Sp*rs 2-1 Arsenal. Not yet St. Totteringham’s Day, but it will be, soon!

Sunday 7th November 1999. Anything familiar about that date? Well, that was the last time Sp*rs beat us in the League, at White Hart Lane! Over 10 years ago. 10 year of trying, and yet another chance for them to try and do one over us. They’re probably still smarting after we beat them 3-0 at the Grove, and with a chance to kill our title challenge and boost their Top 4 hopes, there was the extra motivation.

Team news as usual, meant an injury-hit team. With Cesc, Gallas and Arshavin already missing, Arsene confirmed Song will be out, missing the next game as well. So the starting line-up was:

Almunia

Sagna – Campbell – Vermaelen – Clichy

Denilson – Diaby

Eboue– Nasri – Rosicky

Bendtner

Best news though, was the return of one Robin van Persie, after 5 months. Wenger confirmed he was going to be on the bench, and it was absolutely great to see him!

So, the game. We started brightly, with Sol almost scoring in the 2nd minute, the effort off his knee being cleared of the line by Assou-Ekotto. It was all Arsenal really, Sp*rs not looking like scoring at all. Which ofcourse meant they would be the first team to score! They almost did through Pavyluchenko, but his effort was charged down by Vermaelen, and it was out for a corner. Almunia punched the corner out far, only for Danny Rose, making his Premier League debut, to volley it back over him from all of 30 yards! It pains me to say, but it was a brilliant strike. The only way they could have scored was via a spectacular strike, and that was definitely one, 10 minute in.

The goal shook us for a bit, but after the initial shock had passed, we were back dominating. But chances were few, though. We were doing generally well in defence and midfield, but we were lacking a bit of creativity and our play in the final third was ponderous, at best. We were lacking something.

And to make things worse, Vermaelen went down with an injury. It wasn’t from a bad tackle or anything, but he seemed to hurt his calf one way or the other. Not what you want when you’re chasing the game, and seeing Silvestre come on didn’t fill you with any confidence, whatsoever. So first and second-choice centre backs both out injured. Lovely.

We needed to go into half-time on level terms to give Sp*rs something to worry about, but it wasn’t to be. Our two best players were Sol and Clichy- they are both defenders, and there’s only so much they can offer in attack. Bentdner was trying hard, but he wasn’t getting too much service and was being marshalled well. He did have a chance, though, but his effort was weak and rolled just wide of the far post. It was more of the same until half-time, really. We dominated possession, but just couldn’t find that killer pass, or that extra bit of class.

We alwatys do much better in the second-half of games, so I was feeling a bit confident. Nothing like another goal to get things going. Shame it was another Sp*rs one! Gareth Bale this time, with his own first Premier League goal. But it was poor defending, nothing more! A poor attempt at off-side, Silvestre and Clichy not realising Sagna was playing Bale on-side. Very shoddy stuff, and totally not the way to start. No concentration whatsoever. Very disappointing and there was no one to blame, but ourselves.

Arsene threw Theo on for Sagna, but it didn’t make much of a difference. We still had problems getting in behind them. It was really frustrating at times though, as we were holding on to the ball too long in midfield. Not sure whether that was because of lack of movement or lack of confidence, or maybe it was both! At least there wasn’t too much of an attacking threat from Sp*rs, so if we could sort out our attack, the game was there for the taking. Another chance for Bendtner though, from a pass from Theo, but he dragged his shot just wide of the far post.

It took the introduction of Robin, 25 minutes from the end, to really spark us into life. And in his little cameo, you realised just what we’ve been missing, these past 5 months. He did more in 25 minutes than some others did in the whole 90 minutes. His first touch was sensational; like he hadn’t been out of action for 5 months. If only, right? It was a little emotional seeing him back on, once again. He’s such a leader in the team and he did the best he could, in that short period of time. We barely had any shots on target before he came on. According to the stats, 5 of our 6 shots on target only came after he came on. Most were by him, actually!

