COMPETITION Premier League
DATE Sunday 26th February 2012
VENUE Highbury






With the Highbury club entering their seventh potless year, it appears that the club are also potless in the transfer stakes, having been unable to bring in the players in the spine of the team that their fans desperately want to see introduced.  Wenger's reluctance to face facts and bring in players who might not be the passing, fancy dan type, but gritty winners, has put his position in question by the Arsenal supporters who plague phone in shows with their Wenger Out rants.

Scott Parker is the driving force in the Tottenham midfield that Arsenal are missing.  No doubt Wenger hoped that Ramsey would do this role, but he has not developed as hoped for and with Arteta being a Fabregas lite and Benayoun more of a bench warmer than the man he replaced - Samir Nasri, the midfield looks a hollow section of the team, with only Oxlade-Chamberlain's emergence being the one bright spark in the gloom around the Arsenal camp.  but he plays further forward and is a strong runner when on the ball and a reasonable finisher.  Song, Diaby and Frimpong are all likely to be missing with injury, leaving Wenger not a lot to pick from.

The home defence has suffered with injuries and duff players, with Squillaci, Santos, Djourou, Mertesacker and Koscielny all featuring and failing there.  With Sagna and Gibbs back in the reckoning for the full back berths, it might add some familiarity to the back four, but with a large number of them doubtful or definitely out, it could lead to a lack of cohesive defending that might play into Tottenham's hands.  Youngster Coquelin and Yennaris have been tried at full back, but Wenger will want as experienced defenders as he can get out on the pitch.  Carl Jenkinson looks like another young signing that hasn't worked out, but he may have to be called upon, with Arsene being down to the bare bones.

Rosicky has been a player who has had a little resurgence in form, but he is not one to set the pulses racing, while his performances have been counter-balanced by the poor Arshavin, who the fans have seriously taken against.  Thanks goodness we didn't splash out on him and his signing is perhaps atypical of the big money Wenger has spent, which has failed to return much in the way of dividends.

Keeper Szcesny is the best of a bad bunch, but he has his moments and has been quick to slag Spurs off, while he was at fault for Walkers winning goal earlier this season.  Back up goalie Fabiansky is also a bit of a car crash when it comes to confidence, but wither will put in   good performance against Spurs.

The reliance on Robin van Persie is denied by the management at Highbury, but without his goals, Arsenal would be mid-table at best.  Walcott has failed to move forward in his game, being unable to produce consistent service or good performances on a regular basis, with Chamakh turning out to be a big money flop and Gervinho mostly notable for having a head like the Mekon.

So, if Spurs can win the midfield battle, keep van Persie tied up and convert half the chances we make, then it should be reasonably straightforward, but when have these games ever been so ?

Spurs need to ensure that they are up for this game, which shouldn't be hard you would have thought.  A good record against Arsenal in recent meetings, Spurs would be favourites going into the game and with Wenger's magic touch being worn out these days, you would think a narrow win might be on the cards once more.

PREDICTION Arsenal    1      Tottenham Hotspur   2
Click here for more info on opponents - stats v thfc , history, etc.
Arsenal will be without Santos (ankle), Jack Wilshire (ankle), Per Mertesacker (ankle), Emmanuel Frimpong (knee), Francis Coquelin (hamstring), Abou Diaby (hamstring) and Sebastien Squilacci (groin), as well as facing doubts over the involvement of Kieran Gibbs (groin), Carl Jenkinson (back), Aaron Ramsey (ankle), Marouane Chamakh (toe) and Laurent Koscielny (knee).. 
Spurs are happy to welcome Benoit Assou-Ekotto (groin operation), Rafael van der Vaart (calf), Luka Modric (flu) and Emmanuel Adebayor (knee) back to fitness and they rejoin the squad for Sunday's trip to Highbury, while Ledley King will have a late fitness test to make sure he is ready to line-up against Arsenal.  Missing from the Spurs squad are William Gallas (calf), Sandro (calf), David Bentley (knee) and Tom Huddlestone (ankle operation).. 

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Arsenal  5 (2)     
Premier League
Sunday 26th February 2012                              
Venue :  Emirates Stadium
Tottenham Hotspur  2 (2)

Kick off  13:30
Sagna  40
van Persie  44
Rosicky  51
Walcott  65
Walcott  68
Saha  4
Adebayor (p)  34
Koscielny (foul)  31
Arteta (foul)  42
van Persie (kicking ball away)  78


Modric  (dissent)  29
Parker (foul)  30
Sandro (foul)  61

Parker (foul - second yellow) 87

Crowd :   60,106 Weather :  Dry, mild, sunny
Referee :  Mike Dean (Wirral) Assistant Referees :  S. Long; S. Child
Fourth Official :  Phil Dowd Match Delegate : Geoff Pike
Professional Game Match Observer :  M. Reed
Tottenham kicked off and played towards the North Stand end in the first half.
Arsenal : kit Tottenham Hotspur : kit
13  Szczesny

