Matthew Glazier of Bettingpro.com explains why Arsenal were able to pip their arch-rivals to a place in the Champions League.
On 3 March 2013, goals from Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon helped Tottenham to win the north London derby and go seven points clear of Arsenal.
After the match, Arsene Wenger admitted that finishing in the top four of the Premier League looked a difficult prospect, with Ladbrokes offering 3/1 about the Gunners making the Champions League places.
The Frenchman said: “We have to fight and it will be difficult now, because we dropped points that we couldn’t afford to drop. But we will fight and we will keep our spirit.”
Wenger was true to his word, with Arsenal galvanising and edging out Tottenham by a single point to claim fourth spot on Sunday. But what were the main reasons why the Gunners were celebrating at St James’ Park last weekend.
1) The central defence partnership of Koscielny and Mertesacker
At the start of the season, it would have been hard to imagine Thomas Vermaelen playing second fiddle to Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker, although that is exactly what has happened over the past few weeks.
It was fitting that Koscielny scored the winner against Newcastle as the Frenchman’s performances have been excellent, with just two goals conceded in Arsenal’s last six matches. Mertesacker bagged the only goal at Craven Cottage and the pair are directly responsible for fourth place.
2) Arsenal’s win against Bayern Munich
So the defensive horror show at home to Bayern seemed to indicate that the Gunners were leagues apart from the cream of Europe, although Arsenal then went to the Allianz Arena and claimed a 2-0 win. This was just ten days after losing at White Hart Lane and essentially sparked the team’s unbeaten run which lasted all the way to the end of the season.
3) Tottenham’s participation in the Europa League
Andre Villas-Boas declared at the start of the season that Spurs would be trying to win the Europa League and he was as good as his word. Unfortunately, you have to say that fielding a first-team from the word go backfired, especially towards the end of the season when Spurs lost 3-2 at Liverpool just days after beating Inter Milan.
Similarly, extra-time in the San Siro the following week then led to a lacklustre performance against Fulham which saw the Cottagers win 1-0 at White Hart Lane. A 2-2 draw with Basel was followed by another 2-2 draw at home to Everton and the damage was done.