We could have gone on to win the match if not for Gomes, who made some really good saves. They all came in the last 10 minutes, though. The first one, from a stunning RvP effort. The ball was chipped into him by Diaby, he controlled it expertly on his chest and his volley on the turn was tipped away by Gomes. He had no right to get that shot away and it would have been one brilliant goal. He then took a free-kick from just outside the box. It was going into the top corner, but Gomes with the save! From the corner, Sol’s header was then tipped onto the bar by Gomes! The goal was coming, and it did. Robin fed Theo on the right, who then slid the ball perfectly for Bendtner to bundle in. As usual, we got our goal in the last 10 minutes, but we needed one more, if not two, for the win. We had 5 minutes to get it. But Gomes was there with yet another save from a Robin strike.

Tottenham were hanging on, but the match ofcourse, ended 2-1. Our urgency only came in the last 15 minutes, and if,  only we’d shown such application from the start, we knows what would have happened?

So it was a disappointing night, the only bright sparks being Robin, Sol and Clichy. As expected, Sol was heckled from start to finish, but he responded the best way possible with an imperious performance. The most frustrating thing about Sp*rs is that they defended for their lives against us, but I’m sure when Chelsea come on Saturday, they’ll be back to their usual rubbish selves. And for that reason, I hope Chelsea stuff them. Properly. That might mean we won’t win the League, but our chances are pretty slim, anyways.

Arsene’s all but conceded the League, too:

“There is too much to do, yes. It is very unlikely now to win the League. But we will continue to fight and you never know. But tonight even a point would not have been enough, we needed three points.”

“Chelsea play Tottenham on Saturday. If Tottenham want to fight for the Champions League they can show they have the quality to do it.”

Arsene wasn’t too impressed with some players, too. Some didn’t pull their weight and were almost passengers:

“I would not like to go into any individual criticism tonight. We lost a game we couldn’t afford to lose in the title race and that shows that we are not mature enough because if you want to win the League, this kind of game you cannot lose.”

To make things worse, Tommy V’s out for 2-3 weeks with a calf strain; that’s practically the rest of the season. The injury jinx doesn’t seem like abating anytime soon. All we have left now is playing for pride, and I hope the last 4 games are all wins. Nothing less will do.

Anyways, what left to say is simple: enjoy your moment in the sun, Sp*rs; you’re next North London Derby win is not going to be for at least another decade. We await the DVD.

Update:

Ah, the DVD‘s arrived. How totally predictable and laughable!

  • devday

    Great article Debs… it’s woeful that our defence backup isn’t great – Sol was good, but he has his limitations. Silvestre is rubbish – it’s strange to see that we don’t have youngsters to come in, people who could do with the experience rather than people at the end of their careers.

    Diaby was my annoyance yesterday – and against Barcelona – so many bad decisions – what on earth do we do with him?

  • zohaib

    hey there guys ! long time.

    i guess we’re in agreement on silvestre and diaby, Dev.
    thought sagna could’ve done a better job in place of vermaelen rather than silvestre. walcott to come on at RM, eboue to be moved to RB. wat do you think ? too bad it didnt happen though

    i was specially angry with diaby’s body language when walcott was on and diaby lost possession and blamed walcott for not being closer to him and he was having a go at walcott. being negative etc. that was really frustrating. that got me angry.

  • http://arsenalandtherandomthoughtsofmylife.blogspot.com/ Debs

    Yeah, agree about Diaby. Too many wrong options. I’m sure Arsene worries about what should be done with him, too!
    As for Silvestre, I don’t know what he’s about! I’d love to see Kyle Bartley come in as his replacement. He can’t be any worse! I also thought Sol did really well, even showed the odd turn of pace! Was definitely our best defender.

  • Kuka

    Thanks Debs. I have been waiting long day for an objective analysis of the game. Earlier, we ran around with emotions of having lost a game and a derby for that matter.

