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Preview Spurs v Arsenal, 15.12.02

Here is Brian Judson's preview of the game

Full Record of Spurs -v- Arsenal

Prem          Pl  W   D   L  For-Ag  Pts
Home          10  4   4   2  10 - 9  16
Away          11  1   5   5   8 -15   8
Total(Prem)   21  5   9   7  18 -24  24
Football Lge
Home(Div 1)   55 24  12  19  93 -83  63
Away(Div 1)   55 16  12  27  65 -85  46
Total(Div 1) 110 40  24  46 158 -168 109
Total(Prem)   21  5   9   7  18 -24  24
Total(Div 1) 110 40  24  46 158 -168 109
Grand Total  131 45  33  53 176 -192 133

There is never a good time to play Arsenal when they are in fine form. Much as I hate to admit it, it does look likely that Arsenal will be there or thereabouts at the end of the season whilst Tottenham will lie in the anonymity of mid-table. Our only hope of silverware this season rests in the FA Cup, assuming that we can overcome Southampton in the 3rd Round.

Arsenal's midfield is probably the best in Europe. It is very difficult to close down when they are on song. Fortunately, from Spurs' point of view, Vieira has been ruled out through injury and Ray Parlour may be called up, even though he is still far from being match fit after a long lay-off. The only problems Arsenal have had have been in defence. Their back-four, missing the suspended Sol Campbell, was exposed by Manchester United, at Old Trafford, last weekend. Seaman is now well past his best and neither of the reserve goalkeepers, Shaaban or Taylor, have the command and confidence of the 6-yard box. Their main strength has been the consistency of their strikers, notably Thierry Henry, in snapping up the half-chances. Indeed, they have only failed to score once this season.

Tottenham, on the other hand, continue to be plagued with injuries. As one player returns, another is injured. They also have an ageing team with Sheringham as their oldest player at 37. Spurs are at least three players away from being a good team. But they lack the skills of an organiser and a good captain. I have always felt that the best teams are captained by a player in midfield, one who drives the team on as with Mackay, Mullery and Roberts. It is necessary to have at least one player who refuses to give up when the team falls behind. Mackay often tackled as if he could hear the skirl of bagpipes. Mullery was tireless and dogged as was Roberts. But too often over the last two decades, Tottenham have given up and capitulated when they have fallen behind.

That is the essential difference between Arsenal and Tottenham at the moment. Arsenal very rarely know when they are beaten and do not accept defeat until the final whistle echoes. In Arsene Wenger they have a very shrewd tactical manager, who is capable of playing mind games. He has constructed a team that is as good as anything they have had over the years and is probably the most attractive Arsenal team of all time. Their predecessors were almost all defensive - remember Graham's synchronised back four galloping forward with one arm aloft in the air for 12 years?

Hoddle, on the other hand, never gave managing a team a thought until he played under Wenger at Monaco. But I don't think Hoddle is as astute as Wenger. I don't think Hoddle even knows what his best team is. He is certainly guilty of playing players out of position at times. There is still time for Hoddle to prove the sceptics wrong.

Over the years, Spurs and Arsenal have had their battles. The biggest margin of victory by Tottenham in this fixture has been 5-0 on two occasions. The most recent occasion was on Easter Monday 1983 when we were engaged in a mad rush of fixtures because of a pile-up. Chris Hughton scored twice, capitalising on George Wood's hapless display in goal. Falco scored twice, including one brilliant volley and Brazil completed the rout.

The other occasion when we thrashed them 5-0 was back in season 1911-12 when Arsenal were still based at Woolwich. Billy Minter scored twice, Bert Middlemiss, John McTavish and Jabez Darnell completed the rout.

Our worst home defeat in this series of matches was our 6-0 home defeat in March 1935 by which time it was obvious we were going to be relegated, having used 36 players during the course of the season. Alf Kirchen scored twice, Ted Drake twice Peter Dougall and Cliff Bastin (penalty) completed the rout.

One of the finest performances by Arsenal was just before Christmas 1978 when they thrashed us 5-0. Even I, a rock solid Spurs supporter, had to applaud the brilliant play of Liam Brady that afternoon. He tore us apart. Sunderland scored 3, Stapleton and Brady completing the rout. Brady's goal was a brilliant volley.

And so to Sunday's match. I am not optimistic about the outcome and fully expect to see Arsenal win the match. They will be smarting after the events of last weekend and will want to complete a double over Tottenham. I expect us to play well but not to last the whole 90 minutes. I think we will lose 2-1 with the Arsenal winner coming late in the match.


Cheers, Brian

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