Penned back in our own half for much of the opening 35 minutes, it was vital that Arsenal had the ability to hold the ball up and threaten Spurs on the rare occasions we got forward.
That’s because the Gunners had Danny Welbeck up front. Without meaning to disrespect or under appreciate Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott, Welbeck simply combines enough of their attributes to be more valuable than them both.
Able to hold the ball up against a physical defence, Giroud plays excellently when Arsenal are under pressure and provides the team with the ability to support him in attack. On the other hand, Theo Walcott has the pace to stretch opposition sides in behind and run into the channels, even when his close control can let him sown if required to dribble.
Danny Welbeck, well he can do both. Not as good as Giroud at holding the ball up, he is physical enough to win aerial duels and stop defenders stealing the ball from him, protecting possession well. Not as quick as Walcott, the Manchester-born striker is still incredibly fast and is a very good dribbler, helping him turn defences around and stretch play.
Under pressure at the back, Welbeck gives Arsenal players the option to either play the ball into him or play it somewhere for him to try and get on the end of it. Those assets were in valuable in a difficult first half, and an ability to run in behind and keep composure in the box saw Arsenal net their opener.
Running behind the defence but not with enough space to get a shot away, ‘Dat Guy’ checked back inside and held the ball up, waiting for runners to support him. He found Héctor Bellerín and darted back towards the back post, but wasn’t needed as the Spaniard’s low ball in was converted by Aaron Ramsey.
The second half started brightly for the Gunners, but after Francis Coquelin’s red card there was a very nervous 20 minutes or so when we struggled to move the ball up the pitch. Welbeck’s influence was curtailed before he was subbed with little time remaining, but his first half performance was another excellent one.
Back in January, or indeed last summer, no top strikers moved clubs. Arsenal certainly wouldn’t have been able to sign one more capable than Welbeck, who now has the chance to make that spot his own.