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Premier League

Wednesday 20th April 2011

Spurs come into the game against Arsenal rested but our North London opponents have just gone into extra time in their Premier League game against Liverpool that saw the Reds earn a draw in a late penalty shoot-out.

The blow to the Gooners' title challenge was palpable and it will be interesting to see how they approach this game, with their season almost at an end.  While Spurs were still in the Champions League until this time last week, Arsenal were recovering from a game against Blackpool.

Most people are aware the massive pressure Arsene Wenger is under this season, as his side enter their sixth year without a trophy, even contriving to lose to Birmingham City in the League Cup Final in February, when we were first supposed to meet.  Wenger's short-sightedness in not seeing decisions has now extended to not being able to see what is wring with his side.  Whereas most Gooners think a new goalkeeper, two new centre-halves, some replacements for Denilson, Rosicky and Walcott in midfield, along with a couple of 20 goal a season strikers to replace Chamahk and Bendtner, Wenger blithely carries on with the differs he has in his squad.  The re-signing of Jens Lehmann shows how far Wenger's view of transfer targets goes.

Lehmann cold well play, as Arsenal's keepers have been dropping with injuries as much as they have been dropping the ball this season.  Szczeny, Fabianski and Almunia have all dropped clangers and Lehmann follows in their dodgy footsteps.  None are convincing and it will be down to the Tottenham forwards to test them as early as possible, with shots on target.

The Arsenal defence has been cracking as the pressure has built and centre-halves such as Koscielny and Squilacci have shown that they are not up to it, while defenders Gibbs, Sagna and Clichy have come under greater scrutiny than they are used to as teams are taking the game to Arsenal, knowing of their love for passing and not for scoring, leaving chances to get something at the other end.  While Sagna made the PFA Premier League team of the Year, it has not been a classic season for Arsenal and their home record has suffered, while away they have let leads slip ... notably at Newcastle.

Cesc Fabregas is a fine mover of the ball in midfield, but his frustration has been taken out on opponents in a physical sense sometimes this season, with nasty late challenges and dissent to officials, so an energetic performance around him in the middle of the pitch could lead to him losing his focus.  Walcott's pace will always be a worry for any defender, but the end product is not always what is required, so he can be hit and miss, but Assou-Ekotto will need to be focused himself, with Bale needing to help out by tracking back.

Rising young stars Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey are the great hopes to take over from Fabregas when he eventually returns to Spain and Diaby finally gets rumbled.  The tall midfielder lacks the mobility and the strength of tackle of a Vieira, while alongside him Song lacks the awareness that is needed to make him an essential ingredient in whatever it is Wenger is making at the club.  Wilshere is short, stocky and has a good ability to hold the ball.  However, in his first full Premier League season, he still lacks a little composure and runs about headless chicken style sometimes, while Ramsey is more measured and seems a little more advanced in terms of maturity, but he has had a shocking injury that he has overcome and that might always be in the back of his mind.

Robin van Persie has been in good goal-scoring form for club and country, but a big performance by Dawson could snuff him out and William Gallas will be itching to put a pin in Arsenal's rapidly deflating balloon too.  Bendtner can be a decent striker, although he will never be as good as he thinks he is, so in and around the penalty box, he can be trouble in the air, while van Persie tends to operate a little deeper to strike from around the edge of the box.  Marouane Chamahk has dropped out of the scoring department and is most likely to start on the bench ... a long way from his start against Spurs at Highbury.

For Tottenham to get the win they need to close the gap on Manchester City, they have to harass Arsenal all over the pitch and when opportunities come along, they need to convert them.  It is something that hasn't been happening lately, but probably sticking with Defoe and Pavlyuchenko, they might give the Arsenal defence a few problems, but with both teams needing the points for different reasons, I feel they might cancel themselves out, ending the match all square ...

PREDICTION : -  Tottenham Hotspur    1      Arsenal    1

For more information on the opponents and their history, including full result history of matches between the two teams, click here.


TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR : -  Jonathan Woodgate (out - groin); Wilson Palacios (out - knee); Ledley King (out - groin); Alan Hutton (out - knee); - (-); - (-);

ARSENAL :  -  Fabianski (out - shoulder); Thomas Vermaelen (out - ankle); Bartley (out - knee); Vito Mannone (out - thigh); Manuel Almunia (doubtful - knee); Bacary Sagna (doubtful - knee); Denilson (doubtful - toe); - (-); 


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Tottenham Hotspur   3    Arsenal   3      (Half-time score : 2-3)

Premier League
Venue : White Hart Lane  
Wednesday 20th April 2011
Kick Off :  7.45 p.m.
Crowd :   36,168
Referee :  Martin Atkinson (West Yorkshire)
Spurs kicked off and played towards the Park Lane end in the first half.
Weather :  -  Warm, dry ... pitch heavily watered
Teams : - 
Tottenham Hotspur :

  1  Gomes

22  Corluka (  4  Kaboul 46)
20  Dawson (c)
13  Gallas
32  Assou-Ekotto

11  van der Vaart   
14  Modric
  6  Huddlestone 
  3  Bale (  7  Lennon 46)

  9  Pavlyuchenko (30  Sandro 78)

Unused subs: 
23  Cudicini
19  Bassong
40  Pienaar

Arsenal :

53  Szczesny

  3  Sagna
  6  Kosielny
20  Djourou     
22  Clichy     

14  Walcott    (23  Wilshere 81)
  2  Diaby  (19  Wilshere 52)
17  Song     
  8  Nasri    (52  Bendtner 81)
  4  Fabregas

10  van Persie 

Unused subs: 
18  Squillaci
28  Gibbs
16  Ramsey

Colours : -  (kits courtesy of
Tottenham Hotspur

Scorers : -  
Tottenham Hotspur

van der Vaart  7
Huddlestone  44
van der Vaart (p)  70


Walcott  4
Nasri   12
van Persie  40

Cards : -  
Tottenham Hotspur  





Clichy (foul)  45+4
Song (foul)  46
Djourou (foul)  47


Match Report : -  
A cracking London derby ended all square, virtually extinguishing Arsenalís fading chances of a title win, while for Spurs the 3-3 draw saw them come back from behind twice to gain a point in their chase for fourth place.  The mental strength of the Tottenham team, who were 0-1 and 1-3 behind, was in stark contrast to that of the Woolwich Wanderers, who once more let a lead slip through their fingers. 

With Harry Redknapp choosing to put out a side with Peter Crouch and Roman Pavlyuchenko up front, possibly to test the aerial ability of the susceptible Gooners defence, it left a midfield four with van der Vaart roaming on the right.  That didnít help Spurs in the early stages of the game, when they went one down and then 1-2 within 12 minutes.  Some of it was sloppy defending, some a lack of bite in midfield, but Arsenalís passing and movement was opening Spurs up too easily. 

Four minutes had gone when Fabregas slid a pass to the left of centre through the Tottenham back four, as Dawson came out to close him down.  Walcott was on it like a flash and took the ball back towards the middle of the D, before putting the ball low past Gomes as he tried to come out to close him down.  

An early goal was the last thing Tottenham needed against them, but the response was almost immediate.  A ball from Vedran Corluka through to Rafael van der Vaart on the right side of the area, 16 yards out, saw him take one touch and then rifle a quickly taken low shot past Szczesny in the Arsenal goal, with the Dutchmanís right foot shot going in right by the post, leaving the net rippling in the seventh minute.  Rafaís celebration was probably more exuberant than that at the Emirates, which earned him a yellow card, but this time, his finger to the lips gesture to the Gooner fans saw him get away with it. 

But once more the joy was short-lived, as Arsenal passed their way up the field and when Nasri and Sagna exchanged passes, the midfielder found himself in space 20 yards out and with Dawson having to come out once again to shut him down, the shot went through the Tottenham captain and left Gomes little chance as it went along the ground and past his dive. 

12 minutes gone and 1-2 behind.

