Tag Archives: North London derby

Top Draw: Tottenham 3 Arsenal 3

The North London Derby is always a nervous night and in a “must win” situation going one down after five minutes was not the perfect start. It took a fantastic effort from Rafael Van Der Vaart to draw us level a couple of minutes later only for us to throw it away again and go 2-1 behind after 10 minutes.

When, after a concerted period of Spurs pressure, we gave up a third before half time it looked like without major reshuffling at half time Arsenal could have gone on to record a similar away win to Norwich at Portman Road last evening. But it wasn’t to be, Tom Huddlestone scored an absolute cracker just before half time to provide a lifeline and in the second half we put on a fantastic performance that saw us draw level and close to nicking the win.

At full time the draw was a fair result and those of us present had seen a fantastic match in which both sides went for the jugular in an effort to secure the three points. Typical Tottenham? Certainly, but fabulous performances from Rafa, Benny and Luka with everybody else contributing; so how did it nearly go so wrong?

We weren’t helped by Arsenal starting with more urgency than ourselves. In the last couple of home NLD’s they have tried to pass themselves to death but last night they were more direct. Benny, in his only lapse, played Walcott onside and once the through ball had beaten Gallas he was in to score.

We also saw everyone in our midfield wishing to contribute up front and in the first 45 no one was keen to get a foot in. Twelve months ago we saw a fiercely competitive Huddlestone and Modric muscle out Arsenal and Chelsea in the space of a few days; last night Tommy was pretty weak throughout in the challenge and I felt too far up the pitch on a number of occasions leaving us vulnerable. His distribution was also a little a bit wayward at times but we have to bear in mind he has been out injured for a long period and the frenetic pace that this match opened at might have taken him by surprise. 

Whatever the reason his goal was an absolute peach, perfectly hit and a reminder that he should be able to secure more than 10 goals a season but Tom you can’t be beaten by Jack Wilshere in a header mate. 

If the first goal was sloppy the second was a shocker with Arsenal allowed plenty of space and no one making any attempt to track Nasri who eventually obliged in striking a shot through the crowd of players which Gomes saw late and couldn’t keep out. Keeper error? Not really it was a far better attempt than the Van Persie effort that was ruled out in the second half. If he knew it was offside he must be clairvoyant and I considered him lucky to escape.

The third goal was also poor. Billy Gallas made a mess of a throw in which seemed to bounce of his chest further than he anticipated allowing Walcott to chip exquisitely for Van Persie to score. Gomes saved the first well but couldn’t get close to the next shot. 

But it wasn’t all bad. A better opening goal would be hard to find as Rafa hit a perfect shot to beat the keeper following a great ball from Charlie. At 2-1 we had a really decent period of play where we got well on top with Luka and Rafa orchestrating things but it might well have been Bale’s withdrawal through injury that helped change our fortunes.

Quite why he was left on until half time was a strange one as he couldn’t run at all. It was a disappointing end to his night and followed a second collision with the Arsenal keeper. Frankly it looked like he went for the collision on both occasions but he landed heavily the second time. Penalties? No I didn’t think so and unfortunately they may make referees less likely to give us decisions when Gareth is involved.

His replacement Aaron Lennon started on the left and finished on the right and put in his usual good shift which included winning the equalising penalty when he forced the keeper to bring him down. It is fantastic that Gareth Bale won the PFA award but to me he currently isn’t the best player in the side and Lennon has been at least matching him in recent weeks. 

Wednesday night Rafa was our best player with Benny close behind. Having started with a flurry of goals Rafa has been much quieter but once again finished with 90 minutes under his belt and a brilliant performance to match. A brilliant strike, a coolly taken penalty, tackling back with vigour and creating some great moves with imaginative passes. 

Benny continues where he left off in the previous game. His checks inside, once a reason for holding your breath, are now viewed as solid and his distribution of the ball has been good. He also has deceptive strength which he uses to good effect. As Spurs players go this season he must be a contender in the player of the season awards.

But it didn’t stop there as we turned over Arsenal breaks into attacks of our own with every member of the side playing there part. Kaboul took over from where Charlie had left off and provided a fabulous cross which Luka hit first time only to see the goal keepers foot clear the ball. Sandro too broke into the box and hit a powerful shot that somehow managed to sit under the keeper’s legs with attackers waiting for the follow up.

