In the biggest game of the season thus far, Arsenal fell short of expectations with a 1-0 defeat at Wembley to Tottenham. The defeat means that Arsenal now sit 7 points behind their North London rivals, basically putting to bed their top 4 hopes. A Harry Kane header in the 49th minute was enough to be the difference between the two London sides. The result meansArsenal now firmly sit 6th in the league while Mauricio Pochettino’s men have moved up to 3rd.
There are a number of factors as to why Arsenal lost this game. 1) They have a terrible away record in which they’ve only picked up 13 points in 14 league games. 2) Tottenham is a far better-coached team on paper and on the pitch. Thirdly, the absence of Aaron Ramsey severely hampered Arsenal’s build-up play.
For all the adulation Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan received last week, it was Aaron Ramsey who scored a hattrick against Everton. So, when it was announced that the 27-year-old would not only not be included in the starting XI, he wouldn’t be in the entire squad either. Fans scratched their heads at the news until the official Arsenal Twitter account announced that Ramsey would be missing the game with a minor groin problem.
The Wales international participated in training yesterday but at the latter end of the session, he strained his groin. Although both journalists and Arsène Wenger himself confirmed that this wasn’t a serious injury, the club has a history of playing down serious injuries concerning the Welshman. This season alone, he’s missed 32 days through injury, equating to 10 games. The season before he missed 22 games through injury. Noticing a pattern here?
Without Aaron Ramsey’s surging runs through the midfield, Arsenal was toothless in the final third. Even with Mesut Özil coming deep to orchestrate play, the Gunners couldn’t maintain any kind of grip on the game. Aaron Ramsey’s movement would have allowed the Gunners to overload a well-organised Tottenham defence. Arsenal’s midfield lacked both athleticism and drive, two attributes Aaron Ramsey has in abundance.
In his post-match press conference, Arsène Wenger had a lot to say about the 1-0 defeat.
“I believe we had opportunities, dangerous situations that we didn’t transform into opportunities – That’s where my regret was. In the final ball, we missed something.”
Such a quote makes one think whether the score line would have been different if Aaron Ramsey was playing in midfield. The Welshman would have certainly replaced Granit Xhaka in the box-to-box role as he’s more mobile and intelligent than the Swiss international.
On another day, perhaps with Aaron Ramsey in the team, this North London derby could have ended differently.