Archive for April 15th, 2010

Spurs 2 – 1 Arsenal: Take That, Title chances

34 comments April 15th, 2010

Tottenham Hotspur 2 – 1 Arsenal (Rose 10, Bale 47, Bendtner 85)
Highlights | Arsene’s reaction

I believe it was Gary Barlow who first said:

And we’ve come so far.
And we’ve reached so high.
And we’ve looked each day and night in the eye.
And we’re still so young.
And we hope for more.

That, I suspect, will be the epitaph scrawled on the gravestone of Arsenal’s season, which Tottenham Hotspur took great delight in bringing to an end yesterday.  A draw wasn’t enough, a defeat unthinkable.  But a defeat it is, and one from which our title chances look as remote as they did when hammered by Chelsea and United earlier in the campaign.  This time, however, there is no time for a remarkable recovery.

There are factors beyond the draining sands of time.  Too many of our best players have fallen foul of injury in the final furlong.  We had 63% of possession last night, but without the likes of Fabregas and Arshavin couldn’t find a way through a resolute Tottenham back-line.

In their stead, the replacements looked just that: replacements, and no match for the real thing.  Arsene said after the game that he “would not like to go in to any individual criticism”.  Seeing as I’m not compromised by the same responsibilities as the manager, allow me.

Manuel Almunia was at fault at least once – arguably twice – on Tottenham’s opener.  Arsenal had started relatively well, knocking the ball about without making significant inroads, when Spurs broke up the other end and presented Roman Pavlyuchenko with an opportunity to sidefoot home.  Vermaelen responded with a flying block, and the ball went out for a corner.  The ball was swung in and Almunia, under no pressure, elected to punch rather than catch.  It can look effective, especially when you get as much distance as the Spaniard did yesterday, but it does not retain possession.  The ball dropped to youngster Danny Rose, who struck his first league goal, and he’ll never hit a sweeter volley.  However, though the strike was firm and true, it was straight at the keeper, and ended up going between his hands.  He wasn’t expecting it, granted – but if you punch the ball in to no man’s land you have to suspect it might just come flying back at you.

We responded fairly well, but couldn’t convert keep-ball to cutting edge.  Samir Nasri tried bravely with little support, but alongside him Abou Diaby was anonymous in a big game yet again.  Diaby, more than any of our other players, is emerging as a flat-track bully.  Against the small teams, his size and skill is incredibly effective.  On the bigger stages, as against Barca and last night, he freezes.  He is a very useful squad player, but seems to lack the mentality to be anything more.

Tomas Rosicky’s credentials to influence the big games certainly seem better.  He’s even captained his country.  However, when it’s come to the crunch he’s shown the toll that his injuries have taken.  Having him back in the squad has been both heart-warming and useful: he has experience and good technical ability.  But is he a game-changer?  For me, no.  He helps keep our play fluid, but he offers minimal goal threat and end product.  The same, to an extent, is true of Emmanuel Eboue.

With Spurs managing to hold their lead until half-time, Arsene will have used his fifteen minutes to hammer home the importance of a goal early in the second half.  However, in his excitement he must have forgotten to specify which side the goal ought to be for.  Some slack marking and an offside trap as taut as Harry Redknapp’s face allowed Jermain Defoe to slide in Gareth Bale, Alex Hleb’s weirder-looking evil twin, to tuck home the crucial second goal.

At that point, with us needing three goals, you feared that they’d catch us on the break and it could become embarrassing.  However, this Arsenal side has acquired the habit of rallying late on, and this game was no different.  The introduction of Theo Walcott and, for the first time in almost six months, Robin van Persie, immediately gave Spurs more to think about.

Van Persie’s second touch was a swiveling drag-back in the centre-circle that underlined his class.  He was a man on a mission, and but for some outstanding saves from Gomes could have dragged us back in to the game on his own.  He saw a top-corner bound free-kick, a thumped strike from range, and an electric volley on the turn all palmed away by the once laughable Brazilian.  Note: Gomes cost Spurs some £8m.  If Arsene is serious about rectifying our own goalkeeping problems, he’ll need to find a similar wod of cash.

Unsurprisingly, RVP was involved in our 85th minute goal, playing in Walcott to cross for Bendtner, who bundled the ball in for what proved to be only a consolation.  Van Persie’s efforts and a Sol Campbell header aside, we weren’t able to sustain the pressure, and Spurs held on.  Campbell himself was outstanding – those who have questioned his stamina may have raised an eyebrow as he sprinted alongside Bale in the 93rd minute and managed to win the chase.  He has removed any lingering misgivings about the way he left the club in 2006 and restored his reputation as an Arsenal great.  He must stay around the squad – playing or otherwise.

The title looks to be gone, and at the hands of our oldest enemy.  But there is plenty to take comfort from this season.  As Barlow intones: we’ve come so far.  At the midway point last season we in a crisis comparable to Liverpool’s this year – until today we were right in this term’s title race.  With a bit more luck with injuries and a couple of key additions there’s no reason we can’t overtake the Chelsea and United teams – both of which are going backwards.

There are still games to play this season; places to be fought for and points to be won.  But more excitingly, and brilliantly unique to football: there’s always next season.  We’re getting there.  Like Barlow preaches: Never forget where you’ve come from.

Search Gunnerblog

Get your Gunnerblog t-shirts now!

get regular updates from GS with twitter

Top Gunn

Cesc Fabregas
The man in form.

    Retro Arsenal T-Shirts from - Bringing Back The Good Old Days!: Click Here!

Latest Posts

Sponsored Links


April 2010
« Mar   May »

Posts by Month

Most Recent Posts

Posts by Category


Powered By

eXTReMe Tracker