    In my opinion, anyone who under-estimates the effect of injuries on any club, knows nothing about football. The loss of Rooney for United was a good example. The return of Van Parsie yesterday was an illustration of what we missed for a good 5 months. Important players will always be important players. When you miss them you struggle.

    Let us face it: Fabregas makes our mid-field look great, just the same way Rooney makes the United strike-force tick. When Fab is playing, Song, Diaby, Nasri are all in SONG. When he doesnt, they do struggle.

    I know we are tired of hearing this: But any team without Gallas, Vermallen, Fabregas, Arshavin, Van Persie, Ramsey would struggle. For once, I heard the most biased of all football analysts, Andy Gray – admit that everyone is being too harsh on Arsenal. The team that beat Spurs at the Emirates would have beat Spurs last night.

    Is that an excuse? NOPE. Its just the TRUTH my friends. Blatant TRUTH:

  • Kuka

    If Spurs and Liverpool beat Chelsea and United loose to City, we are back in it……(HAHAHAHAHA) How I love this game……

  • Kuka

    A few months back, I posed a question on this blog regarding the nature and frequency of our injuries. Every response summed it up as bad luck. The same question was raised in many other quarters including the media and Arsenal.com had to dig from the club physio. Despite his attempt to explain the reason behind our multiple injuries, I still feel, the club needs to deeply analyze why “we loose players every weekend?” Not on suspensions but on injuries? And why 2 week injuries turn into 4 weeks etc. I understand the “bad luck” argument and the “physical nature of the PL” debate, but surely, we pretty much have a FULL team out.

    Why is this a concern for me? It is a concern because it determines the way we begin the 2010-2011 season. Chances are high, that we shall begin with an understrength team. Why, because all our injuries or the majority of them are LONG TERM

  • Kuka

    And I have been an Arsenal fan long enough to know that it does not help to speculate on which areas we need to strengthen and which players we need to buy when transfers windows open. It never helps and we end up growing gray hair or loosing some of it, due to the mental disturbance that comes with the non-activity during transfer periods.

    I have therefore chose to focus on the players that we have. We need to keep them fit. Alternatively, we need to keep our KEY Players FIT. We can afford an injured Vela, Denilson, Silves, Eduardo etc, but not an injured, Gallas, Vermallen, Song, Fabregas, Van Parsie and Arshavin. That we cannot AFFORD

  • Gooner Get Ya

    Our whole midfield apart from nasri were rubbish last night. Gave the ball away far too much.

  • Francis

    From a tactical perspective…

    Guys …i hear all the talk about Diaby…let’s be patient with him…he has been playing with an injury…take verminator for e.g his injury was bound to happen bcos we have overplayed him….it was clear that he needed a rest.

    diaby just needs to be consistent and it will all come in time. he has just had his first full season..even then its been bligthed with injuries. i belive that we will all agree that he’s shown enough in his locker to be an arsenal player…pls lay off him!!!

    cesc himself needed a season or two to get his game to a consistent level..bear in mind cesc has not had the start-stop career that has plagued diaby.

    it wasnt only diaby who had to step up his game y’day…how about rosicky and nasri?

    the arsenal physio had better coome up with some convincing reasons about the injury situation. it is clear to me that the pace at which we play our game is not sustainable over the season!!! so whats the next line of action plan B it would seem which is using minimal effort but achieving optimum results ala man utd use the wing play by crossing the ball early as opposed to runing the length of the pitch b4 the cross comes in.

    this tactic needs certain kinds of wingers and attackers who lurk around the 18 yard box ala van nistelroy type. currently only B52 is close to that type of a striker.

    clearly we need backup in defense and in the defensive midfield positions …why bcos diaby is forward minded but has been used in games where he has to be defensive minded as well as start attacks ..why bcos cesc’sidekick ramsey who would have stepped in is injured. this affects the combination play as players & positions have to be rejuggled all the time. this is part of the reasons for the inconsistency.

