A win by margin

The meeting of these two teams in the league used to be title deciders at one point of time. However, in recent times, it has been reduced to a determiner for a top four finish. While the luster of this once famous fixture has faded away, people still expect good football out of both teams. This was not the case this time. While Arsenal fans may rejoice at the 2-0 victory, and rightly so, it should be put into proper perspective. Ravaged with injuries, and at the back of a Europa league game against Celta Vigo, what Mourinho fielded was a team of second team players. At the back were Smalling and Jones, both clearly lacking match fitness. At right-back was 19 year old debutant Axel Tuanzebe, with out-of-favour Martial and Rooney also finding starting spots. There was no Fellaini or Pogba to provide physicality and boss the midfield. And their style of play reflected that. Except two clear chances, which was dealt with by Cech expertly, United barely threatened. Arsenal kept possession of the ball, and played some incisive passes. However, the breakthrough came when a long range effort by Xhaka (who else?) took a wicked deflection off Herrera and beat De Gea all ends up. Almost immediately, Welbeck headed in from close range off a sumptuous cross by Oxlade-CIMG_20170508_021257hamberlain. And that was that.

The game, although not very exciting from a neutral point of view, had some interesting points.
This was the first time that, barring the 2015 Community Shield, Wenger has won against Mourinho. Though he did finally get the better of his rival, winning against a reserve team did dull some of the glory.
It was clear from Mourinhos team selection that the Europa League is his top priority, instead of competing for a top four finish. Though winning the Europa League would automatically qualify them for the Champions League, Mourinho is taking a big risk by wagering it all while still having the second leg of the semi-final left to be played.
Debutant Axel Tuanzebe shined and proved to be quite capable of handling Sanchez in the left wing. And that is no mean feat, as most defenders will tell you. United have got another academy gem in their hand.
Rooneys age is clearly beginning to show. Barely making an impact, he did show good awareness to latch onto a horrible back pass by Rob Holding. However, one on one with the keeper, where the previous Rooney would have buried the ball into the goal, he failed to score. It is becoming more and more difficult to justify his 300,000 pounds a week wage bill.
Finally, after a string of below par performances, Arsenal manaIMG_20170508_021212ged to find their rhythm in this game. They will hope to build on this and mount a late top four challenge. Though it depends on the results of other fixtures, all the Gunners can do is keep their focus and hope they don’t finish outside the top four for the first time under Wengers reign.

Pic courtesy : goal.com

Tottenham’s Folly

Living under the shadow of their rivals for more than two decades, it has been tough for Tottenham Hotspurs. However, recently, things have started to look up for the white half of North London. On course to finish above Arsenal for the first time in over 22 years, it has certainly been a while since the Gooners were denied their annual St. Totteringham Day celebrations. And they have Mauricio Pochettino to thank for that. The Spurs manger, appointed in 2014, injected fresh blood into the squad which seemed to have lost its confidence after they lost their star man, Gareth Bale, to Real Madrid, and failed to make optimum use of the funds that were freed up. Pochettino built a squad with a strong English core, with the likes of Eric Dier, Danny Rose, Kyle Walker, Dele Alli and Harry Kane being first team regulars, supported by the defensive steel of Alderweireld and playmaking skills of Eriksen. And it has paid its dividends. They made a strong run for the Premier League title for the better part of the 2015-16 season, and are still in contention for this season’s title. However, are things as rosy as they seem in White Hart Lane?

The recent result against West Ham seems to say otherwise. Losing 1-0, it was a game that they absolutely had to win to maintain pressure on the league leaders, Chelsea. On the back of a 2-0 derby win against Arsenal, they failed, however, to keep their nerves against another London team. Something similar happened in the previous season too. Playing against Chelsea, who had an abysmal season, they behaved more like spoiled brats than potential champions. Feeling the need to catch up on Leicester, the eventual champions, they lost their cool in the match, which culminated in a full-fledged brawl between the players. They drew the game and lost all momentum and any hopes of winning the title. On the last match day, they choked against already relegated Newcastle and practically gifted Arsenal the 2nd spot.

Coming back to the current season, because of Spurs stumbling, Chelsea need to win just two of their last four games to seal their victory. With their title hopes fading away, the only thing they can take away from this season is that it was better than their fiercest rival’s, Arsenal’s. Or was it? Suffering arguably their worst season since Arsene Wenger joined, Arsenal still have hope for silverware, with the F.A. Cup Final still left to be played. On the other hand, enjoying one of their best seasons in a long time, Tottenham are already seeing their only chance for a trophy slowly slipping away. Add to that the fact that they crashe2285332d out of the Champions League Group Stage and the Europa League Round of 32, while Arsenal made it till the Champions League Round of 16 again this year. Surely, securing a better league position than Arsenal should not be the sole goal of such a young and talented squad? However, unless Chelsea falter too, it seems like that is all they will achieve this year. And unless they manage to improve their mentality, standing up to the success of their city neighbors will prove to be a tough job indeed. However, with Pochettino as their manager, and the exciting talents that they possess, they can hope that that day will come sooner rather than later.

Pic Credits: goal.com

Article Contribution- Anirban Bhattacharya