Monday 25th April 2005
A North London derby always has a lot of meaning ... even if there is little to play for. This one will see Spurs trying to secure the three points to cement their charge for a place in the UEFA Cup and Arsenal will be seeking to keep in Matty Mateccal (as Arsene says) touch of retaining their title, whoever slim that might seem now. Second place in the league means that the club will not need to qualify for the Champions League, so there is still that to play for with Manchester United the other team in contention. Of course, those two sides meet in the FA Cup Final in four weeks time, so the players might have that on their minds too ... not wanting to pick up an injury or Wenger resting some to make sure they do not get suspended.
With all the poor results Spurs have had against London sides this season, their best performances in the League have been reserved for the top sides away from home. 0-0 at Chelsea and Man U, 2-2 at Liverpool and a 1-0 win at Everton. A good result at Highbury would complete the set.
It may be more difficult that the others, as the Gooners will have been wounded by the draw at Chelsea in the week, even though they played well by all reports and the fact that they have not been as invincible as they like to think they are.
Much of that has been due to the paucity of the squad. Top names flow from the lips ... Henry, Vieira, Reyes, Ljungberg ... but beyond them, there is little to back it up. Cygan, Senderos, Flamini, Toure ... not names to send you running for the door. Of course they have suffered injuries and like all other clubs, it is about how you deal with them. Tottenham have had seasons with a long sick list, but now, the squad has cover in all positions. Maybe not as high quality names as Arsenal, but good player who can come in and perform a duty as required.
The other problem has been the defence. Chopping and changing because of suspension and injury and then the indecision over the keeper's position has meant that they have been unsettled and they have suffered from a confidence in the men in front and behind them. Mido might make an impact as they will be unused to facing such a physical presence in attack.
Without Michael Brown, Vieira might feel relieved that there will not be someone snapping at his heels all game. However, whoever comes in for Tottenham will need to do that job and Sean Davis is capable of performing that task. The wide midfielders will need to be vigilant to make sure runs up the line by Cole and the right sided full back are limited. And the possession that Tottenham do come into must not be cheaply given away like it was at times against Albion.
I can foresee Kanoute (if fit and Mido, if not) and Keane starting with Defoe coming into the action later on to add some pace and ingenuity into the attack. Especially if the Arsenal defenders are tiring.
The defence need to be alert to make sure there is no repeat of the five goals conceded in the first meeting of the season. And I am sure that Martin Jol will have them focused on their jobs to keep the Arsenal forwards at arm's length. Henry, if he plays, will provide the pace to the attack, but with only a few chances, he might stick one away. This will mean that our poor away goal return will have to be boosted with some of our own.
We might see a tight game, fought out in midfield and the chances being created could be few and far between. However, I have a sneaking feeling that there might be something special about this game. Even if the game does not end the way I think it might, I reckon this might mark the game that sees Spurs being able to give Arsenal a real game. Everything is set up for Spurs to take the next step and this might just be the first move in that direction.
PREDICTION : - Arsenal 1 Tottenham Hotspur 2
For more information on the opponents and their history, including full result history of matches between the two teams, click here.
ARSENAL : Mathieu Flamini (leg); Gael Clichy (foot); Thierry Henry (groin); Frederic Ljungberg (hip);
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR : - Noe Pamarot (knee); Pedro Mendes (broken toe); Michael Brown (suspended); Michael Brown (suspended); - (-);
|Arsenal 1 Tottenham Hotspur 0 (Half-time score : 1-0)|
|Premier League||Venue : Highbury|
|Monday 25th April 2005||Kick Off : 20.00 p.m.|
|Crowd : 38,147||Referee : Mike Riley (Leeds)|
|Weather : Mild, light rain|
|Teams : -|
Van Persie (Bergkamp 69)
Kanoute (Mido 71)
|Colours : - (kits courtesy of http://www.colours-of-football.com)|
|Scorers : -|
|Cards : -|
Davis (foul) 18
|Match Report : -|
|A London derby = another
defeat, so we shouldn't be so surprised and from the action that passed
before us, we should be grateful that we only conceded once. But
then Robbie could have nicked a point at the death like he should have
done at Chelsea earlier this season.
