Monday 18th December 2000
|The South London Wanderers finally got off the mark after a run of
five games without a goal scoring against Southampton (just). Boring Boring Arsenal !! With the
array of talented players they have available and the amount of money
they have spent, Arsene's Wenger Boys have failed to set the League
alight this season, as Man U run away with the title. Injuries
have hit his squad, but the depth that was perceived to be there has not
proved to be the case. Players being off their best form and
others not reaching the standards required have meant that the Gooners
have dropped off the pace and need to string together a run of results
to get back on the Red Devils' tail.
This being a London derby, don't expect it to be a spectacle, although it might open a few people's eyes. Tottenham come into the match with a good home record and while unbeaten, it has not been all plain sailing. It is another of the game sin the run up to Christmas which will test the team's resolve and allow measurement of their progress. While the passion might take some of the gloss off the game, it still means three points to the winner and is another game there to be won.
Adams, the heart of the Arsenal defence, has been suffering with all sorts of injuries this season, while Keown has been struggling in his absence. Silvinho is a more attacking back and leaves holes that have to be filled, usually by the midfield of Parlour, Vieira, Ljungberg and Lauren, who has cored a couple from midfield, but appears to have been off the boil since his appearances for Cameroon in the Olympics. Also playing at the back is Luzhny, who has still to impress in his role, while Grimandi is just there to make up the French numbers. At the spearhead of their attack is Thierry Henry, who's pace could damage any defence, but his finishing not what it was is in the poor scoring run he has gone through lately. Brought in to pep up the attack was Sylvain Wiltord, but his showings have been limited to coming from the bench mostly. When he has made a start, he has yet to settle in in the English game, so has not made a great impact. Bergkamp is still searching for his best form and seems to be favoured for use in short bursts by Wenger. Acting (well chosen term) as a supply line to the forwards is French winger Robert Pires, who ahs complained that the League is too rough. As this will be his first North London derby, I am sure some kind Spurs player is waiting to give him a traditional warm welcome to White Hart Lane. As Bachman Turner Overdrive once said "You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet"!
The most problematical position in the Arsenal team this season has been that of goalkeeper. This runs so deep that they have even had to call on John Lukic, who if he plays in this match, will be 40 years and one week old. Manninger has just returned from injury, but has yet to show the form he had on his first introduction to the first team and Seaman has shown he is slipping in his form - certainly not the keeper he was and certainly not England's No. 1 any longer. It is most likely that Manninger will be between the sticks and Spurs must test him to the full if they are to get anything from the match.
A battle from start to finish (which might not end with 22 players on the field after recent years) and a match that will be won on the taking of an opportunity created. Think that with the home advantage, Spurs might shock Arsenal by taking the lead, but be pegged back to share the points.
PREDICTION : - Tottenham 1 Arsenal 1
For more information on the opponents and their history, including full result history of matches between the two teams, click here.
|Tottenham 1 Arsenal 1 Monday
18th December 2000
Scorers: Spurs -
As North London derbies go, this will hardly stick in the memory. It was not a classic and there was little technically proficient football to commend it. It was all about earning the right to play, which Spurs did in the first half to a certain extent and Arsenal did in the second. It was a game of two halves and for most of the match, it looked like Sergei Rebrov's goal would be the deciding factor but then in the last minute, all that changed as the game ended in a fair draw.
The game started at a lively pace and Arsenal seemed to have learned from their defeat at White Hart Lane last season, as they were quick out of the blocks. Sergei Rebrov must have been shocked by the unrelenting speed that the game was played at and initially, there were few direct chances on goal. Fierce tackling and a struggle for midfield supremacy left the fans gasping, but the only victim was the ball, which took a fearful whacking. The rain falling did not help things, as it added pace off the surface and passes were being sprayed about without care, leading to most of them ending off the pitch. There were also a few rivalries being resumed, with the biggest awaiting the entry of Vieira to come up against Sherwood.