So two points dropped but really a point won as we came back from a second two goal deficit against Arsenal in a season. This time we couldn’t win it but it provided a creditable result in a match many have suggested to be the match of the season so far. 

Whether this will allow us to make the top 4 is another question altogether. Our three away games loom large and the quality of opposition and current form suggests that we may have to compromise, if that is possible, on the attacking side of our midfield to try and prevent us being behind. Roll on Saturday and West Bromwich Albion.         

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Must Win: Tottenham V Arsenal Preview

Wednesday night provides an opportunity for Tottenham to do something they haven’t done since – well I had to look it up – 1992/93 and take all the points off the Arsenal in one season. That year we won at home 1- 0 and then away at Highbury 3-1 in a season ending game that Arsenal fans will claim saw them put out a weaker side. 

If we want to finish fourth this is a must win home game as having seen Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool all compete well last weekend those away fixtures may need a more competitive and less flair approach to get something out of them. Each home game G tells us during our journey that we need to win our home games to do it and this match is the highest mountain to climb. 

Yet recent seasons have seen us put up much stronger performances in the home game culminating in last season’s fantastic victory. As a consequence Arsenal may not fancy this visit too much and if we can start scoring again we may be able to take all 6 points this season. 

Games against Arsenal are always a tense and nervous affair. With the exception of the 4-5 chances are often at a premium to win so we need to be in the right place at the right time to capitalise. For some time now this has proved to be a problem for us. In a number of games we have created over 20 chances and come away with no goals or a defeat. Alvin Martin summed this up on Talksport last Wednesday when he suggested that we would not go through against Madrid because we would need to score 5 goals from maybe 7 chances.

It was a fair point and we had a couple of decent chances that were either blasted over the bar or just missed the target. I’ve been disappointed at the way Rafa has kept going on walk about trying to do all the work rather than letting others participate. If he is to play in a forward role in this game, and I suspect he will, then he must be more advanced to be available for the chances we create and also to put pressure on Arsenal defenders as they bring the ball out. 

My reason for suspecting this is that, if fit, our midfield picks itself. With Lennon and Bale both firing out wide the opposition have decisions to make in deciding who to mark with more than one man. Luka Modric has also been fantastic this season and he will be instrumental in his free role hopefully orchestrating the match with his free flowing running and passing. That leaves one slot available and it falls between Tommy and Sandro with Tommy more likely to get the nod after playing the last two games.

This promises to be a fantastic midfield battle with Nasri and Fabregas in opposition but it is one we can win if we take the game to them and make them worry about us rather than the opposite way around as it was for many years. Arsenal are not their old invincible selves any longer but they are certainly not a pushover and with the quality of Van Persie up front it won’t be an easy night.

Thankfully our defence, certainly our central defence, is better than theirs. Dawson and Gallas have been fantastic this season and I think that Daws is benefitting from having Billy at his side. This game will be a great test but after some of our Champions League opponents this year we should be dealing better with the big occasion.

That has been our trouble in the past and may account for our poor record against the big 3 and Liverpool. On occasions we have been beaten before we got off the coach but we appear to be getting mentally stronger. If we can win this match it will provide the springboard we need as we approach our three tough away fixtures. That’s not to say the remaining home games will be easy but we should be able to overcome them if we play well.

Ekotto and Corluka have both done well. Benny has been good all season and continues to grow in confidence and Charlie has kept going despite a number of knocks. His major threat may come next season from Kyle Walker who also looked good at Upton Park for Villa on Saturday.

Behind them Gomes continues to frighten having repeated his Chelsea error against Madrid. Before that he had been back on form and I felt he maybe looked away at the important moment seeking a quick throw out. In an interview he appreciates that he may well make further errors in his career; let’s hope it doesn’t occur in this match.

So importantly who to play up front? Crouch is available once more and is likely to get the nod just ahead of Defoe for no other reason than his assists for Van Der Vaart. I do expect to see Defoe participate in the game at some stage and I fancy he may well get the elusive 100thgoal if he does. He needs goal to set himself up for a big finish to the season. And so to a team:                  

                                Gomes

    Corluka       Gallas       Dawson      Ekotto

Lennon       Huddlestone       Modric          Bale

            Van Der Vaart             Crouch

Prediction: I’m hoping for another great defensive display and clean sheet with us scoring twice for a 2-0.