So perhaps the hordes of Blues watching on TV who were cheering us on deserved the wait for their title celebrations. But for Spurs, the tired legs and tired minds have to be geed up for the next three games, which they have to win to get into Europe.
Whether that will happen now is doubtful. Having been given an expert lesson in passing and movement, we need to step our own game up to do well. Too many times in the first half Tottenham gave away cheap possession and had to chase after red shirts to try and get it back. For many, the ability to hold onto the ball seemed a difficult skill and that allowed the home side to run the midfield and easily mop up at the back.
Reyes could have started the damage within 47 seconds, as he took Fabregas' pass and raced away round Robinson and then hit his shot wide of a gaping goal. Spurs picked up the pace of the game and edged forward tentatively. Kanoute hit a weak shot wide and then Toure just beat Jermain Defoe to Fredi's cross after ten minutes and the ball ended up in Lehmann's arms. Three minutes after, Defoe turned Toure neatly on the edge of the box and produced a delicate ship that floated a foot wide with Lehmann scrambling back to goal. Jermain had an even better attempt on 17 minutes, as he took the ball just inside the area and hit a powerful shot that the keeper blocked. On this occasion, he might have been better placing it wide of the flopping German.
Then, Arsenal were ahead. A pass through the left hand channel saw Fabregas pick out Reyes and he took the ball into the area before striking a low drive past Robinson that flew just inside the post. The pace that Arsenal were hitting Spurs on the break was lightening fast, but most of the time Dawson and King in the centre of the Tottenham defence were up to it and prevented them passing through. However, when Spurs tried to match the tempo, they lost the ball, with Fredi being the main culprit and then they had their work cut out to get it back.
King threw a great block as van Persie hit a shot on goal and from a long free-kick from Cole was headed wide by Vieira, who had a free header. In between Tottenham had a free-kick of their own. 35 yards out, Defoe played the ball to Reid, but it was five yards too near Fabregas, who won the ball easily and the opportunity had gone. With the half coming to an end, van Persie got away on the edge of the box and hit a fierce drive which flew outside of the post and then Edman was on his toes to block a Fabregas volley to keep the gap one goal at the half-time whistle.
Into the second half, Spurs tightened up a bit and made life a little more difficult for Arsenal. We were missing Michael Brown getting under Vieira, who had the run of the pitch tonight, while other players sat off the Arsenal men, leaving them more time than they should have had to make their decisions on passes and runs.
Spurs suffered a spate of second half bookings, as Mike Riley made up for just speaking to players in the first half. How Lauren avoided joining the yellow card gang with an elbow into Edman's head and Lehmann escaped a red for throwing Jermain Defoe to the floor for stepping on his foot, which the Spurs striker did not do, I will never know. It was exactly the same offence that he perpetrated to conceded the last minute penalty exactly a year ago at the Lane. The ball wasn't in play this time, but the same thing happened.
Spurs had some more occupation in the Arsenal area, with Dawson nodding a corner over the bar and Defoe almost hitting the Clock end boxes, while Senderos headed a clear chance over from a free-kick. Another free-kick almost caught out Robbo, as it was touched short to Toure, who hit a swirling shot that fizzed just over the bar. Contrast this with Andy Reid's free-kick that flew high and fifteen yards wide !!
Edu came on and ran through unchallenged to chip Pires' pass onto the outside of the post and Reyes missed an easier chance than the one he scored, when they worked the ball between their players for ages and he was in on the left, but this time, he hit the side-netting and not the back of it.
Arsenal were soaking up the pressure that Spurs were trying to impose, but the supply into the box was not great and when Lehmann got a cross, he threw it out and within seconds, they were advancing on our goal with Bergkamp curling a shot five yards wide. Then Edman threw himself in front of Edu when he had been played in on the left of the penalty box to stop another effort on goal.
Then with four minutes to go, Spurs were denied the point they so richly did not deserve.
