x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Big-spending Tottenham get no change out of Arsenal

Two weeks ago, they chanted "spend, spend, spend" at Wenger. At Emirates Stadium, they chanted "what a waste of money" at Tottenham, writes Jonathan Wilson.

Olivier Giroud made the difference for Arsenal against Spurs on Sunday. Clive Mason / Getty Images
Olivier Giroud made the difference for Arsenal against Spurs on Sunday. Clive Mason / Getty Images

LONDON // By the end, the Emirates Stadium was rocking, a stadium that has been notorious in recent years for a grumbling discontent pulsating with a sense of, well, what exactly? Surely not of vindication, for there is still a deep desire among all at Arsenal to bring in new signings before Monday night's deadline.

Yet at the same time, there was clear glee among Arsenal fans that their team, having spent precisely nothing so far this summer on transfers, beat rivals who have spent £110 million (Dh626m).

Two weeks ago, they chanted "spend, spend, spend" at Arsene Wenger. On Sunday, they chanted "What a waste of money" at Tottenham Hotspur.

One of the two players Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger brought in, Mathieu Flamini, picked up on a free transfer from AC Milan, was key to the win. He replaced Jack Wilshere, who was suffering stomach cramps, just before half time, and immediately settled into the role Wenger once described as being his "corporal", snapping and snarling in midfield, constantly cajoling, encouraging and organising. Seeing him back in the Arsenal midfield is a reminder of what they have lacked for so long: an urgency, an abrasiveness, the toughness, perhaps even the nastiness, to turn decent performances into wins.

Flamini is not some panacea - it is easy to understand why there is such a demand for new players to deepen the squad - but he does at least answer an immediate need.

"I said it was no-brainer," said Wenger with a dry smile before taking a pop at those who have criticised his lack of spending.

"I was just sorry he didn't cost £25 million. His performance on the pitch was exceptional. I'm not against spending money, but I want to add super-quality. In the next 24 hours we may surprise you - or maybe not."

The only goal stemmed from a swift counter attack. Tomas Rosicky, who has enjoyed an impressive start to the season and looks seemingly over his injury problems, laid in Theo Walcott on the right and, as Michael Dawson dropped behind the rest of his defence to play him onside, Olivier Giroud rumbled across the near post to touch in a low cross with expert precision using the outside of his left foot.

It was his third league goal of the season and the first Tottenham had yielded in 560 minutes in all competitions.

It has been the defence that has been Tottenham's strength so far this season, with the trio of Etienne Capoue, Mousa Dembele and Paulinho offering a curtain in midfield.

The only concern for them has been a slight lack of fluency and flair, something generally put down to the absence of Gareth Bale and the fact their fleet of new players will take time to settle. The real creative arrivals, Erik Lamela and Christian Eriksen, did not start, with Eriksen not even making it onto the substitutes' bench, so there is the possibility of a greater spark to come, but this was the same workmanlike Spurs of the opening two weeks of the season.

Roberto Soldado, checking his run intelligently, did pull away from Laurent Koscielny to meet an Andros Townsend cutback only for his shot to strike an Arsenal defender.

Lamela was introduced after 75 minutes, but it was another substitute, Jermain Defoe, who went closest to an equaliser, his strike taking a deflection off Laurent Koscielny and forcing Wojciech Szczesny into an athletic scrambling save. Soldado's attempted follow up struck Kieran Gibbs and bounced to safety.

It was Arsenal, though, who looked by far the more threatening, and but for the excellence of Lloris, they would have won more comfortably.

Twice he was off his line quickly to cut out dangerous through-balls, and his superb diving saves blocked an effort from Walcott and turned away a Giroud shot that flicked off the underside of Danny Rose's leg.

Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas insisted a draw would have been a fairer result, but for all the possession Tottenham had, Arsenal always looked the more threatening.


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