|DATE||Sunday 3rd March 2013|
|VENUE||White Hart Lane|
As Spurs approach this match in third place and four points ahead of
the closest team geographically to us, thoughts in the media are
springing back to last year and a 2-5 defeat at Highbury. Once
more, Spurs have lost at Highbury 2-5 (in different circumstances
though) and compared to last season we are narrowly ahead of
Arsenal, as last season it was ten points. But this time, we
are at home. This is something that hasn't always been an
advantage in the past, but this time, it could be.
With past encounters featuring many pundits drooling over who was playing for the Gooners, this time, the limelight is on those in the lilywhite shirts and Wenger's team have struggled from one mishap to another, with their win over Spurs back in November, being the highlight of their fan's season, but that was achieved with the assistance of Emmanuel Adebayor getting sent off. Much of what Spurs have achieved since then ahs been without the help of Adebayor - either suspended, injured or off in the African Cup of Nations. With Jermain Defoe back in training, it could be that Ade has to sit this one out on the subs bench, with the prospect of coming on towards the end as the carrot for him.
But then carrots have been in short supply for Arsenal's donkeys. Once the media darlings, the press have turned on Wenger and his players, causing the usually mild-mannered manager to throw his toys out of his pram in press conferences like he throws water bottles about in the technical area. Now that his vision of beautiful football is failing as badly as his ability to see as far as any on-pitch Gooner misdemeanour, he is being cornered from all sides. The slogan "In Arsene We Trust" has now been adopted by opposition fans, as the only thing that can be assured is that nothing is certain in the Highbury garden now.
Losing in the League Cup to Bradford City and the FA Cup to a David Bentley inspired Blackburn Rovers, the B club hat-trick may come in a coupe of weeks time, when Bayern Munich attempt to finish off their 3-1 first leg Champions League lead. So, this game has much more hinging on it than North London pride for Spurs and South London pride for Arsenal and thus we can expect that the visitors will be keen to set the record straight for many of their critics.
However, the players that Wenger picks are not the scary ones of old. Gone are Henry, Adams, van Persie, Parlour, who I think you will agree were all very scary !! Now, Jack Wilshire is their shining light and he carries more than the hopes of the fans on his back ... he has most of the team too. Sometimes it gets a little too much for the little man and he snaps, which may well happen in this match, when he is hyped up for it. He is capable of both cynical and dirty challenges, so Mark Clattenburg could be in for a busy Sunday afternoon.
Wenger signed Gervinho, Podolski and Giroud (who, every time his name is mentioned, I am not surprised he has missed as it sounds like Djourou) to shoot the Gooners to the top has come unstuck. Gervinho and Giroud followed the hapless Chamakh in scoring freely in France, but finding it harder to do so over here. None look at home in the forward line and while Podolski has scored the odd cracker, there is still a question mark over his desire, but the management will try to ensure that is fired up for this game.
The midfield has been the part of Arsene's teams that the media have purred over, but recently they have been stalling somewhat. Cazorla has the ability to run games, but often disappears from view, while Arteta has not been the same player since he departed Goodison Park. Wilshire we know about ... the great hope for English football - goodness help us !! That leaves the other slot available for any one of Walcott or Oxlade-Chamberlain. With the other midfielders in their squad - Ramsey, Diaby, Rosicky or Arshavin - you can take your pick of players who have failed to realise their potential.
The defence was the rock on Arsenal's success, but it has been a blind spot for the manager, who has bought a succession of dopey centre-halves and dodgy goalkeepers, leaving the goals against column inflated. Szczecny can have a blinder, but is also capable of throwing a few in, while Squillaci, Koscielny and Mertesacker fill the centre-half role with less than notable success. Vermaelen chose Arsenal over Spurs and is the better of a bad bunch, while Sagna might return at full back, but his patience is failing with the club and looks like he might be the next one on the conveyor belt out of N7 in the summer. Lucky for Arsenal that Wilshire has pledged his whole career to the club ... wonder how long that will last ?? The only new signing in the January transfer window, when Wenger is at his most pig-headed, was Monreal from Valencia, so it will be interesting to see how he fits in, as the last full back signed by Wenger - Carl Jenkinson - has become a peripheral figure already.
The difference between potential and performance is a thin line and it is one that Wenger is walking without a paddle at the moment ... and where he is heading, he might need one.
