View From The North Bank: Arsenal 5 Sp*rs 2
Yet another crazy game of Football to add to an ever growing list of astonishing results. Somehow, putting up with all the negativity and pre match predictions of certain failure were worthwhile as they made victory all the more sweet. The only thing better than beating Tottenham is ramming all those predictions of a power shift right back where they came from.
Despite a slightly nervous opening we were never deserving of a 0-2 deficit at any stage in the game. The first goal, although we found ourselves far too open early on, was hugely unfortunate as a tame shot was deflected off Vermaelen’s boot and past Szczesny. The second goal came from a penalty which never was. There’s no point shying away from it as many of this morning’s papers have, Gareth Bale dived and conned the most easily deceived referee in the Premiership.
I don’t want to dwell on negatives from yesterday, on the field there weren’t too many. Off the field, there were still a few people that, even in arguably our most important game of the season to date, wanted to take their chance to aim abuse at Wenger and various members of the team rather than joining the other 99% and encouraging the team for the remaining hour.
I freely admit that trailing Tottenham 0-2 at any stage was not what I wanted to see, however I wanted to get engaged in a full on toe-to-toe row with another Arsenal fan even less. The score line at that stage was disappointing but the performance was not.
I’ve said it a hundred times but abusing your own players during the game, particularly in a North London Derby, just isn’t right. I personally would never boo but if you feel you have to vent some anger, at least wait until the end of the game. If you’re going to bother to come then support the team for 90 minutes, if you’d rather slag off the best manager in our history for two goals that were clearly not his fault, then stay in the pub.
In the middle of the North Bank civil war I turned towards the pitch and saw Bacary Sagna power in a bullet header. It was no less than we deserved. Shortly after, Van Persie twisted and turned and whipped a delicious left footed strike past the flailing Friedel. It was all smiles on the North Bank. We’re a funny bunch, Football fans.
The second half started as the first had ended. We were committed and playing at a high tempo. The players must surely realise now that we’re at our best doing this. It’s no secret that we play our best Football when we play with pace. Too often this season we’ve played slowly and sideways. When our dominance got its reward and saw us back to 2-2 we didn’t take our foot of the pedal. It was fitting that Tomas Rosicky got the goal to put us ahead. His drive and industry in midfield set the tone for those around him, including Benayoun who had his best game in an Arsenal shirt.
Rosicky pressed and hassled high up the pitch. So many times Modric and Parker had to pass backwards, Walker and Assou-Ekotto were forced into errors. The pressing was infectious, Benayoun joined in, Arteta supported and Walcott chased all over to create problems for the visitors. It’s a bit of a Sunday League cliché but it really does only need one player to set an example and so often the rest of the team step up.
From then on we looked like carving Tottenham open at will. Walcott made two bursts into the box and was found, first by Van Persie and then by Song. His finishes on both occasions were excellent. When he misses, like all young wide men do, he’s got no Footballing brain. Yesterday displayed evidence to the contrary. He still has lots of work to do but, as I wrote after the Blackburn win, he is judged more harshly than others because he’s been exposed from such a young age. He’s still an important player and repaid Wenger’s decision to retain him for the second half.
After that, it was party time, even if I wasn’t brave enough to relax until the last minute of injury time.
Taking joy in an opponent’s dismissal is perhaps not the most magnanimous thing to do but I had to laugh when Parker got his marching orders for a late tackle on Vermaelen. Lots of armchair mangers, and professional pundits for that matter, said that Arsenal missed a trick in not signing the England midfielder. All along I believed that despite his tireless work ethic, he’s not a good enough Footballer for Arsenal. Let him chase and he’ll do it all day, like an obedient dog, but ask him to play short sharp Football in a pressure cooker environment and he’s quickly found out. Alex Song is on a different level to Scott Parker but having an English passport seems to count for a lot with our sports media.
This one result doesn’t change the fact that we need to do a lot of work to finish fourth and that we need to sort out the squad in the summer but it does show that there is still something there to be proud off. I’ve always maintained that we still have the players and the manager to finish strongly enough to fulfil our minimum objective of fourth place. This result repays that faith somewhat and at least now we can look to strive upwards rather than look nervously over our shoulder.
Keep the faith!