An interesting match at White Hart Lane led to yet another Arsenal defeat in a season that really hasn't been going according to plan. The Gunner visited Tottenham Hotspur with a defensive setup that was in disarray, and their midfield was hardly something to shout about either - Mikel Arteta and Aaron Ramsey is hardly equivalent to Cesc Fabregas and Jack Wilshere. Tottenham, meanwhile, had some defensive problems of their own, and were forced to field Younes Kaboul and Ledley King as a central defensive partnership.
The match was characterised by sloppy defending on both parts, and the only reason that more goals weren't scored is because the midfield play was also pretty poor. Arsenal should have dominated possession, but the extra man counts for naught when said extra man appears to delight in gifting the opposition with the football, a hobby Ramsey appears to have picked up and mastered in the past few months.
The hosts had the better of the chances in the opening stages, notably when Scott Parker was played through one-on-one with Wojciech Szczesny, and it came as little surprise when they took the lead, Rafael van der Vaart taking down a nifty diagonal ball and slotting past the helpless goalkeeper half a second later, rippling the net at the back post.
Half time saw much whining about possible hand balls and second yellow cards for van der Vaart's celebration (he probably ought to have been booked for going into the crowd, and was already on a yellow), but the team on the pitch reacted far better than their fans did, immediately putting intense pressure on their hosts and getting the equaliser through Ramsey after excellent work from faux-centre-half Alex Song.
For a few minutes, Arsenal were clearly in the ascendancy, but that spell was rather shattered by Emmanuel Adebayor going clear on goal in the 57th minute. Although Szczesny was able to make the save in rather spectacular fashion, the Gunenrs' period of being on top was over and the game went back to being reasonably even. Then, disaster struck.
Nothing seemed particularly worrying when Bacary Sagna went up against Spurs left back Benoit Assou-Ekotto for an aerial challenge on the touchline, but the Arsenal defender landed badly on the hard area that surrounds the pitch at White Hart Lane, and mangled his ankle in the process. It looked like a bad injury, and Sagna immediately signalled for a stretcher and a substitution - Arsene Wenger was forced to commit young Carl Jenkinson to the fray.
Having a severely weakened right flank is hardly ideal when Gareth Bale is on the opposition, and it came as little surprise when Spurs scored following good work in that area. Somewhat strange was the fact that it was Ramsey against substitute Ramsey who was primarily responsible for the opportunity, but regardless of who was at fault, the resultant goal was spectacular, with a Luka Modric effort only cleared so far as Kyle Walker, who opted to take a blistering shot from 40 yards out with so much movement that Szczesny fell over while trying to save it.
With the lead back, Tottenham really had their tails up and looked by far the more likely side to score. They were especially dangerous whenever Bale was in possession, and on a different day could easily have knocked a couple more past Szczesny - the game should not have been in doubt going into the last few minutes. In doubt it was, however, and Wenger made things slightly interesting by shoving huge centre back Per Mertesacker up to centre forward in order to win some knockdowns. It was a desperate gambit that didn't work, and ultimately the hosts were fairly comfortable in seeing out Arsenal's non-threat.
Mike Dean's whistle after five minutes of injury time might have ended the Gunners' on-field misery, but one can't imagine that anyone in that organisation is particularly thrilled right now. Tottenham, meanwhile, further secure their position as Liverpool's main rivals for fourth, moving to within a point of the Reds with a game in hand. The very top of the table might be rather boring, but the battle for the final Champions League spot is promising to be a thriller.