I know full well that the form book goes out of the window when games like this come up and I don't doubt that Gervinho will confound form and score, but I think Spurs might have enough in the locker ... and not just from Bale ... to take this one.
|PREDICTION||Tottenham Hotspur 2 Arsenal 1|
|Click here for more info on opponents - stats v thfc , an alternative history, etc.|
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|ARSENAL TEAM NEWS :|
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Arsenal 1 (0)
Sunday 3rd March 2013 Kick off 16:00
White Hart Lane
|Bale (o.g.) 50|
Adebayor (foul on Ramsey) 19
Vertonghen (foul on Giroud) 29
Walker (kicking ball away) 90+7
Ramsey (foul on Lennon) 30
|Crowd : 36,170||Weather : Dry, chilly|
|Referee : Mark Clattenburg (Tyne & Wear)||Assistant Referees : D. Cann; S. Beck|
|Fourth Official : Andre Marriner||-|
|Spurs kicked off and played towards the Park Lane end in the first half.|
|Tottenham Hotspur :||kit||Arsenal :||kit|
Mousa DEMBELE (29
Jake LIVERMORE 87)
William GALLAS 90+7)
10 Emmanuel ADEBAYOR (18 Jermain DEFOE 66)
ARTETA ( 9
Lukas PODOLSKI 77)
|Manager : Andre Villas-Boas||Manager : Arsene Wenger|
|Sponsor : Aurasma||Shirt sponsor : Emirates|
|Kit Supplier : Under Armour||Kit Supplier : Nike|
In what was hyped as one of the most important North London derbies for a long time, Spurs came out on top in a tactical triumph for Andre Villas-Boas, with the Professor's experiment blowing up in his face, with two Tottenham goals in three first half minutes turning the game in their favour. Eventually running out 2-1 winners, Arsenal might have enjoyed the bulk of the possession, but Spurs fans were more than happy to enjoy them passing the ball about in the middle third where it did little harm to our defence.
Walking to the ground was an odd experience. Coming to the Lane from the Angel, Edmonton, there were no streets thronged with people and this was just 40 minutes before kick off. Few signs that an important game was about to take place and when we got inside the ground, the fervour was still not in evidence, as the teams were read out. Spurs went with their strongest XI, with Defoe back on the bench, with Holtby dropping there to allow Gylfi Sigurdsson to take up a place on the left of midfield, allowing Gareth Bale to have his free role behind Adebayor. Arsenal put a team out that they must have been happy with, but the likes of Ramsey and Jenkinson do not strike fear into the heart as other Gooners past might have done.
The game started with Arteta bringing down Lennon ... something that was oft repeated during the coming 98 minutes. How the Spaniard escaped a yellow card, with his niggling and cynical fouls. Taking one for the team on the halfway line was something he and Vermaelen did without anything more than a free kick conceded. When Vertonghen pulled back Giroud's arm, he got a yellow card. While Clattenburg tried to allow the game to flow and allow advantage wherever possible, he did not have one of his greatest games card wise. Having said that, Adebayor was lucky that he didn't see red for the second successive Arsenal derby, after sliding in early on under Ramsey and being booked, he closed down Szczesny and only just missed clipping him as he cleared the ball.
The early possession had gone in Arsenal's favour. There was little to show for it though and had Vertonghen not got a pass from Bale caught under his feet he might well have been through on goal after breaking from the back. Arsenal did finally fashion an effort on goal, when Giroud headed and Lloris dived to catch the ball. The same two were involved when the French keeper rushed from his line to stop the Arsenal forward getting through by diving at his feet and then Hugo had the simple task of picking up a soft shot, which had all the pace taken off it by an amazing sliding challenge from Vertonghen. Starting behind Giroud, he caught up and slid in to take the force of the shot in a Ledley King style tackle.
Spurs started to work the ball and Walker made a great break down the right, but his cross was cut out. Back defending, Spurs had to be on their toes when Jenkinson's intended cross looked like it might sneak into the top corner near Lloris' near post, but he got across to grab the ball and avert any danger. With twenty minutes gone, Gylfi Sigurdsson played a ball from halfway into Arsenal's half on the left through to Bale, who was just unable to reach it as he broke into the box and seven minutes later, a shot by Benny Assou-Ekotto smacked against Mertesacker's arm, but the ref did not show any interest neither then nor when Adebayor was charged into in the area. Things were looking up when Ramsey was booked for a foul on Lennon and Bale had the opportunity from 35 yards to put his free-kick technique into practice. As it was, he over-hit it beyond the Spurs forwards and the keeper caught it under no pressure.