Despite all this Tottenham put together a good move down the right to earn a corner. Sailing over the heads of the Spurs forwards, it was headed out by Keown to Clemence, who laid the ball inside to Anderton. Dazza beat a man then shaped to hit a fierce right foot shot that Manninger could only push out. When the shot was struck, Ferdinand and Sherwood were standing in off-side positions, but it rebounded to Rebrov who dived in to head the ball downwards and past the Austrian keeper. His delight was plain to see and his team-mates also enjoyed the moment. Just after the goal, Spurs were awarded a free kick out on the right and instead of putting the Arsenal defence under further pressure, the ball flew harmlessly over the goalmouth and off for a goal kick. It was to be symptomatic of Tottenham's failure to convert pressure into goals.
The second half signalled a turn around in fortunes as Arsenal pressed forward in search of something from the game. When they did get through, they found Neil Sullivan in super form to deny them time after time. He pushed a low Henry shot towards the post and Perry cleared from the on-rushing Parlour; he ran out to block the Frenchman once again as he advanced into the area; the same player was left helpless when the ball rebounded off him from about a yard out, after Sully had stopped a Bergkamp drive and then the Spurs keeper made another stop when it looked like Perry might beat him with a header towards his own goal !!
It wasn't all one way traffic, as Spurs had chances in the second half, with Rebrov miscuing a volley set up by Thelwell and Anderton's low cross into the box was slid wide by Sherwood from short range. The best opportunity came when Clemence broke away on the left of the area and his low cross failed to reach a Spurs player in the middle. A bit more weight on it might have set up a second goal. Les lead the line magnificently tonight and suffered for his art, with a number of clashes of heads. One left him decidedly groggy and when GG decided to substitute him, Les didn't want to go off !! This left Sergei as the man who shortly after made way for Armo.
With time running out, Arsenal made a last throw of the dice and threw on Wiltord. A corner headed out by Perry proved decisive. As it was slung over into the box, Vieira pulled Les out of the way and stuck his header past Sullivan as the game approached 90 minutes.
Typical Tottenham; Typical Arsenal.
MEHSTG TOP MAN : - NEIL SULLIVAN
|With only three days to go, it
seemed like the shortest day would never get here. Just when you
thought it was safe to take a deep breath, the last minute comes into
sight and you know what will happen. The shortest day couldn't
come too soon.
The game consisted of a number of interesting decisions by the referee. Both goals were questioned on Sky Sports after slow motion replays. As these were unavailable to the official, he can hardly be adjudged to have made errors (mainly because he was unsighted for the Arsenal goal), but his other lack of consistency confused many present. He seemed prepared to let quite a lot go without punishment, while he booked Ferdinand for dissent after a lengthy bout of verbal exchange. He failed to do the same for Parlour, after the Arsenal midfielder took a flyer in the box, which saw the ref wave play on. There was also a two footed tackle towards the final quarter of the game by Vieira, which the ref let go, while Sherwood received a yellow for a similar offence on the same player.
Aside from the ref's actions, the game was a battle with little to show in terms of skill on the ball; however, Carr's nutmeg on Pires at the start of the second half should be shown regularly. This is the sort of skill we want to see from foreigners in the Premier League. For all the players on display, the passing was mostly off target or short, the movement was restricted as both sides pushed up and the finishing was not of the highest quality. The only aspect of the game that was worth watching was the goalkeeping of Neil Sullivan. While it is not possible to compare how Ian Walker would have performed (and remember it was his double save in the corresponding fixture last season that kept the points for Tottenham), Sullivan really showed his worth tonight. Up until now, it has not been clear if he really was a great deal better than Walks, but if he can maintain this sort of form, he could start earning Tottenham some points. If only they could convert the chances at the other end to capitalise on it. When Les was being treated after a head injury, he was told that he was on a hat-trick, so when he was summoned to the sidelines to be substituted, that was why he didn't want to go off !!
There was some stonewalling defence going on for Spurs with last ditch blocks and saving tackles, but Henry's pace became a vital factor in the second half as he ran away from the Spurs back men. His finishing was on target, but not strong enough to beat Sullivan, so, like so many times before, it was left until the dying seconds for them to equalise. In the end, the draw was probably fair, but this game proved that although there may not be the style there at the moment, Tottenham can play some football and slug it out when need be with the big boys. As a test, Tottenham achieved a pass. But then again, they always play well in the rain !!
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