    hopefully the arrival of melo, chamakh and another defender might plug the gaps.

    guys we are not far off winning a trophy and wenger knows what areas he needs to strengthen. he took a gamble on sylvestre and it has not paid off. wenger will correct that for sure.

    guys kool off and enjoy the rest of the season. the lads have done their best given the circumstances

  • Kuka

    @ Francis: I am in full agreement with you

  • Yemi

    @ Kuka:
    You are right about anybody saying that we can’t really blame injuries. But on the other had I agree with that view.
    Lets look at it this way.
    Chelsea right back. Bosingwa-out, who deputises? Ivanovic (as good or even better than bosingwa now ivanovic out who deputises ? ferrera or Beletti (both of whom can deputise at CB with alex in the event of loss of JT and cavalho. Holding midfield position Essien-out who deputises ? Mikel- not as good as essien but above average.And they still got ballack who can fit into that role. Left bacl- cashely -out deputising ?zhirkov
    It seems for every loss of player, there is a worthy replacement. That is squad depth.
    We lost song, we lost verm we lost cesc (Cesc has a replacement in ramsey and nasri even if they are not as good but they are above average), We lost arshavin and there has not been an attack coming from the left flank.

    Our squad debth is low !!! We have players for the future (if they stay) but if they leave, we start building another team for the future.
    We need CB, DM and CF signings period.

    Yes, we have already over-achieved this season by even being the top 4 but we will all agree that RVP introduction yesterday brought something to the game. That is class, desire, maturity skill as a poacher. Not scrapping for goals, but creating them

    Cla

  • devday

    zohaib – Good to have you back, where have you been???

  • Kuka

    @ Yemi: – I do not know about you, but the Chelsea model does not just appeal to me. Rather I do not warm up to the aspect of accumulating players and keeping them happy by paying them high salaries. All the players you have named other than Ferera were bought with extremely high sums of money. Ballack earning 120K a month and staying on the bench for the majority of the season is not something I would pride Arsenal for. Its just not sustainable for me.

    ….If you ask me, besides Arsenal, my model club is Everton. Where you work within your resources, produce the best out of the players you have and hope that Man City does not come for them when they are ready. The problem about the City, Chelsea, Madrid model is that you will never know the potential of Ballack, Ferrera, Belleti, etc unless key players are injured…..It has been argued that Ballack is a better player when playing for Germany than when playing for Chelsea – guess why? Because he is a key player for them and always plays? At chelsea he is a sub player.

    ….I stick by my position: We need to keep OUR KEY PLAYERS FIT. If the Key players are fit, the squad will come in and do OK

  • Nick

    It pains me to say it, but does anyone think Silvestre is just having a laugh when he gets on? He’s so unhappy at Arsenal due to his lack of playing time (which it’s obvious why he’s not getting it) and wanted out in Jan. Do you think he’d not giving his 100% on purpose? It seems to me like he is.

    Mathematically we can still win, but we’re gonna need some luck and some help. Mostly we have to help ourselves and not getting 3 points from each match isn’t gonna cut it.

    Was it just me or did all our players look unmotivated at Spurs? It was like a full squad of Arshavins out there. Diabys passing was terrible, they didn’t seem in sync at all. Nasri and Rosicky looked like they were playing at half speed. Bendtner always pulls up on his runs when someone plays the ball forward because he just figures he’s not gonna outleg the defender.

    All praise to Rose for that strike though, it was immaculate. Almunia in the position he was in could never have saved that one. The Bale goal was crap and shouldn’t have happened.

