It would be nice to claim that I knew we could do it. But I must confess that I was a pessimist yesterday morning. The terrible, effort-free performance at the San Siro and the downward momentum from going out of the FA Cup as well left me very fearful.
Strangely, that feeling began to lift even before we scored. OK so the first goal was soft, Vermaelen’s defensive colleagues had left him with the impossible task of covering two advancing forwards single-handed, but it was clear that Arsenal really had come to play. Tottenham had the run of the first ten minutes, but not over the Arsenal team of Milan or Sunderland.
At one-nil down I was even wondering if I could feel good about a narrow defeat if it was accompanied by signs of regained fight and skill. As it was the North London Derby I swiftly pushed such soft thoughts out my head, of course it would still hurt in the morning. But such were the hopeful signs that it did cross my mind.
After the first goal we stepped up our attacks rather than fold and Spurs’ second goal was against a turning tide. And it was never a penalty! I really don’t think that either Gibbs or Szczesny brought Bale down. Mike Dean gave the penalty immediately, but then seemed uncertain what to do next. If it was a penalty then surely someone had stopped a clear foal-scoring opportunity? Surely someone had to get a red card? Dean consulted his assistant for a long time. What were they talking about?
It was one of those occasions when you wished you could hear, rugby style. Clearly the assistant couldn’t tell Dean which player had felled Bale, because no card followed. Did he even agree that it was a penalty?
Anyway, Tottenham were two goals to the good and Adebayor was obviously enjoying his birthday. But not for a lot longer, because despite being two goals down, Arsenal were now flying and creating chance after chance.
Perhaps being two goals down rather than one actually helped. The Arsenal players had nothing to lose now but their souls. There were some frustrating moments though. Walcott burst through on goal brilliantly with a fantastic burst of pace and then wimped out of the responsibility of shooting, passing to Van Persie who was surrounded by three defenders. Rosicky had a great flicked on header superbly saved by Friedel.
A lovely ball from Walcott slipped Van Persie into the box and he hit the post. Surely all this pressure had to pay off? It did, Van Persie was still picking himself up while Gibbs and Arteta rescued possession and fed the ball back into the box for Bacary Sagna to head home. Fantastic. Even more fantastic, Sagna picks up the ball and sprints back to the centre spot. He hadn’t come here to lose to Spurs.
More pressure, more chances and then, out of nothing much, a beautiful curling shot from Van Persie beats Friedel and we’re level. We might even have gone into half-time ahead, but it was progress enough. Spurs player’s heads were dropping and their fans were stunned.
Sagna and Van Persie may gave been the scorers but the pressure was created by Song, Arteta, Benayoun and most of all Rosicky. They dominated midfield and were unrelenting in closing down, tackling and feeding the ball forward again.
Redknapp certainly noticed, swapping a striker for another midfielder at the break but it made no difference. It was all Arsenal after the that. Soon Rosicky got his just reward with his first goal in two decades or something and no-one deserved it more. Tomas Rosicky was our overwhelming choice as Man of the Match – over 70% of the vote in our poll. Spurs were beaten from that point. Nothing left.
Theo Walcott, his mind now cleared of self-doubt surged and shot at goal again and again getting two. It seems to be all about confidence with Theo. Once he found it, Spurs couldn’t handle him. They couldn’t handle anything by that stage. The substitutes had no impact and their play became more ragged.
Scott Parker lunged in on Vermaelen and knew immediately that he was off. We might have had more but who care. FIVE – TWO to the Arsenal.
It was one of those unforgettable games that we will think back to for years. I’m guessing that the White Hart Lane shop won’t be doing a special DVD this time! Maybe just a replica of Bale’s Oscar.
Who cares that it’s Monday morning, nothing can go wrong today!
We will return to earth at some point, we are still clinging on to fourth by just goals scored and we have Liverpool away next week. But time enough to think on that one later – we ARE fourth and we beat Spurs FIVE -TWO.
Now, what time does my Spurs supporting colleague get to work? I promise not to be any harsher than his text at 2:0!