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Spurs v Arsenal, 15.09.07

BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
SATURDAY 15TH SEPTEMBER, 2007
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1 (1) ARSENAL 3 (0)

Spurs scorer:-
Bale, 15

Arsenal scorers:-
Adebayor, 65, 90
Fabregas, 80

Referee: - Mark Clattenburg

Attendance: - 36, 053

Teams:-
Spurs (4-4-2):- Robinson; Chimbonda, Dawson, Kaboul, Lee; Malbranque (sub Bent, 81), Jenas, Huddlestone, Bale (sub Lennon, 68); Berbatov, Keane (Capt.)

Subs not used: - Cerny; Rocha; Zokora

Booked: - Jenas, Chimbonda

Arsenal (4-4-2):- Almunia; Sagna, Toure (Capt.), Gilberto, Clichy; Hleb (sub Song, 90), Flamini, Fabregas, Diaby (sub Rosicky, 55); Adebayor, Van Persie (sub Denilson, 85)

Subs not used: - Fabianski; Walcott

Booked: - Sagna, Hleb

Spurs Abject Surrender

Spurs abject surrender in one of the most important games of the season (for the fans at least) was distressing to watch, but in the end all too predictable and all too typical of a team which continues to have a soft centre, despite the investment of recent years. Spurs surrendered the initiative, home advantage, space in the midfield, possession at crucial times and finally for the umpteenth time, the lead.

In my view the Spurs strategy was wrong, having taken an early lead. We did not get men forward in sufficient numbers to add to our advantage. Too often we might break to the half-way line or just into enemy territory quickly but would then delay further attack until re-inforcements arrived on the scene to try and utilise the ball. By then of course the fit and buzzing red shirted brigade were all too ready for anything thrown at them – not that that was too much really, despite holding the lead till the 65th minute.

As is Martin Jol’s wont, Robbie Keane became a fifth midfielder too much of the time, with Berbatov invariably the only target at the head of a team playing at home, but adopting the tactics of an away side – falling back into an area up to 30 yards out and allowing too much freedom to the Arsenal back four and their playmaker – Fabregas. I used to think that when Arsene Wenger had to resort to playing Flamini that you had a chance, but not yesterday, as he played beside Fabregas, with Gilberto shoring up the central defence in the absence of the suspended Senderos and the injured Gallas.

To compete with Arsenal, you need to play with pace, precision and incisiveness. Whilst plenty of Spurs fans will start to get on the back of late substitute Darren Bent, after his fluffed attempt on goal after a Jenas ball over the top, Bent showed in the small time allowed that he would have been the foil to break down the defence, had he been allowed to start. However, the lovable Robbie Keane is one of Martin Jol’s “untouchables” and was obliged to start. He has yet to score a domestic goal this season, as he and Spurs once again demonstrate a slow start with 4 points from the opening six games. The Star of David gags still have mileage this term, with Bolton away to come next week.

On the subject of pace and mobility, Tom Huddlestone was sadly shown up for his lack in this area, but he and Jenas together failed to take control of the midfield, where the gooners took painful advantage in the second half.

We welcomed back Michael Dawson in the centre of defence, but I was not convinced of his fitness levels, as Adebayor and Van Persie tested Dawson and Kaboul to the full. Arsenal also battled for the ball in every area of the park, which was one of the biggest failures of Jol’s side. Sadly, Aaron Lennon was not deemed fit enough to start, and whilst Malbranque has his attractions, he can irritate with his delay at releasing the ball, and sadly conceded the needless free kick that led to Arsenal’s equaliser. It seems that Gareth Bale was replaced due to receiving a knock, but when Lennon took his slot on the left, and Spurs failed to deliver the ball to him, I confess to questioning the tactics of our manager – who I half expected to feature in this morning’s headlines, and for whom tomorrow may yet be gloomy day.

