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Monday 3 October 2011

Hats (or Helmets) Off To Spurs

Apologies for pinching a few lines from my previous post, for my piece for the Irish Examiner below (I couldn't resist repeating the image of Arsène as our very own Pol Pot!)

I'm not sure if our ability to compete in yesterday's game was due to an improvement compared to our recent lamentable form, or the fact that the home side had an off day. Perhaps it was more a case of Spurs not being able to adapt from their former mindset, where traditionally they are accustomed to going into these Derby games as outright underdogs? Their fans were undoubtedly nervous, as few of them have ever experienced the feeling of encountering the Gunners as favourites for a win and perhaps this was reflected in their team's apparent timidity for much of the first-half.

Yet while we might have controlled much of the possession for the first 45, the principal difference between the two sides was that Spurs two efforts on goal were both on target, while we failed miserably to test Brad Friedel, with the Spurs goal gaping for Gervinho.

I was particularly disappointed with the dreadlocked Frenchman, as he all too frequently failed to remain on his feet, in his contest with Spurs' lightweight schnip of a left back. His was a strangely hesitant performance, considering he's capable of creating such havoc with his directness (even if he rarely looks to be in full control of the ball). I was equally discouraged by Walcott's display. Contrast Theo's reluctance to run with the ball and his overall lack of involvement, to that of Gareth Bale when he was allowed to build up a head of steam!

In fact based on his contribution (or lack thereof) in recent weeks, quite frankly I'm surprised Walcott's earned another England call up. To my mind Theo's body language suggests he's not overly enamoured to find himself playing in a struggling side and when we most need the likes of Theo to be racing off with the ball down to the other end of the pitch, you get the impression that he didn't sign up for a role in which he's obligated to spend much of the match tracking back.

And if Walcott is disillusioned with the Gunners lack of success, it's hard to imagine Van Persie wanting to put pen to paper, to commit himself to several more seasons surrounded by such mediocrity.

It wasn't all bad, as Francis Coquelin certainly did himself justice, putting in a decent shift. But the French youngster is positively naive, compared to the wilyness of the likes of Scott Parker and his ability to snuff out a flame before the outbreak of dangerous fire. Yet while the Gunners looked up for the battle early on, what bothered me most was that there where 17 minutes left on the clock when Spurs took the lead for the second time and where once we might've laid siege to the Spurs goal, in our efforts to ensure that we came away with our pride intact, on this occasion it felt far more likely that they were going to score a third.

At one point you had the bizarre scene of our lumbering "big f***in' German" standing on the halfway line, while our centre-forward dropped back to defend a corner and it seemed to me that our failure to conjure up a single effort on goal during that final 15 minutes, reeked of the Gunners lack of self-belief.

I'd love to be able to put a brave face on yesterday's game, but while the sacrifice of three points might not be such a big deal in the great scheme of things, I fear the long term loss of the unsung Sagna might be!

Keep the faith

The best thing about the short trip to Tottenham is that I can get there (and back) on my motorbike in no more than 10 minutes. Arriving at White Hart Lane on Sunday, I had to ask a small firm of Spurs fans to move, as they were standing, sinking a few tinnies on the last parking pitch on the pavement.

Having parked up and attached my crash helmet to the lock on the side of the bike, I stood there shooting the breeze, in the hope of ingratiating myself sufficiently to dissuade them from doing any damage. But it was a daft mistake to admit my Arsenal allegiance. After they’d jokingly put the thought in my head, I spent the remainder of the afternoon fretting about the prospect of returning to find they’d left a nasty present for me in my crash helmet!

Now that really would constitute “taking one for the team” if the Gunners had managed to turn Sunday’s encounter around to achieve a result, only for me to have to suffer a return journey with my head jammed inside a urine soaked helmet! Unlike the cliché shots of friends and family sat side by side in red & blue shirts, enjoying the Merseyside Derby, unfortunately, in modern times, we’ve invariably experienced a decidedly loathsome edge to the North London equivalent.

In the past I’ve often believed we’ve had karma on our side, whenever the Spurs Neanderthals have resorted to their paedophile taunts of Le Prof. But on Sunday I had to stop myself from joining in with the Gooners beyond the pale chant of “shot in Angola, it should’ve been you” aimed at Adebayor. I was fearful that we were only providing the Togolese Judas with added motivation to let his feet do the talking. But it was hypocrisy in the extreme to hear Harry Redknapp castigating us Gooners, when en masse, his own fans have been incessantly guilty of equally vitriolic and racist abuse.

Redknapp might’ve managed to rejuvenate the lanky front-man for the moment, but I will be amazed if this renaissance continues on into the bleak mid-winter. Harry will have to prove himself a better man-manager than any of Adebayor’s managerial predecessors, if he isn’t to end up tearing his hair out, when the lazy striker’s initial enthusiasm begins to wane and he’s left loafing around on the halfway line.