With nine minutes remaining in the half, Spurs went 1-0 ahead. The earlier move where Bale had made a late run off the shoulder of the last man to get to Sigurdsson's pass paid off this time and with Szczesny slower reacting to the situation than his centre-halves who had not turned to track the run, Gareth took the ball first time with the outside of his left foot, steering it to the keeper's left as he ran across him. It was a deft finish and one of a player in a superbly confident run of form. And it was a good ball played by Gylfi to put Bale through.
Little did we know that e would be watching an action replay of the goal two minutes later, with Scott Parker threading the ball through a static Arsenal back four and this time it was Aaron Lennon who ran past them, to skip around Szczesny with ease and slide the ball into an empty net from the left side of the goal. Two goals in three minutes and 2-0 ahead with six minutes of the first half still remaining. And they were eaten up with Spurs holding the ball to ensure that Arsenal were not able to get back into the match before the break.
The previously offensive and noisy Arsenal fans (where were they at the Library ?) had been silenced and were looking at 45 minutes for their players to try and salvage something from the remaining ten matches of the season. As it was, Spurs started the second half on the attack, but looked as if they were comfortable hitting the Gooners on the break. A free-kick (one in a series of soft awards by Clattenburg, who went through a long spell of giving them everything) was swung in from the left touchline and Mertesacker rose without a Spurs player close to him and his glancing header might have gone across goal has it not hit Bale on the head and gone downwards past Lloris' dive to his left to bring Arsenal back into the game.
Instead of playing tippy-tappy football, Arsenal now decided to be a bit more incisive, with Monreal blazing over from a long way out and then Jenkinson put a low cross into the near post, which Lloris took at the second attempt with two players lurking behind him. Just approaching the hour mark, Spurs created a good opening, with Dembele working the ball out wide to BAE on the left and his low ball in couldn't be reached by Ade, leaving Bale to come onto it on his left foot at the far post. Just a couple of yards out, we all waited for the net to bulge, but it must have taken a bobble as it came across and Gareth skied it way over the bar. Not everything turns to gold for the Midas Man.
Spurs were defending well and a blocked Giroud shot went up in the air for Walcott to head over, all the time while Adebayor was on the floor near the halfway line. Arsenla had not put the ball out and as it wasn't a head injury, they weren't required to, but the Togo striker was carried off on a stretcher, bringing about the return of Jermain Defoe as his replacement. The temperature rose when players clashed over the ball not being played out, with Dawson shouting at Clattenburg as to why he had allowed play to continue and then Vermaelen ran in, pushing Dawson two handed in the chest. The result, a talking to for Daws and nothing said to the Belgian Gooner for raising his hands. Things weren't helped by Cazorla standing over Ade pointing to an imaginary wrist watch he had on to make a point to the referee, only to be pushed out of the way by Geoff Scott, the Spurs physio, who was trying to treat the injured player.
When play resumed, Tottenham's pace opened up Arsenal's back four, with Bale putting Defoe away on the right, from where he cut inside to play in Siugrdsson on the left side of the box. Breaking past the last man, the Icelander took it a little too far forward and with Szczesny coming out, Gylfi tried to square the ball across the box about 12 yards out, but the ball was intercepted. A minute later Scotty Parker played a ball into Defoe on the edge of the box and he showed his old nimble feet to fashion a shot that flew feet wide, with the keeper left standing. That left twenty minutes to go and three later a corner was cleared up int he air on the edge of the Arsenal area dropping to Bale. Spurs fans must have believed he could be capable of anything in this form, which proved to be almost the case, as he waited for the ball to come down and hit a volley from inside the D that skipped off the turf and luckily for Szczesny, straight into his midriff.
Rosicky's introduction earlier had seen him link with Wilshire and Cazorla to play some neat passing around the edge of the Spurs area, as Arsenal tried to move further up the pitch, but they had come to nothing. Podolski was thrown on in Arteta's place and the Pole failed to cause too much trouble for the Tottenham back four. The closest they came in this period was when they found some space on their right for Ramsey, who got to the edge of the box and hit a low shot that was going well wide, but deflected off BAE for a corner with ten minutes to go. Perhaps it showed Arsenal's lack of ingenuity, but Giroud fouled Lloris going for the ball when it came in from the corner, thus relieving the pressure on the Tottenham goal.