  • Francis

    @ Nick

    I do not know what wenger told sylvestre at the time of his siging but the issue is that at his age he could only be used as a back-up from the teams perspective…even then only in certain home games where the ‘risk’ is next to nothing…if i may use that word

    sylvestre is in the team to also impart his experience to the younger team members as Sol has been doing

    on his side at his age he needs to be playing at least to earn a good last contract…this has not happened…so you have an unhappy player in the team

    the caveat is that we fans expect sylvestre to come in and put in a top notch performance when he hasnt been playing that much….

    us fans want to win all the time…these players are not machines and they also have personal problems & issues as we all do….

    we need some empathy here…..

  • goonerman

    To be fair we just lacked that bit of class that we normaly have when one of our top players are fit! you cant have a team of world class players becuase it just doesnt happen but when you have a van persie or a fabregas in your team it adds another gear to your team becuase they can do things not many others can and that was shown by van persie in the last 20 minutes. i accept we have to deal with injuries but when you have injuries to your 3 world class attacking players it is going to take a spark out of the team becuase not all players can make a pass or take a shot like them players.

    I do really have a feeling wenger will have a shopping spree this summer becuase he has admitted that he cant rely on his talented youth and experience and maturity are really important, its going to be another summer or hope and rumours haha!!

  • Gooner Get Ya

    At least we have the world cupto distract us from all the rumours this year.

  • andrew

    Van Persie is BACK!!!

    Yes, I know we just lost to the Sp*rs and our title challenge is over and we got dumped out of the Champions League by Lionel Messi BUT… I thought I should focus on the positive that Robin is back and looked great. Imagine if we’d had him all year. I know we have the injury bug and don’t know why but it was great to see what RVP brings to the Arsenal. Great passing, great shooting, great team player. It is good to have him back even if for the last few meaningless games.

  • http://arsenalandtherandomthoughtsofmylife.blogspot.com/ Debs

    @ andrew:
    Great point. It’s absolutely fabulous to see Robin back, and maybe we can finish the season on a high…

  • goonerman

    LMAO, and i really did piss my self laughing!!
    like dev has updated spurs have released the 2-1 dvd named “An Unforgettable Night” Oh my god this is actually comedy gold! they beat us with a fluke wonder goal and with 3 wonder saves but this is a small caption that is selling the dvd to the small minded spurs fans

    “Gomes put in a scintillating display, Ledley was formidable at the back, Luka unplayable in the middle of the park and Jermain unstoppable leading the line; but in truth, as it has been all season, it was a team effort that fuelled this victory.”

    UNPLAYABLE LUKA, JERMAIN UNSTOPPABLE LEADING THE LINE!

    spurs fans should be very embaressed that beating us in a league game is a big enough achievment to release a dvd about it haha! well done dev for predicting the dvd release

  • Yemi

    @ Kuka:
    I totally don’t fancy the madrid/chelsea/city model. What i am just saying is that we need back up players for every role in the team. Injuries are part of a season that can never be ruled out. So when one gets injured there should be another who is capable of taking up the mantle. We are some way away from that in some very key positions.

    1.) One is CB, We should do away with silvestre, hopefully djourou should be OK soon. Then maybe one other defender, and maybe bartley. much as i hate to say this but at the moment, senderos will be a much better option than silvestre.

    2.) Second is DM position, We have only Song. No other player will do the job well or almost as well. eastmond is still on the production line.

    3.) thirdly is CF, We had more shots at goal against tot’ham in the few minutes that RVP played than we had before he came. It shows what a quality striker can do. B52 is good, what is left for him is consistency and maybe positioning.

    I DO NOT support buying expensive ready made players. But get the good unknown ones. Wenger knows how to do that as he has shown with verm.

  • chris weatherall

    have they really just submitted a DVD?? if we are soar losers, then they are soar winners! well if we made a dvd for every arsenal win we would have loads more. in the premier league, arsenal have 12 victories to tottenhams 7. they are still miles away! in the early 90′s, graham was awful, so we were obviously going to lose more derbies. whereas now arsenal win consistently, and if u wonder why there are always draws at WHL, it is because spurs always screw up a lead.