A foregone conclusion was how this game was seen, not only by the media
and the TV commentators at half-time, but also by our match previewer
according to the prediction above. Right score, but the wrong way
around, as Spurs came back from another sleepy first half performance to
wake up a few home fans from what they will reflect on being a bit of a
nightmare and Arsene Wenger is the one who will have to wake up to a few
harsh realities following Tottenham's first away win on top four soil
for 17 years.
After 45 minutes, it
looked like a damage limitation exercise after the home side went into
the interval 2-0 ahead. But coming out with the returning Jermain
Defoe up front and with an attacking outlook, Spurs took the game to
Arsenal and Arsenal crumbled. For once, the bounce of the ball and
the bulk of the decisions in the game that had gone for the other side,
counted for little, as Tottenham made their own chances and relied on
nobody but themselves to dig them out of the hole that they found
themselves in. Wenger as always looks for a scapegoat to blame and
he probably cannot see it when he looks in the mirror. His
approach to the second half was all that was wrong about Arsenal.
Complacent, arrogant and lacking the notion that anyone would dare fight
back against his pretty footballing boys, he didn't bank for a new
attitude among the Tottenham team that had seen them come close to
coming back from 0-4 down to Inter and then proceeded to dismantle them
The way Spurs went about their business
in the first half might have bred that contempt. Nasri's ignorance
in not shaking Gallas' hand before the match showed just how much these
players think they are above normal good manners and the Spurs captain
for the day responded by turning in a man of the match performance to
prevent his former club taking anything from the game. His
interception as Nasri went through in the first minute set the tone,
with Arsenal probing to find a pass through the Tottenham defence, but
Gallas being there to take the ball and in this first instance, catching
Nasri in the face with his gloved hand as he brushed past the dilettante
French midfielder. His prolonged whingeing and eye holding brought
little sympathy from anyone outside the Arsenal technical area and
terraces with red and white scarves.
But the little midfielder earned his own
form of revenge when a pass from Fabregas took him inside Benoit
Assou-Ekotto, who, once more, got caught the wrong side of his man as he
did in Milan, leaving Nasri a run on Gomes. It looked for a moment
that the Frenchman had pushed the ball too far ahead of him as he
entered the penalty area, but Gomes failed to make a decisive
intervention and the opportunity to block the ball with his arms only
succeeded in pushing Nasri wide to the left, from where he managed to
run the ball slowly into the empty net from an acute angle. Maybe
Gomes was a little hesitant setting off to close Nasri or maybe he was
concerned about being used as a way to get a penalty and then getting
sent off, but the goal was a poor one to let in all round.
But Spurs had already had a chance by
then, as a low ball to the near post from van der Vaart's corner was
flicked towards the six-yard box by Bale as he raced away from his
marker, but the ball fell kindly into Fabianski's arms with no Spurs
player anticipating the Welshman's touch. but Arsenal had also
made space on the right for Fabregas to reach the dead ball line and
pull the ball back across the face of goal, only for Gomes to cut it
out. The Spurs keeper had not done so well with a high ball into
the box where he clashed with bodies in front of him and managed to
punch it just about far enough clear. The Brazilian was shaky in
this spell until another high ball in towards Song saw him come for the
ball and get there first, holding it securely.
One of many fouls on Gareth Bale
throughout the game brought Sagna an early yellow card, but then Dowd
allowed other Gooners to get away with equally bad tackles on the
Welshman and on van der Vaart. He also allowed a crude challenge
by Clichy on Hutton that left the Scotsman on the floor as the Spurs
attack broke down and then Arsenal broke away. Hutton got to his
feet, but was not at full capacity, as the ball went wide on his side
and Arshavin slid the ball across the six yard area and Chamakh got
across Kaboul to touch the ball in past Gomes to make it 2-0 in the 27th
Once more, Spurs had been undone by a
refereeing decision, but Arsenal had failed to take their chance leading
up to that goal. Fabregas had got on the end of another passing
move that put the Spaniard through on goal and he was well placed on the
right of the box, but he managed to drag his shot wide of the other side
of Heurelho Gomes' goal. Spurs had their chances too, with
defenders pushing forward. Kaboul took a clearance from a corner
and made progress down the right wing, putting in a cross despite the
attention of a defender, almost finding Pavlyuchenko at the far post.
Then Gallas brought the ball out and took on a number of Arsenal players
before he was tackled on the edge of the Arsenal box by Song, as he
prepared to shoot.
On the half hour, Luka Modric took a pass
from Pavlyuchenko and hit a shot from outside the box that Fabianski had
to dive to his right to push away, then Pav had a shot after cutting
inside, but it took a flick off a defender on it's way over. As
the game entered added time, Fabregas picked out Chamakh, who took the
ball into the Spurs box and dallied on it before he was dispossessed by
Kaboul. He and Gallas had done well despite the score-line, with
both being good at nipping in ahead of the Arsenal forwards and being
strong in the air.