  3  Sagna 
  6  Koscielny     
  5  Vermaelen
  Gibbs  (25  Jenkinson 79)

30  Benayoun (27  Gervinho 88)
17  Song
  8  Arteta     

10  van Persie       
  7  Rosicky 
14  Walcott      (15  Oxlade-Chamberlain 81)

Unused subs: 
21  Fabianski
49  Migeul
  9  Park Chu-Young
29  Chamakh

  24  Friedel

28  Walker
  4  Kaboul
26  King (c)  (20  Dawson 82)
32  Assou-Ekotto

21  Kranjcar  (11  van der Vaart 46)
14  Modric     
  8  Parker               
  3  Bale

15  Saha    (30  Sandro 46     )

Unused subs: 
25  Rose
  7  Lennon
18  Defoe

Manager :  Arsene Wenger Manager :   Harry Redknapp
Sponsor :   Emirates Shirt sponsor :  Aurasma
Kit Supplier :  Nike Kit Supplier :   Puma
Match report

The sun shone, Spurs lead 2-0 and then the crap hit the fan.  Not helping our own cause, Spurs put in a shoddy display of defending to allow Arsenal back into the game and to go on to win their cup final for this season 5-2 at the Emirates.

What started so well finished in Spurs chasing the ball as Arsenal passed it around and things got even worse when Scott Parker picked up his second yellow card to rule him out of next week's home game against Manchester United.  With injuries to Kyle Walker (when the score was still 2-2) and Rafael van der Vaart, the damage sustained in this loss might go beyond the 90 minutes that we suffered in the sunshine.

The game opened with Spurs keeping good possession and four minutes into the match, they were ahead.  Spurs broke from their own defence and four passes later, the stretched Arsenal defence had been penetrated by Adebayor's pass through to Saha and it looked like the French striker had taken too long, as Gibbs and Vermaelen closed him down, but his side foot shot hit the central defender's thigh and the ball bounced up off the turf over the scrabbling Szczesny who could not get back quickly enough to keep the ball out.

The response from Arsenal was dangerous, but Walcott failed to find a decent final ball when in space, then Vermaelen tried a speculative shot from distance that went wide and van Persie hit a powerful effort a yard wide on the turn.  On 20 minutes, van Persie hit a shot at goal that flicked off Kaboul for a corner and from it, Rosicky was left free at the near post and his flicked header was turned expertly over the bar by Brad Friedel's reflexes and a strong wrist.  But then Spurs broke away and with Manu breaking through the middle, it looked as though Gibbs would be first to the ball, but the Mali striker got to it first and the ball rebounded off Szczesny to Kyle Walker racing forward on the right.  He met the ball with his usual force but could only ripple the side netting with a drive, which, if on target, could well have doubled Tottenham's lead.

There was a little flurry of bookings, as Parker was cautioned for bringing down van Persie just outside the box and Modric got booked for complaining about the soft decision when Dean was letting a lot more than that go, before  Koscielny got a yellow card for bringing down Kranjcar in a cynical way.  Dean was having a steady, if not outstanding game, but his next big decision was one that went Tottenham's way, but was not a right one and for that the referee can point to his assistant on the far side, who advised that Szczesny brought down Gareth Bale as he ran through on goal.  Modric's through ball sliced open the Arsenal defence, with Gibbs and Vermaelen closed in the linesman claimed the keeper's head had knocked Bale over, while he was actually in the act of falling while trying to change direction.  Bale didn't claim for the penalty and the keeper did stretch out a hand for the ball and then withdraw it at the last minute, with the incident happening at break-neck speed, so you could be forgiven for getting the decision wrong and Emmanuel Adebayor stepped up to put the ball wide of Szczesny's dive to the left to become the second player to score for both clubs in a North London derby following in the footsteps of Jimmy Robertson in the 1960s.

2-0 up in 33 minutes, with Arsenal having had the majority of possession and things looked like they were going well.  You expected some sort of reaction, with the results Arsenal had been getting, but what was to follow was out of kilter with the rest of our season.

Bale forced Szczesny to a low save to his left before Arsenal got a goal back in the 40th minute.  Walcott back-heeled a straight pass through the middle of the Spurs defence from the edge of the box to give van Persie a shooting chance, which he struck across Friedel and hit the keeper's right hand post.  Spurs breathed a sigh of relief, but did not react quickly enough as play continued, with Arteta picking up the loose ball and crossing for Sagna to come in and head past Friedel unchallenged.