Reid popped up on the left wing and slung in a cross that Senderos got underneath and Keane snuck in behind him to have a free header, but he took his eye off the ball and it caught his shoulder as it went through and bounced off it, wide of the goal. Then, with time running out, a long pass through into the Arsenal box was being shielded off by Cole, but under pressure from Keano, he fell and appeared to use his arm to knock the ball off. Riley might well have been unsighted, but where was the linesman ?? No penalty then, just another corner, that came to nothing.
The final whistle brought to an end one of the most one-sided 1-0 wins you might witness.
Dawson did well and Carrick covered a lot of ground and played some perceptive passes to white shirts. Ledley was very good and brought the ball out well, while Reid and Kanoute had stinkers. A patchy team effort, when you needed everyone to pull together.
Our ten efforts on goal were hardly memorable and better will need to be shown against Villa, Boro and Blackburn. Even better than that will be required if we do get a European place.
MEHSTG TOP MAN : - MICHAEL CARRICK
|PACE AND PASS|
|With a display of passing and
movement that left Tottenham chasing all over the pitch, Arsenal won
this match, but could easily have dropped two points at the death.
There were periods of this game when Spurs moved the ball neatly between themselves, making little triangles and finding white shirts with crisp passes, but as soon as the ball got into the last third, it got turned over to the home players on many occasions, with control or accuracy letting them down. This increased the pressure on the Spurs team, who were then out on the back foot and were stunned by the pace at which the passes were exchanged between the Arsenal players.
The fact that Arsenal only ended up with one goal was a mystery, but then Spurs might have got on the scoresheet with a little more composure for Defoe and a little more concentration from Keane at the end, when he missed a clear chance by not getting his head to the ball.
On the plus side, Dawson had a stern test, but won most things in the air at the back and showed that he was not fazed by the experience, while the pairing of Davis and Carrick knocked the ball between them comfortably for a while, but when Davis tired and Carrick got surrounded by red shirts, things became a bit harder to get the ball moving.
Davies tired hard with little support to give the ball to and Defoe looked like he was up for it, with two early shots, but then faded and his movement became more limited resulting when he was substituted. Keane made some more annoying closing down, but the Arsenal defence always had an "out" ball. Kanoute looked as though he was up for it, but his ability to hold the ball and to hit the target let him down. This ended up with his frustration in throwing himself for a penalty that was (rightly) not given and then throwing the ball down and getting booked for it. Vieira also chucked himself to the turf before anyone was near him and looked for the spot-kick, but Riley got that decision right too. Perhaps he got the one where Cole threw a block in his own box and slid the ball off the pitch using an arm, but the ref was not best placed (nor his linesman in sight).
Two things he did see but did nothing about were the blatant elbow by Lauren into Edman's face. Not for the first time this season, Edman made light of it and that might have been why no action was taken. If only Arsenal players could act in the same manner. The other incident saw Jens Lehmann do his normal Gerry mental man trick by pretending players were stepping on his toes at a corner. Going mad, he threw his arms about until he finally lost it and pulled Defoe to the floor as the corner was about to be taken. A talking to was all he got and I always thought that raising your hands was a sending off offence ??
Ledley King has come out today and said Spurs paid Arsenal too much respect. Apart from giving them the space to play the ball as they wanted, there was a lack of nastiness in the side that should have met the force that Arsenal handed out with equal force. Not anything beyond the laws of the game, but enough to make the home side think twice about what they would be able to get away with.
While we have improved against the top sides - this being our only defeat by a top five side away from home - it is our form against the lower sides that causes me to think that any missing out on a UEFA place might be because we cannot profit from on the paucity of quality at the lower end of the table.
Not a game that we were ever likely to win, but one in which there was a reasonable effort put into. Hopefully, this time next year, things will look even more rosy.
|Other scores this weekend :|
|Aston Villa||1||Bolton Wanderers||1||Saturday|
|Blackburn Rovers||0||Manchester City||0||Saturday|
|Middlesbrough||4||West Bromwich Albion||0||Saturday|
|Norwich City||1||Charlton Athletic||0||Saturday|
|Manchester United||2||Newcastle United||1||Sunday|
|Other midweek scores :|
|West Bromwich Albion||1||Blackburn Rovers||1||Tuesday|
|18||West Bromwich Albion||35||5||15||15||33||58||30||-25|
Back to homepage