Arsenal were on the ropes against Tottenham for most of the first half, and it seems that effectively we were playing with ten men for the whole 45 minutes as there was something very wrong with Santi Cazorla from the start. Considering that, we actually did well to only be one goal down by half time!
Wenger thought about making an early substitution, but he was hoping for improvement, and he left Flamini on the sidelines until the 45 minutes was up. He said after the game: It was a very intense game with complete commitment from both sides. We suffered in the first half because Cazorla was at 30 per cent of his potential, he was dizzy. I was sitting there thinking do I take him off or not? You never know, maybe it will get better. At half-time I took him off, and in the second half we had a bit better balance.
“I think mentally we weren’t at the races. We did try, you could not say we did not have the right commitment, I was not disappointed. I just saw that Cazorla, who is usually the guide in our game, didn’t get the ball. And Tottenham is a good side when you play with one player less and you have to make the game …and so in the offensive build-up Ozil was a bit isolated in the first half with not many options. Usually they combine well together.”
We actually created quite a few chances despite our handicap, and on another day Olivier Giroud could have had a hat-trick, but things just didn’t go his way. The French striker was angry for his misses but that doesn’t annoy Wenger so much. “I’m pleased. When you see players happy to miss chances you can worry. He is a real goalscorer, he did try. In the last two games, against Bayern and today he worked extremely hard and maybe he wanted too much to score in the end, and especially the opportunity he had in the six-yard box, but that can happen.”
When Wenger finally made his second substitution (with 20 minutes to go, natch), Kieran Gibbs came on to replace Campbell and within four minutes he brought us the equalizer. Wenger explained why he decided to put Gibbs on the left-wing.”He played there when he was a kid. Always when he comes on, he balances our team. I had very limited offensive options on the bench. It gave me as well an opportunity to put Alexis on the other side where he could give me a different option. Overall it worked, but he gets in good positions and shows he is an intelligent player.”
Considering our extensive injury list, and the problem with Cazorla from the start, we didn’t do too badly really. In his final summing up, Wenger was quite pleased with the team. “I think we have shown character today because we were a bit on the ropes and we responded. Every time we have a disappointment I feel we respond well in the game after. When you look at the results again today you see Villa-City 0-0. Liverpool lost. We played 1-1. It just shows you that the championship will be extremely difficult for everybody. The mental qualities can have a big influence in the future and I think we need these qualities.”
So we may not have beaten the Spuds, but we fought in the face of adversity, and when we get our injured players back we will return to our formidable best….