Arsenal vs. Tottenham Hotspur: Takeaways from Saturday's FA Cup tie

Clive Rose

Theo Walcott's surprising effectiveness, Arsenal's much-hyped collapse and Tottenham's 4-4-2 dominated our thoughts after the Gunners knocked Spurs out of the FA Cup.

Tottenham's 4-4-2 is partly to blame for tonight's defeat, but it's very simplistic to lay the blame solely at the door of a formation. Spurs were away and facing a better side, so a 2-0 loss is hardly inexcusable, but there were problems with their play. It wasn't that they were too open, but rather that the players they have seem to suffer as a result of avoidable circumstances.

Michael Dawson is an extremely poor defender when isolated, and both he and Vlad Chiriches are simply not good enough to be playing without either a direct covering player in a more defensive, two-banks-of-four, deeper defending system, or one where the midfield is swamped. Nabil Bentaleb is not going to be able to hold together a midfield with Moussa Dembele. Roberto Soldado is too frequently a waste of space.

In all fairness, the move to such a system has worked out better than anyone had imagined in that it hasn't been a complete catastrophe, but it might be time for Tim Sherwood to examine whether he can play a more expansive style than his predecessor without hammering square pegs into round holes.

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Aaron Lennon has been a strange character for Tottenham, often looked at as an obvious position to upgrade but bringing a simplicity and directness to their play when reinstated, which often brings rewards. Tonight, he looked well off the pace, with poor touches and decisions costing Spurs a hatful of chances in the first half. It may have been more prudent to test a shaky-looking Arsenal backline with brains on occasion rather than simply brawn and speed.

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On his day, there's probably not a finer main eventer than Emmanuel Adebayor, and it was a major surprise to see him off the scoresheet. We've seen him fade over the course of a few games before, but here he looked a different player in the opening half hour to thereafter - are his runs of imperious form getting even shorter?

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Arsenal were not in unstoppable form tonight, but there only looked like one winner all game and there seemed little hope that the lead would be surrendered once it was established. It's becoming more and more difficult to judge this Arsenal side - Aaron Ramsey's improvement and Mesut Ozil's addition we can account for, as well as Olivier Giroud's reasonable form. But the rest are players we've seen limp to fourth - Mathieu Flamini, Ozil and Ramsey were all absent from the starting lineup and yet the team barely looked any worse. The answer is probably that we've seen the same players go on runs of form like this before -- in order to limp to fourth after a disastrous start. It's not actually true that doing so well now makes a collapse more likely -- that would be the old gambler's fallacy -- but the world would certainly make a lot more sense if it did.

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Lukas Podolski has been a reasonable acquisition for Arsenal since he signed, but his weakness has been his inability to fill the lone striker role when injuries have required. Theo Walcott seems on paper little better equipped for such a task, and while he couldn't produce the same kind of stickiness up front as his injured French colleague, he was surprisingly dangerous from a position where he frequently received the ball in the opposite kind of situations, in which he is most effective. The knowledge that Arsenal have an able deputy there will be comforting.

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