Mercifully Adebayor failed miserably to live up to all the pre-match hype. Yet I suppose it was only fitting that an individual performance didn’t steal the show, on an afternoon when Spurs proved the advantage of having a more well-rounded squad. Although, in truth, considering we rolled up there in absolute dread of the sort of rout experienced by the Scousers, I imagine most Arsenal fans were pleasantly surprised to see us dominate possession for large periods of this match. However in the end, this only made the eventual outcome so much more depressing, knowing we weren’t that far from a result that might’ve rescued me from my fate of several months worth of gleeful mickey-taking from my Spurs mates.

As the single most consistent and reliable defender in our squad for many seasons, probably the most significant outcome of the afternoon was the tragedy that befell Bakary Sagna. I adore Carl Jenkinson’s committed attitude, but he lacks both the experienced nous and the pace of Sagna and our reliance on such a callow youth over the coming months is only likely to add to Arsène’s woes.

It’s no great secret why the flakiness of a backline that’s beset by injuries is being exposed week after week. In the past the Arsenal have been able to compensate for such inadequacies, with our ability to retain control of possession for such large periods. So it stands to reason that so long as the current ensemble insists on gifting the ball back to the opposition, as they struggle to orchestrate the same tippy-tappy, mazy passing patterns that have so frustrated opponents in the past, our porous defence is bound to come under that much more scrutiny.

Le Prof finds himself cast as the Arsenal’s very own Pol Pot, presiding over the dawn of day one in an entirely new Gooner calendar. Perhaps this squad will begin to gel as the new boys find their feet and Arsène eventually settles on his best XI, but at present the Gunners appear to be an entirely different creature to the one we’ve grown accustomed to in recent times.

In the absence of Wilshere and unless Arteta is to discover the energy and the same third-eye perception of his predecessor, perhaps we need to drop our former soubriquet as “the entertainers”, so we can rapidly develop the required resilience, which will enable us to make up for what we now might lack in pure artistic flair, with honest graft, commitment and team-spirit?

Meanwhile how times have changed. I always used to despair at the annoying interruption of International breaks, whereas nowadays I’m grateful (I’m guessing as is le Gaffer) for the welcome relief of some respite.

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Anonymous said...

There's nothing racist about saying someone washes elephants. Stop playing the race card at the drop of a hat.

Anonymous said...

nothing racist?

what is it meant to be then? A factual comment?

enlighten me as to WHY a link was drawn between adebayor's father and washing elephants, if not racially motivated?

glenny said...

our songs were certainly not racist. offensive yes. Also note these songs about campbell and adebayor were criticised by harry redknapp, thus freeing him from the hypocrisy you claim. just wanted to make this point.

Anonymous said...

Harry has always criticised any supporters (even his own) for vile chanting. Please don't try and justify chanting yesterday from Arsenal fans by saying spurs fans did it first. The fact is that both clubs have some supporters who are a disgrace to football. From the hissing noises, the wenger chants and the adebayor stuff (both sides), neither side can claim the moral high ground.

londonN17 said...

Shouldnt your email be

McTavish said...

Good article. I too applaud Jenkinson's heart. Or maybe it is so evident because it is lacking in so many other players. I like the Pol Pot comparison, but I think Napoleon is also pretty accurate. When his triumphs had turned to catastrophic defeat.

Anonymous said...

Bale, Bale will tear you apart, again.....Bale, Bale will tear you apart, again ! North London is Ours, back to Woolwich for you lot...Acton_Yid

Anonymous said...

it is arsenal scum who are neaderthuls, we have passion and love our club, you are just useless, moany, wankers who want to betray the best thing that has ever happened to your small club ever just for one bad season. personall as a sspurs fan i found it refreshing to hear songs from arsenal fans, albeit offensive ones, as it is about the only time i have ever heard them sing in my life! would also like to add, its been a while since you scummers beat us aint it

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MrSanityCheck said...

Spurs fan here. Fair article, if maybe a bit too hard on your own team.

Most importantly, was your bike helmet urine drenched as feared?

Anonymous said...

Another Spurs fan here. MrSanityCheck is right, you are a bit too harsh on your own team. Agree about the underdog thought process - crossed my mind during the game, almost like we couldn't believe we could beat you. However, disagree about our LB - any Spurs fan will tell you Benny has been one of our most consistent performers the last couple of seasons.

elwehbi@ibleedhotspur said...

Spurs supporter here.

After seeing how Arsenal were lining up in the midfield, I felt we were in for a very long evening. We had no way of breaking through, except off the counter-attack or the much-dreaded long ball. Still, where I felt we were successful was taking RVP and Walcott out of the match (or they just didn't show up themselves).

Till we meet again at the Emirates. Cheers!

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

i would just like to add that calling someone an elephant washer cannot be racist.nor can calling your best mates dad a bin man.they are both legitimate employment opportunities providing a needed service to paying customers.

Anonymous said...

Oh dear, oh dear. How the mighty have fallen.

Anonymous said...

It's amazing that those people who call the Adebayor chant racist are the same ones who see nothing wrong with calling Bale a sheep shagger. They are the same thing.

The most digusting chants about Adebayor came from idiot gooners who said it should have been him killed on the bus. They saw nothing wrong with that.

Would these idiots dare say this to people who survived thr 9/11 bombings?