Gareth Bale had been having trouble getting along the left, as Arsenal double-teamed him.  He was forced to turn back on a number of occasions, but this did leave space for Assou-Ekotto, who had an outstanding game, to knock the ball across.  The aim was to find Crouch on the far post matching up against Clichy, thus enabling him to head back across goal for a team-mate to come in on, except, that rarely happened.  Crouch was playing his part, but Pav and VDV both missed opportunities to latch onto his knock-downs. 

Spurs had a couple of shouts for a penalty, but it was hard to tell from where I was if they had any real substance.  Bale had already been clattered by the Arsenal keeper when jumping for a high ball, when he was cleared out by Szczesny, as he raced into the box for a 50-50 ball.  The injury he picked up ended his game, as he limped around for the remainder of the first half and then did not appear for the second, when Lennon replaced him at the start of the second half.  There was perhaps a bigger shout when Modric went down under challenge from Djourou, but Martin Atkinson, who had a poor night of non-decision making, let play go on.  Modric had previously been denied by the visiting keeper when his low shot was beaten out at the near post. 

But a slack piece of workfrom the Tottenham defence allowed Arsenal to go 3-1 ahead, as from a throw-in, the ball found itís way into the box and Gallas tried to chest the ball out with his chest as he went to his knees at the near post and only succeeded in playing the ball back to Walcott, who dinked a cross to the far post where the waiting Robin van Persie headed at goal.  Heurelho Gomes, produced a fine save, clawing the ball out, as it almost looped over him.  However, the ball only fell for van Persie to fire into the roof of the net in the 34th minute. 

Five minutes before half-time, Spurs got a goal to narrow the gap.  A corner on the Tottenham left was partially cleared by Fabregas and it dropped to Tom Huddlestone 20 yards out, just to right of centre.  Showing the excellent technique he has, Hud hit the ball first time as it bounced on the half-volley with the ball travelling two and a half feet off the floor and passing between VDVís legs leaving Szczesny rooted as it ripped into the net.  At 3-2, the gap was narrowed and gave Spurs, attacking their favourite Paxton end in the second half. 

While the introduction of Lennon, along with Kaboul coming on for Corluka, did not seem to make much of an impact initially, the balance of the game seemed to swing slowly in Tottenhamís favour.  Younes seemed to give us a bit more strength at right back, while Lennonís pace was troubling the Arsenal left side.  But it was Luka Modric, who had been hassled off the ball to start off with, but took on a more central role as the game progressed.  With van der Vaart dropping deep to pick up the ball and working hard to try and close people down, Spurs got a bit of a foothold in midfield, where Arsenal had dominated in the first half.  Huddlestone started to have more influence, with some good passing, whereas in the first half, several passes went astray, much to the disgust of quite a few Spurs fans.   

Where Song and Diaby had been covering a lot of ground and were moving the ball on, they suddenly found themselves being turned by Modric and van der Vaart as they cleverly used their bodies to sway past them and held onto the ball well.  Two savage fouls on Modric by Song and Djourou brought bookings for the Arsenal men, adding to that shown to Clichy in injury time in the first half for clattering Rafa.  It was clear that a bit of discipline was being lost in the Arsenal side, as the pressure grew.  It may be why Wenger brought on the nuisance value of Wilshere for Diaby. 

Spurs failed to produce too much in this spell and were reliant on Gomes taking crosses into the box and the defence stopping shots on goal, with Gallas reading the play well to make some timely interceptions and Dawson making a good block to stop Nasriís effort.  Rafael took Modricís pass and hit a shot that looked as if it was going in the top corner until Szczesny tipped it wide in the 54th minute, but first Walcott fizzed a low ball across the face of goal with Farbegas not having the legs to get onto the end of it and then van Persie got away on then left and produced an awful chip to try and get the ball over Gomes or it could have been an even worse cross for Walcott. 

But a couple of minutes later, Benoit Assou-Ekotto played a beautiful pass inside Clichy for Lennon to race onto and as he got the ball Szczensy came flying out and Aaron got a touch before being absolutely clattered by the keeper in the box.  Penalty to Spurs and no doubt about it this time, although Atkinson seemed unable to bring himself to book the Pole.  As it turned out the punishment was even harsher, as Rafael van der Vaart stepped up and confidently planted a powerful spot-kick to Szczesnyís left, as the keeper dived the other way.  So, 3-3 with 20 minutes left and Arsenal had relinquished their lead like they had done so many times before this season. 