At last – a win. Arsenal 2 Tottenham 3

As a Spurs fan you’ve got to be delighted having secured our first win at Arsenal since 1993 but you’ve got to ask “Why do we make it so hard for ourselves?” At 2-0 down I’ve never been so angry with our performance and expected the 5 goal tanking that Harry talked about afterwards. 

It is not possible to go to sides of this quality and allow them the space to play as we did and not expect to be goals behind. The first goal was our usual embarrassing present that threatens to make us a laughing stock between both Ekotto and Gomes. Ekotto appeared to have switched off, Gomes was typically indecisive and then Ekotto ignored sliding the ball out to allow Nasri to score from a near impossible angle. We’ve seen it all before and often it spells game over.

That looked to be from Pav’s attempt at Lennon’s cross which offered Arsenal a counter attack opportunity. Fabregas cannot be allowed acres of space on the half way line and the opportunity to run at a defence. He had it, carried the ball saw Hutton out of position and a decent cross in saw the second goal. What makes it worse is to see Spurs midfielders sauntering back from our attack. That’s why we lose these games.

At the start I’m asking for a tackler and Harry chose Lennon instead. Unfortunately he was poor having no timing and continually checking rather than using his pace to attack. We also got Pav up front and I thought his contribution to the game was practically non existent. He did keep the ball in play for goal two – harsh to blame him for that – and gave away a needless free kick which saw the ball in our net only to be ruled out for offside. 

At half time we were lucky to be only two down and it did look dead and buried. I wondered if Harry had enough subs available to make it turn round. I thought we needed Wilson to make some challenges and give JJ some help, anyone else up front and spares in case of injury. What we got was Jermain Defoe and what we found out was what we’ve been missing these past months.

He was clearly pleased to be back and within five minutes had out jumped the centre back to play in Van Der Vaart who fed Bale for a fabulous first Spurs goal. Outjumped is not a word normally associated with JD but he was fired up and I’m sure both Bale and Van Der Vaart will be looking forward playing alongside him in the coming games. I reckon he’s been dreaming of sliding in Bale crosses.

Since his injury we’ve all questioned the abilities of both Pav and Crouch. We know Defoe can be greedy but he wasn’t like that today. Hopefully his spell on the sidelines has shown him what we can achieve with all the weapons we have. Look out Werder Bremen!

I think it spells a period back on the bench for Pav and I won’t be disappointed. There are times when he does something astonishing but once again today it was a bit like playing with 10 men.

I read lots of tweets as the game approached bemoaning the captain’s armband being handed to Billy Gallas. I agree that he has been involved in a number of mistakes since arriving at the Lane but today he was outstanding from the first till the last minute. How Bale could be awarded Man of the Match on Sky was ridiculous even taking into account the quality of his goal. Younes Kaboul also had a good game but Gallas threw himself into everything today and hopefully will get a great reception come Wednesday night for he deserves it.

And what of the others? Modric put in a good shift and won the free kick that produced the penalty. He did, along with Lennon, have that stuttering approach at times which frustrates when people like Bale are running into space. Van Der Vaart was lively in the second half, contributed a hand in all three goals and an early corner to Bale before half time. He was booked after scoring the penalty which seemed a nonsense but he was maybe lucky not to be booked earlier for jumping into opponents.

So our appalling record comes to end but had it been Stamford Bridge or Old Trafford the 5 nil might have resulted. To be fair at 2-2 Arsenal had further opportunities and failed to capitalise and Gomes produced an excellent save to deny Fabregas.

All too often this season we’ve put ourselves into stupid positions in games before we start playing both in the Premier League and Champions League.  There is no doubt that we can beat anyone on our day and have done well without some of our big name players but talk of winning titles are a little premature. It depends on us being consistent against the Man Utd, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and City and able to tough out the ugly games away. For those you need mental toughness and unfortunately with Spurs that can be absent.

So a terrible first half is followed by a wonderful second and a surprising lack of texts from Arsenal fans after the game. We’re still in touch, have the chance to sort out the Champions League midweek and give ourselves a decent run in the league. JD is back and a rumour abounds that Woodgate may be nearly fit!