’s then they have to ride it out and stick together.
Now Leicester have pulled away from the pack after their win at Watford it’s now their title to lose. The Foxes have an easier run in on paper than Arsenal and Spurs and the way I see it is they’d have to lose 4 or 5 games if they’re not going to finish top. The spanner in the works could be that their games against relegation threatened sides Newcastle and Sunderland. Those opponents should be treating every remaining game like a Cup Final and that might derail Leicester.
My prediction? I think the league trophy is headed to Leicester. Spurs to finish second, Arsenal third, and Manchester City will occupy the final Champions League place. If that happens it will be the best footballing story of the Premier League era and fair play to them."
Sol Campbell was talking to Sportlobster's Mark Godfrey
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