Both sides played 4-4-2. In Spurs case, Bale was once again in front of Lee, which has proved to be a decent partnership. On the opposite site, Diaby was on the left of midfield, but inclined to come inside with Fabregas working from the back of a diamond shape, allowing Clichy to make early runs down the left flank, giving Chimbonda early scares. I thought that Chimbonda was Spurs’ man of the match, despite late failings, but he made many crucial interceptions, and led any forays down the right flank. Gareth Bale also scored highly again on the “Spursometer” player grades – boosted by his second goal in successive games. Bale and Malbranque are our top scorers!

Robinson had to make an early save from an Adebayor effort, conceding a corner. After 6 minutes, Huddlestone won a midfield battle, and space was opening up for him, but he failed to take advantage. Hudd was not helped by the referee getting in the way, but the move ended with a cross from the right and a header over the bar by Berbatov. Spurs took the lead from a free kick won after a move by Bale and Lee, with Berbatov being fouled a few yards outside the area. Kaboul, Jenas and Bale lingered over the ball, and it was Bale who stepped up and hit a beautiful low kick around the wall which crept inside Almunia’s right hand post. Bale hared off to the south-east corner to celebrate.

We had a quick reality check though, as Adebayor tested Robinson immediately with a well-struck shot that the keeper had to push away at full stretch. Fabregas led an Arsenal break mid-way through the half, with space being surrendered by Spurs, and Robbo was at full stretch again – this time to keep out Hleb’s shot. Lee finally cleared the ball for a throw. The next scare for Spurs came after 32 minutes, when Flamini was allowed a run from the right, Adebayor crossed to Diaby, who had all the time and space in the world, but hit the bar with his shot.

Spurs did enjoy a period of good possession and even pressure upon the visitors after 39 minutes, but Robbie Keane was not able to make contact with Berbatov’s final ball across the defence.

Five minutes into the second half, Berbatov made a cardinal error, picking up Malbranque’s ball over the top, with Almunia over-committed and outside the area; Berbatov had the ball round him, but was then faced with Toure who did make the crucial goal-saving interception. Right back Sagna responded with a run all the way to the Spurs bye-line, cutting the ball back for Adebayor, who scooped his shot well over the target. Adebayor was soon involved in a penalty appeal as he and Chimbonda battled away in the box. Robinson came out and took the ball off Adebayor’s feet. The striker went down, but the referee indicated that Robbo had won the ball fairly.

Berbatov was working hard and making good runs to win a couple of corners, one of which led to a Kaboul header over the bar. Berbatov led a break after 61 minutes, and when Chimbonda took over and crossed, Huddlestone tried a first time shot which went wide. He and Almunia then had a tangle, which led to “words” from Mr Clattenburg for both players. Arsenal’s equaliser came from a twice-taken free kick, floated in by Fabregas, not taken by Robinson, not won by Dawson, and easily headed home by Adebayor. Dreams of a first 21st Century victory were shattered. 1-1 would have been just about acceptable, but it was to get even worst of course.

Robinson had to save a low drive by Van Persie from the edge of the box, and then when Malbranque got caught in possession, Fabregas hit a shot just outside the post. Spurs tried to win a handball decision when Clichy chested Berbatov’s shot off the line, but all too soon, the gooners had taken a lead, as they broke through Van Persie’s run, and Fabregas hit a devastating blow from 30 yards out across Robinson’s bows. Only then did Darren Bent enter the fray. He tried one scissor kick from a lofted ball, then hit his fluffed effort from Jenas’s ball, but the agony for Spurs fans was compounded in added time, after Robinson saved from Denilson, but then saw Adebayor turn on a ball and fire into the net in style to ensure maximum gloating rights to the gooners, and misery for the fast escaping home fans.

Some fans find comfort in the knowledge that this time last year we had the same number of points from our first 6 games. Some still feel that Spurs have a cup in them, and that they can still climb to a UEFA qualifying place. I feel heartily depressed and thoroughly sickened by my team, whose fitness, strategy, and at times lack of effort leads to poor results. One man has to shoulder the blame for the frailty of our side, despite the talent laid at his feet. I love the guy, but I am now committed to Spurs finding a replacement for Martin Jol.

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