BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
SATURDAY 31ST OCTOBER, 2009
ARSENAL 3 (2) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 0 (0)
Van Persie, 42, 60
Referee: - Mark Clattenburg
Attendance: - 60,103
Arsenal (4-3-2-1):- Almunia; Sagna, Gallas, Vermaelen, Clichy; Song, Fabregas (Capt.), Diaby; Bendtner (sub Eduardo, 37), Arshavin (sub Eboue, 78); Van Persie (sub Ramsey, 86)
Subs not used: - Mannone; Senderos, Gibbs; Nasri
Booked: - Vermaelen
Spurs (4-3-2-1):- Gomes; Corluka (sub Hutton, 86), King, Bassong, Ekotto; Jenas, Huddlestone (sub Bale, 55), Palacios; Bentley, Keane (Capt.) (sub Pavlyuchenko, 65); Crouch
(Armband to King)
Subs not used: - Button; Dawson, Woodgate; Kranjcar
Booked: - Crouch
Champions League? We ARE having a laugh
Spurs have now lost three of their early season tests against Top Four sides. In each of those games, manager Harry Redknapp has tried and failed to match the formation and style of the opposition. Today, against the team we all hate the most; Harry tried to emulate their 4-3-2-1 formation. In fairness, we were just about holding our own until one disaster in the 42nd minute was followed WITHIN ELEVEN SECONDS by a goal scored by Arsenal skipper Fabregas, who was allowed to dispossess Palacios after OUR KICK-OFF still in the centre circle, and who then waltzed through the Spurs defence like the proverbial knife through butter. That was it. The game was over before half-time, and there would be no miraculous come back this year.
Spurs reverted to a traditional 4-4-2 in the second half, but didn’t make much head-way, and fell three behind when Spurs assumed the referee would give a free kick for Ekotto’s foul on Eduardo, whilst the horrible red-shirted horde played to the whistle and took full advantage of the referee’s “clever” play-on decision. I could cynically thank one of our favourite referees, but Spurs are culpable for lack of concentration and professionalism in this one of the most important games in our calendar. Once again, OUR team let US down in the North London Derby, and we DID have 5 Englishmen playing who failed to understand the importance of the game as much as Mr Wenger’s assembly of foreigners.
This Mr. Wenger, who we Spurs fans love to hate and love to abuse so much is the man who has lost just one league game to Spurs in his 13 year tenure at the other place. This Mr. Wenger today got his 1000th Premier League point against the team who all too often allow our hated enemies achieve landmark moments against us. (1971 and a recent Premier League title come to mind).
Surprisingly in my view, Harry Redknapp gave a start to Tom Huddlestone. Unsurprisingly, in my view, he replaced him early with Gareth Bale, which at least gave us pace across the midfield. Well, nearly, with Bentley on the right.
Spurs got quite a bit of possession before going down, but typically, when Arsenal were on the ball they would move swiftly forward, play penetrating passes inside defenders, find space with deft movement and threaten goal time and time again. On the other hand, Spurs would be snail-like in their approach, more often than not pass backwards or sideways, and allow the red shirted horde to close them down, or even nick the ball off their feet. I mean, we even allowed the gooners to make a noise in their place after going two goals up. I said before the game that we would miss the pace of Defoe, and Lennon, and the skill of Modric, but in a game which saw so few bookings, we also missed the sort of heart I expect from players in a Derby game. Overall, I’d say that Jenas was the only player to show the right spirit throughout the game. However, spirit is not enough alone, and a couple of Jenas’s first half passes to Bentley led to dangerous breaks from Arsenal.
Arsenal’s danger men were primarily Arshavin and Fabregas in the build up, but of course two-goal Van Persie wins plaudits as well. After only one minute, Van Persie fed Arshavin and Bendtner had a chance but put it well over the bar. Bentley was working hard and achieving a bit at the start of the game, tackling well, but it was after one of those short passes that Arshavin got away and Ledley intercepted well for a corner. Arshavin tried a crafty tactic of creeping onto the pitch just before the kick and received a nice chip on the bye-line. He was then well crunched by a Spurs tackle, which Mr Clattenburg let go, clearly wearing his lenient hat in the first half, having “words” with Bentley over a tackle on Vermaelen, and later with Song for a late tackle.