It looked like the writing might be on the wall when Vertonghen's clearance went sky high and when it came back to earth, Giroud controlled it and smacked a hooked shot at goal, but he didn't control it and it flew too high with five minutes of normal time left. Sigurdsson missed form outside the box with a shot and then Dembele left the play after Wilshire had gone into a challenge with him. Shoring things up, Holtby, who had been warming up was asked to sit down, while Jake Livermore came on and played the holding role well for the final few minutes. A couple of minutes later, Podolski went to grass and Clattenburg fell for the fall, giving a free-kick to Arsenal. 30 yards out, Walcott stepped up to take it and to try and show that he can be as good as Bale, but while his shot got over the wall, he could not get it on target, missing to the left of the goal by a couple of feet.
The fourth official showed SIX minutes added time. No doubt some of this was for Clattenburg adding time on for Spurs allegedly time wasting, which was rich, as Jenkinson took an age to take every throw-in and Szczesny as long on goal-kicks when the score was 0-0. As it was, Arsenal conceded a string of petty fouls, breaking up play enough to prevent any moves form developing. One route one go, lead to the ball dropping to Podolski and his hot was well deflected wide by Dawson's block. The game nearly ended with a third for Spurs, had Gylfi got a shot away, with Szczesny well out of goal, failing to have recovered his ground from going up for a late free-kick, which he got nowhere near.
The final whistle brought cheers for a well deserved win and the Spurs players lapped it up on the pitch, while Wenger and his boys slunk off knowing they had been beaten by the better team. But the players must not think that it is all over now. As well as Inter Milan waiting to be played twice in the next ten days, Liverpool are also lying in wait in between and the need to continue the good run of form at Anfield means that it will be a tough game, with them beating Wigan Athletic 4-0 away the day before this match. But the big games are not the only ones that Spurs have to do well in before the end of the season. AVB will be sure to get their heads right and this win was as much a mental victory as a physical one, as the team did not crumble when Arsenal got a goal back, as Spurs might have done in the past.
Interesting times lay ahead ... for both clubs, I think.
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|What you thought|
|Benny The Ball||
Great to see Spurs play so comfortably against the Gooners, who
looked less threatening than they have in many years.
With the team obviously all pulling for one another, there was great effort put in and the back four deserve a lot of credit for not allowing Arsenal space in and around the box. And AVB won the tactical battle by picking out a weakness in the flat back four, by getting the ball played through them for the runner to get on the end of it.
Also, that would not have worked against Spurs, with Lloris playing the sweeper keeper role much better than Szczesny can.
With Bale not having as much influence as he has in other games recently, other players stepped up and Parker did an immense amount of work and Lennon worked the line well and took his goal expertly. Vertonghen was outstanding and AVB must be glad he wound the clock back with Dawson, who looked like he might have been on his way out last summer.
One Cup final down ... ten to go !!
This win showed that things have changed at Tottenham and while the
"power shift" to N17 might not be complete, Spurs showed that they
are now mentally strong against opponents, who think that they have
the whip hand over us.
It wasn't as if Arsenal played badly, as their manager will probably point to the statistics to show that they were the better team, but the only stats that really matter are those in the score-line at the final whistle.
In many ways it was a throwback to the Arsenal of old. Defenders caught square with arms raised for offside took you back to the days of Adams, Bould and Linighan. But this time, it was work done in the Spurs manager's office that undone them. Vermaelen and Mertesacker are no Adams and Bould. And the full backs would not have let Bale and Lennon run onto astute passes straight through the back line.
In those two minutes, what Arsenal fans have regarded as Three Point Lane had turned into the Tottenham fans slogan, with the team having the belief that they can achieve.
Some things never change, with Wenger looking like an old man on the bench and his comments caught on camera to Steve Bould about his defenders wasn't very professorial !! Odd that both he and Ferguson both look like old codgers these days.
Maybe the realisation is hitting home, but they have an easy run in and should be able to push it right to the end. Spurs might have the harder task, but perhaps they now have the steely desire to go with the pace and vision of their flowing football.
|Other scores during this week :|
|Chelsea||1||West Bromwich Albion||0||Saturday|
|Manchester United||4||Norwich City||0||Saturday|
|Southampton||1||Queens Park Rangers||2||Saturday|
|Stoke City||0||West Ham United||1||Saturday|
|Swansea City||1||Newcastle United||0||Saturday|
|Aston Villa||0||Manchester City||1||Monday|
|9||West Bromwich Albion||28||12||4||12||38||37||40||+1|
|12||West Ham United||28||9||6||13||32||41||33||-9|
|20||Queens Park Rangers||28||3||11||14||21||47||20||-26|
Position before match :
Position after match : 3rd
Position after the weekend : 3rd
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