With the break giving Harry Redknapp a
chance to make a change to spruce things up, he obviously read the riot
act to the Spurs players and took off the quiet Aaron Lennon to
introduce Jermain Defoe, fit to return to action after his ankle injury.
Immediately, there was a different approach to Tottenham's game, as the
ball stayed up front more often, as Pav couldn't keep hold of it on his
own in the first half.
Gallas was called upon to produce a
well-timed challenge on Fabregas as he ran into the box, while Benoit
Assou-Ekotto played a ball forward from his left back position towards
Defoe. With Koscielny up against him, it was a great leap for the
little Spurs striker to win the ball and knock it forward, where Rafael
van der Vaart took the ball and passed through for Bale to run onto.
The midfielder took the ball in his stride and played it perfectly for
himself to take it early with the outside of his left foot from the
right side of the centre spot, leaving Fabianski no chance to stop his
shot. 2-1 and Spurs were back in the game.
That was five minutes after the break and
five minutes later, Modric seized on a loose ball and struck a drive
that flew a foot over the top. Jenas almost played Pavlyuchenko in
and Assou-Ekotto nearly got a pass through to Defoe, but both were cut
out and Arsenal had good possession in dangerous positions, but could
not make them pay.
A couple of minutes later and Spurs were
awarded a free-kick for Song's block on Modric. From it, van der
Vaart hit a shot at goal and referee Dowd was well-placed to spot
Fabregas raise an arm to block the ball and thus conceded a penalty.
After some time sorting out the argument and then getting everyone out
of the penalty area, Rafa stepped up and coolly slid the ball into the
opposite side of the goal to Fabianski's dive to bring it back to 2-2.
Dowd decided to book VDV for his goal celebrations, while he failed to
book Fabregas for his deliberate handball to concede the penalty in the
Tottenham now had the momentum and
Arsenal's slack approach to the second half left them on the back foot
to try and step up a gear. With 20 minutes left, they thought they
had got a third goal, but when Fabregas nodded down a free-kick for
Squiallaci to hit the ball into the net, the lineman's flag was up to
indicate that both players were offside. Arsenal made changes,
with van Persie, Walcott and Rosicky all coming on and they produced a
78th minute effort from Fabregas, when he bent a shot from the left side
of the box that would have crept inside Gomes' left hand post had the
keeper not got across and got a hand to it to divert it wide of the
Arsenal could have won it in the 78th
minute, with the culprit being Squillaci, who got free at the far post
to van Persie's right wing cross, but, unmarked, he headed the ball over
the bar instead of across Gomes or across goal for someone else to have
With seven minutes left, Defoe got away
on the right and crossed for Crouch, who headed down for his team-mate
van der Vaart, who reads his play so well. However, this time the
ball would not come down to earth for the Dutchman and the chance was
cleared and one cross was played in a minute later that had Fabianski
struggling when he came for the ball.
As Arsenal pressed for the winner, Spurs
broke away and Bale went through on the right, only for Koscielny to
bring him crashing down in a blatant enough foul that he got a yellow
card for it. Wenger, as you may imagine, thought it wasn't even a
free-kick in the first place. Five minutes to go and van der Vaart
bent the ball into the centre of the goal with his left foot. It
was a pacy cross and with a mass of players jumping for the ball in
front of the Arsenal keeper, he got nowhere near it and Kaboul managed
to slide the ball off his head and past the defenders on the line to hit
3-2 with five minutes left and added time
to go on top of that.
Could Spurs hang on for what would be a
morale boosting win away to one of the top four after so long ?
Well, one former Southampton youngster -
Bale - raced away to try and find Crouch with his cross, but the ball
was pulled back too far and Arsenal broke away. Another Saints
youth player had the next chance, but it was not Bale, but Walcott, who
got some space on the right of the Tottenham area to turn and hit a shot
that went way too high.
As time ticked down to the final whistle,
Heurelho Gomes showed what he can do by taking a low cross from Walcott
at the near post and then held Rosicky's low shot in the final minute of
When he kicked the ball out, Dowd blew
the whistle and the game was won and the three points were Tottenham's.
For all the possession and pretty passing, Arsenal had been undone by a
more determined Spurs in the second half and the goals came from good
play exploiting Arsenal's frailty in defence that they possess these
days. All this was achieved without the likes of the memory of
Graham Roberts putting Charlie Nicholas in the stand at Highbury and it
was a victory for footballing tactics over the rough-house ones that
Arsenal tried to impose on Spurs this time. Unsuccessfully.
Snide tackles and elbows in the stomach
found Tottenham made of stronger stuff than in previous years.
There was talk of this result being a turning point in the club's
history, but until they can produce such outstanding performances
whenever necessary, it will still be the one-off victories that mark our
With Liverpool and Chelsea coming up in
the next few weeks, more milestones on Harry's journey with the club
will be measured. Hopefully, we can keep going on that journey and
how knows where it will take us ?
Marco van Hip