The North London Derby turned out to be another dramatic affair between Arsenal and Tottenham. This match did not feature the amount of goals from some of the recent derbies (the previous two meetings saw a total of 14 goals), but the final result was in doubt until the final whistle. This match was important for both sides considering that only four points separated the two from third place. With today’s 2-1 victory, Tottenham now has an 85 percent likelihood to qualify for the Champions League, according to ESPN's Soccer Power Index, while Arsenal will have to claw its way back into contention with its chances falling to 31 percent. Here are two of the storylines of today’s matchup:
The magical form of Gareth Bale
The Welshman scored again today to make it seven goals in his last five Premier League games. His numbers are even more impressive considering that he scored a total of just nine all of last season. The left-footed Bale is known as a player who sticks to running the flanks, causing problems for opposing defenses on the left side.
Check out this heat map showing where Bale touched the ball in the first 19 league games of the season:
Now take a look at where he's been positioned in the past 5 games:
Recently, Tottenham has employed Bale all over the field, and Spurs have gotten better productivity from him this way. He is no longer stuck to the left side, but getting the ball wherever there is open space. He has touched the ball 154 times on the right half of the field in his past five games, compared to 264 touches in the first 19 games of the season. This tactical move by Andre Villas-Boas could be what makes Tottenham a Champions League team by season's end.
Lack of offensive creativity for Arsenal
Arsenal controlled possession (60-40 percent) as it does most games, but the Gunners were not able to translate possession into offensive opportunities. In fact, Arsenal had only 153 touches in the attacking third (fifth worst for them this season), and when it did have the ball in attacking positions, the team struggled to pass the ball around. Arsene Wenger’s men completed only 80 passes in the attacking third (fourth worst this season) with a completion percentage of 62.5 (second worst all season).
Passing in the final third has been the main problem for the Gunners in marquee matches. Five of their six matches which resulted in their lowest number of passes completed in the attacking third were against Manchester United, Manchester City, Tottenham, Chelsea and Liverpool. Arsenal’s only remaining match against a big English club is against Manchester United. The team will likely have to win that fixture in order to make the Champions League. The lack of creativity is surprising considering that two of their midfielders, Mikel Arteta and Santi Cazorla, are first and fourth in most passes completed in the Premier League this season.