Tottenham were on a high now and when Kaboul was freed down the right by VDVís back-heel a couple of minutes after the goal, his low ball into the box was met perfectly by Luka Modric around the penalty spot, but even though his low shot was perfectly struck, Szczesny threw his body at it and the ball rebounded off him and away.  But within a minute, it was Gomes who was called upon to save, with Fabregasí shot from the edge of the box coming through Dawson and the keeper must have seen it late, but he got his hands down behind the ball as it flew straight at him and at his feet.  Two minutes later, Gomes made an even better save, with Nasri setting up Fabregas to his a full-blooded drive that looked to be heading inside Gomesí post until he stretched to his fullest extent to get his fingers to the ball and divert it wide. 

Harry brought on Sandro for Pav to try and stem the tide, but Spurs then got a second wind and when Assou-Ekotto slung a cross over from the left onto Crouchís head, the England striker brought a tip over from the goalie although the ball looked as if it would only have hit the bar.  Bendtner and Arshavin came on for Walcott and Nasri, but neither had an effect on the play in the remaining 10 minutes. 

And towards the end, it looked as if Spurs were the most likely to win it as Arsenalís first half efforts caught up with them and they lost their possession game.  With six minutes left, Sandro took the ball into the left side of the box, shifted the ball onto his right foot and struck a low drive at Szczesnyís near post, but was unlucky to see the keeper sitting on the ball in a most unusual way of stopping a shot.   

Wilshere almost played in van Persie, but he was stretching to reach a high volley and only succeeded in hitting the ball sideways, but it did fall for Fabregas eventually, although his shot was blocked by Dawson.  The Arsenal captain did have one last shot in injury time, but it went a few feet wide of Gomesí right hand post and the whistle went on a well-earned point for Tottenham and two lost for Arsenal.

With Harry shrugging off the limp lettuce handshake proffered by Wenger, the Tottenham players too the cheers of their fans, while the Arsenal players trooped over to their ever familiar emptied out section of the stadium to take the less than enthusiastic plaudits for their less than convincing overall performance.

With six games left, Spurs perhaps a little more to play for than Arsenal, which might help the Gooners, if we get anything at Stamford Bridge in ten days time.  If we do, it will conversely help us even more !!

Steve Findlay




Other scores this weekend :
Newcastle United 0 Manchester United 0 Tuesday
Chelsea 3 Birmingham City 1 Wednesday



League Table
  P W D L F A Pts GD
1 Manchester United 33 20 10 3 70 32 70 +38
2 Chelsea 33 19 7 7 59 26 64 +33
3 Arsenal 33 18 10 5 66 34 64 +32
4 Manchester City 32 16 8 8 50 30 56 +20
5 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 32 14 12 6 48 40 54 +8
6 Liverpool 33 14 7 13 46 39 49 +7
7 Everton 33 11 14 8 47 41 47 +6
8 Bolton Wanderers 32 11 10 11 46 43 43 +3
9 Newcastle United 33 10 10 13 48 47 40 +1
10 Aston Villa 33 11 10 13 42 54 40 -12
11 West Bromwich Albion 33 10 9 14 47 62 39 -15
12 Fulham 32 8 14 10 36 35 38 +1
13 Stoke City 32 11 5 16 39 42 38 -3
14 Birmingham City 32 8 14 10 33 43 38 -10
15 Sunderland 33 9 11 13 35 47 38 -12
16 Blackburn Rovers 33 9 8 16 40 54 35 -14
17 Wigan Athletic 33 7 13 13 32 53 34 -21
18 Blackpool 33 9 6 18 47 69 33 -22
19 West Ham United 33 7 11 15 39 58 32 -19
20 Wolverhampton Wanderers 32 9 5 18 36 56 32 -20


Position before the match :  5th
Position after the match :  5th
Position after the mid-week games :  5th


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