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Arsenal v Spurs, 14.11.98

FA PREMIER LEAGUE
Saturday 14th November, 1998
ARSENAL 0(0) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 0(0)

Attendance:- 38,278

Referee:- Mr. A.B. Wilkie

Teams:-
Arsenal:- Seaman; Dixon, Keown, Adams, Winterburn; Parlour, Vieira, Petit, Overmars; Ljungberg (sub Wreh, 62), Anelka (sub Boa Morte, 79)

Subs not used:- Manninger; Hughes, Grimandi

Booked:- Winterburn

Spurs:- Baardsen; Carr, Scales, Vega, Campbell, Edinburgh; Anderton, Calderwood (sub Sinton, 78), Nielsen; Iversen, Armstrong

Subs not used:- Walker; Clemence, Ginola; Allen

Booked:- Armstrong, Nielsen

NO MORE HIGHBURY BITTERNESS, INSISTS GRAHAM

George Graham has buried the hatchet with Arsenal and insists there is no more bad feeling left.

Now that his much-hyped return to Highbury as Tottenham manager is history, he just wants to concentrate on the task of rebuilding his Spurs side - in the quality image that Arsene Wenger has achieved with the Double-winning Gunners.

Graham welcomed Arsenal chairman Peter Hill-Wood's invitation to step into the Highbury boardroom for a kiss-and-make-up drink after Saturday's goalless draw.

It was the boardroom, where just under three years ago, Hill-Wood told him he was being sacked over the `transfer bungs' scandal which tarnished Graham's glittering career there.

His dismissal came just 24 hours before the Football Association's bungs commission found Graham guilty of accepting illicit payments from Norwegian agent Rune Hauge in two transfer deals and he was subsequently banned for a year.

And although he felt that Arsenal should have stood by him, he now insists: "That's all water under the bridge. There is no more bitterness.

"My return to Highbury with Spurs was blown up out of all proportion by other people and it's good that it's over even though I never believed it would be much of a problem.

"I still have a lot of good friends at Arsenal and when I spoke to the directors David Dein and Danny Fiszman everything was fine.

"The only problem I had in meeting everybody was finding enough time because I had family and friends to see after the game and also interviews with the press.

"But I honestly don't think it is the real issue. Some people in the crowd gave me stick before and during the game but it is part and parcel of the game these days. Players get it all the time when they move from one club to another but you can't have people choosing what jobs you take.

"This one at Spurs became available for me and it is a big one. Now my ambition is to bring to Tottenham the kind of quality that Arsenal have. Arsene Wenger's team are sheer quality. They pounded us at Highbury and it was quite an achievement to get a result.

"The Spurs players have shown a great attitude and desire to improve things since I arrived. They are not scared of me but they respect me and I believe they are glad that somebody has come in who can give them a bit of leadership."

Graham also believes his coaching methods can make Tottenham's England centre-back Sol Campbell into an even better player, just as he helped Tony Adams become a colossus of the English game with Arsenal.

And he has vowed to get another Spurs' England international, Darren Anderton, back to his sparkling best on a regular basis after three years of injury anguish.

But Graham knows he does not have a magic wand to completely transform players who struggled against relegation last season into a team capable of winning titles.

He said: "They've shown me they have the spirit to do better both on the pitch and on the training ground. There are some good players in the squad and good players don't want to be scrambling around near the bottom of the league.

"But the hardest thing is to add the extra quality we need. I want to sign lots of players and I have the spending power at Tottenham to do it. But just show me where the available quality is to buy. I think more than a few clubs are facing the same problem."

Arsenal's particular problem is patently obvious. Unless manager Wenger can find another goalscorer to take the weight off the fast-emerging Nicolas Anelka, they will lose their Premiership crown and flounder in the Champions' League.

They are averaging just one goal a game in the Premiership, despite having hit Manchester United and Newcastle for a combined six. That's not good enough for champions.

At times on Saturday, Spurs were hanging on by their fingernails to resist Arsenal's sweeping football. But there were no shots strong enough in the locker to defeat splendid goalkeeper Espen Baardsen who pulled off a string of impressive saves.

Maybe if Dennis Bergkamp had recovered in time from a damaged ankle to play, he would have snapped up the kind of chances that Fredrik Ljungberg and Ray Parlour missed but even the Dutchman's form in front of goal has been poor this season.

And, familiarly, despite all his awesome raw talent, teenager Anelka let a good opportunity slip, too, after outpacing Campbell in the first-half and then shooting wide with the goal at his mercy.

But before he limped off with cramp in both legs in the last 10 minutes the young Frenchman was having to create his own chances against a Tottenham defence which covered every crack.

None looked more solid than Ramon Vega, the big Swiss centre-back who had become number one butt of the Tottenham crowd before Graham's arrival six weeks ago.

Vega looks a class act at last in a triple centre-back system, flanked by the talented Campbell and the solid John Scales - a system, to be fair, which former Spurs manager Christian Gross envisaged when he bought him from Italian club Cagliari at the start of last season.

"I have a lot more confidence playing in this system," said Vega, "I am able to read the game better and it is more organised.

"This was one of my best performances since I came to Tottenham, but it is due to every other player in the team working hard and showing great spirit."

Although Steffen Iversen missed two good chances which might have given Tottenham a win they would not have deserved it was perhaps inevitable that, after five of the previous 13 meetings between the two North London giants ended goalless, this latest clash should go the same way.

Graham saw the irony in that and joked: "It's a great satisfaction to see two teams I coached draw 0-0."

But the reality is that he wants much more than survival football for Spurs. And he knows he will have to buy it.

He said: "There's still a lot of hard work to be done. I won't be happy until Tottenham are up there challenging with quality with the likes of Arsenal and Manchester United.

"Until we get that quality it's still nice to enjoy a few good results along the way."

Read Brian Judson's preview of this game

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