At 2-1, if Spurs could get through to half time it might have given them a chance to re-group, but with three minutes to the break, Spurs conceded again.  A high ball in the box was won by Kaboul and it dropped towards Benoit Assou-Ekotto, who swung a lazy boot at the ball which took it to the edge of the area, but straight to van Persie.  Turning on the edge of the area, with three Spurs players around him, the Dutch striker made a yard, shifted the ball onto his left foot and curled a shot past Friedel and inside the post to draw Arsenal level.

It was a blow as Spurs had looked comfortable for all the possession Arsenal had, but the game had turned around in a few minutes and Tottenham had contributed to the score-line with some uncharacteristic defending.  The half-time break saw the home side's fans noisy for the first time in the afternoon, with the re-entry of the players, Harry Redknapp had taken off Saha and Kranjcar, bringing on Sandro and van der Vaart in their places.  It seemed a slightly negative move, but designed to add more protection for the back door with Sandro and hopefully to add to Rafa's scoring record in North London derbies.

Only, it didn't work out like that.  The Spurs midfield went AWOL and the defence were often caught too far up-field, leaving those left behind outnumbered.  From the time the second Spurs goal went in, the midfield dropped too deep inviting Arsenal on the offensive and putting more pressure on the back four, while restricting our attacking options which would have given the Gooners more to think about in their own half.

In the end, the second half was virtually all Arsenal with three more goals to rub in the victory.  Still it was something that their fans were becoming less conversant with, so a win for them must have been a bit like a cup final win ... again something they have in the depths of their memory.

Benayoun had already brought a low fingertip save from Brad Friedel to his left when through on the left side of the Tottenham box before Arsenal went ahead.  It was five minutes after half time and Rosicky played the ball right to Sagna, carried his run on into the box and Ledley failed to go all the way and Brad didn't make himself big enough for the Czech midfielder to nudge the ball past him for 3-2.  Walcott had already missed an opportunity shooting across the goal and wide, but in the 65th minute, van Persie held off Kaboul and King to play the ball to the winger on the right hand side of a central position and as he entered the area, he lifted the ball over Friedel's dive and two and a half minutes later he repeated the dose.  A long ball up the right hand side from Song found Walcott looking close to being offside and he shot across Friedel, this time finding the net.  Benny had gone missing on both occasions.

And after that Arsenal were content to pas the ball around and try and take the mickey.  Rosicky went close when he bent a shot from the edge of the area wide, but the only other notable act in the match was Parker's closing down when the home players were passing the ball around and he got there late with a tackle on Vermaelen and received his second yellow card and a red to rule him out of the home match with Manchester United next week.

A bad day at the office.  Well ... no, not really.  A bad day at the rubbish tip.

Consign it to the bin and let's get on with our season. 

Barry Levington


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What you thought
East Stan I can't really say what I thought of it, as it would contain far too much expletive based text.



Other scores during this week :
Chelsea 3 Bolton Wanderers 0 Saturday
Manchester City 3 Blackburn Rovers 0 Saturday
Newcastle United 2 Wolverhampton Wanderers 2 Saturday
Queens Park Rangers 0 Fulham 1 Saturday
West Bromwich Albion 4 Sunderland 0 Saturday
Wigan Athletic 0 Aston Villa 0 Saturday
Norwich City 1 Manchester United 2 Sunday
Stoke City 2 Swansea City 0 Sunday
Carling Cup Final result :
Cardiff City 1 Liverpool (won 4-2 on pens; 2-2 after extra time) 1 Sunday



League Table
  P W D L F A Pts GD
1 Manchester City 26 19 3 3 67 19 63 +48
2 Manchester United 26 19 4 3 63 26 61 +37
3 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 26 16 5 5 51 30 53 +21
4 Arsenal 26 14 4 8 53 37 46 +16
5 Chelsea 26 13 7 6 47 32 46 +15
6 Newcastle United 26 12 7 7 38 38 43 0
7 Liverpool 25 10 9 6 29 23 39 +6
8 Norwich City 26 9 8 9 38 43 35 -5
9 Sunderland 26 9 6 11 34 30 33 +4
10 Everton 25 9 6 10 26 27 33 -1
11 Fulham 26 8 9 9 32 36 33 -4
12 Stoke City 26 9 6 11 26 38 33 -12
13 West Bromwich Albion 26 9 5 13 33 35 32 -2
14 Swansea City 26 7 9 10 30 36 30 -6
15 Aston Villa 26 6 11 9 29 34 29 -5
16 Wolverhampton Wanderers 26 5 7 13 30 51 22 -21
17 Queens Park Rangers 26 5 6 15 27 45 21 -18
18 Blackburn Rovers 26 5 6 15 37 59 21 -22
19 Bolton Wanderers 26 6 2 18 29 54 20 -25
20 Wigan Athletic 26 4 8 14 23 50 20 -27


Position before match :  3rd
Position after match :  3rd
Position after the weekend :  3rd


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