One Bentley ball reached Jenas who was getting forward as much as he could. Jenas seemed to get a hand off challenge, which clearly was not a shoulder barge, but which was not punished by the referee. Clichy got away from Bentley with the ball after another short pass, and the final attempt on goal came from Arshavin, which was held by Gomes. Ekotto then benefited from the referee’s leniency when kicking the ball away after a free kick against Spurs. In fairness it was within a flash of the whistle. The Arsenal free kick floated just past the far post, with Gomes covering.
One of the frustrations today was the regularity of Robbie Keane being half a yard short of a position, or failing to make the extra half a yard of effort to reach the ball. One occasion came when Crouch headed down Bentley’s ball, but Keane lost out to the keeper in the challenge for the ball.
Arshavin scampered away with the ball after 19 minutes, and fed Fabregas whose shot was well saved by Gomes to his left. The Spurs keeper then kept his momentum going to save at the feet of Bendtner. Spurs had a chance after 27 minutes, when Corluka’s throw reached Huddlestone. Hudd chipped for Keane, whose looping header went over and landed on the net. At the Spurs end, Ekotto made a poor low clearance to the feet of Fabregas, who passed to Van Persie. The shot went wide. Jenas and Huddlestone combined well at the other end and got the ball to Corluka, whose cross was parried by Almunia then cleared.
Bendtner had to be replaced early by Eduardo. Spurs had another great chance after 37 minutes, when Keane spread the play to Bentley, who passed inside to Jenas. Jenas threaded a ball for Keane, who just failed to reach the ball. Fabregas was onto a Sagna ball, and Van Persie had a shot saved before disaster struck. After a gooner throw from the right the ball was crossed in low to the near post, where van Persie got in front of the defence and turned the ball sharply below Gomes’ body. I’ve already seen some press criticism of Gomes, but it was a difficult shot for him to deal with. The defender (which may have been Ledley) is probably more culpable.
I shall not pain you with a repeat description of the Fabregas goal, but I will repeat that it was timed within 11 seconds of the restart, from a Spurs kick-off. Disgusting and disgraceful.
After the break, Spurs tried a 4-4-2, with Keane alongside Crouch, Bentley on the left and Jenas on the right. It was a makeshift strategy with a patchwork side missing those three key men, and we did not make much progress. Van Persie hit a powerful cross from the left side and the ball reached Sagna whose shot was blocked. Huddlestone was replaced by Bale, and at least Bentley was back on his better right side. However, he was not having the impact that he showed in the first quarter of an hour. Why, he had even tried a repeat of his wonder goal of last year’s game! Bentley did take a good free kick saved by Almunia just below his bar after Gallas had been penalised for handball.
Spurs suffered their third stroke of disaster on the hour after that play-on decision. Sagna galloped along un-challenged and his cross was touched in by Van Persie. From there on in there were too many “OLES” for Arsenal continued possession, and to be honest insufficient spirit and effort from the Spurs team – Jenas excluded. Jenas made a good run and set up Keane, but his shot was well saved, before the skipper was replaced by Pavlyuchenko.
Crouch had a header saved after a Bentley cross, and Pavlyuchenko did have a good solo effort as he burst through two defenders, then hit sharp left-footed shot on the turn. Almunia was equal to the shot though. Arsenal had several more chances too, the best of which fell to Eduardo (somehow not offside), but thankfully he put the shot wide to at least preserve the three goal deficit.
You can create your own Halloween puns for the game; the result; and the performance. I’ll just say that it is a horrible place to go to, and an even worst place to lose at. Sadly we are all too good at losing there, and I fail to comprehend the repetitive jingoism of Spurs fans, who every year think we are going to turn them over. History is not on our side – at least not in the reign of Mr. Wenger.
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