Posts Tagged ‘North London Derby

30
Oct
08

Arsenal 4-4 Tottenham; the Good, Bad, and Ugly

Bentley's hero, Gazza, after he scored the shocker against Arsenal in 1991

The Good

It’s an Opportunity to Learn ™ that when you’re up 4-2 in 98th minute, you hold on to the ball.

It’s also an Opportunity to Learn ™ for Arsene Wenger that maybe, William Gallas isn’t the leader on the pitch that you think he is? More than smoking, drinking, and carousing at all hours, his utter lack of leadership on the pitch cost Arsenal 2 points yesterday. Individually, Gallas was fine, but when the chips were down, as we have seen time and again, Gallas disappeared. At the end of the game, when we needed him to instill confidence in Clichy, Gallas was nowhere to be seen.

Remember last year when Flamini was the one “geeing” everyone up on the pitch? If heads dropped a little Flamini would pull their chins up and get them back into the game. No one did that yesterday and I have to think that the failure to keep Flamini in this side has cost them dearly so far this year. Because while he wasn’t technically the best player, he was the water carrier and more than anyone else the emotional leader on the pitch. Arsenal obviously needed someone like that yesterday.

So, my glimmer of good here is that maybe, just maybe, Arsene will learn: the Gallas experiment is an utter failure, no one likes or respects him as captain; the Eboue experiment is similarly an utter failure, you brought him on to provide extra defense on the right wing at the end of a game we’re winning 4-2 and he failed you as he has done time and again; and most hurtful to your own pride, I think, is that the experiment where you refuse to buy an experienced midfielder and expect Cesc and the three-headed-hydra of Denilson, Song, and Diaby to do the job is most clearly not cutting it.

Statements like these make me hopeful that Arsene Wenger will shed his hubris, look in the mirror and he will do something:

I am angry. We have to look at ourselves and improve. The players are very down. We were two levels above Tottenham and they were there for the taking. It was damaging.

You’re damn right it was damaging, now fix it like I know you can.

The Bad

Almunia was dreadful.

Watching the game live and listening to the commentators I got the sense that the first goal wasn’t his fault but watch the video of that first goal again (if you can stomach it) Bentley sees that Almunia is way off his line, Almunia realizes this, and instead of scrambling to get back into position, he sort of hesitates… by the time he realizes his error the ball is already swirling and dipping and Alumina sort of half assed dives for it and… UGH. Almunia made Bentley look good there. The ball wasn’t struck into the top corner at impossible pace, it’s lobbed, right at the keeper, who is out in no man’s land.

Maybe Almunia will be an England number 1 after all, he was easily as bad as Paul Robinson ever was last night.

That hesitation on Almunia’s part, though, has to be attributed to the guys in front of him. If he knew where they were going to be, if he knew that they were going to close down space, if they could have dealt with the ball better he wouldn’t have worried at all.

Unfortunately, he wasn’t just dreadful on the first goal, he was dreadful all around: punching away corners that he should have collected, giving up rebounds for goals, ugh.

Frankly, I don’t know what Arsene does now. Strip Gallas of the captaincy? Put Vito Mannone in goal? Someohow inspire confidence? That’s what these kids need. A string of clean sheets and they’ll be back in it. Unfortunately, I have to think their confidence is shot and right now keeping a clean sheet against Stoke City on Saturday will seem like a miracle.

The Ugly

I was going to have a bit about Bentley and how he scored the goal by taking a gamble but then I went onto Arsenal.com and read what Arsene Wenger’s thoughts were after the match and… it’s really incredible.

He speaks as if we won the game or something: talking about how “we produced an excellent game and the positive side is that we were really superior to Tottenham.” No, no you were not. The score line doesn’t lie. They deserved those last two goals exactly because Arsenal DID NOT produce an excellent game. See, an excellent game is one in which you maintain focus for all 90 minutes and play defense for all 90 minutes.

I know, you all will say “what else is he supposed to say?”

Well, how about not trying to bullshit us? I don’t mind if you want to be chirpily optimistic, fine, but don’t try to pull the wool over our eyes. We all saw the game, Arsenal let in two goals in the last two minutes — had they not done that then yes, it would have been an excellent game.

But what’s most incredible is to hear him say that he wanted the team to go for a 5th and 6th goal:

I believe we were too cautious, we wanted to keep the ball in a negative way instead of scoring goals number five and six. We were not going forward with enough purpose and that is why we were punished.

You’re god damn right you try to keep the ball in a negative way up 4-2 in the 93rd minute; you dribble the fucking ball into the corner like all these other shit heels do GOD DAMNIT! Play the ball out, fall over and pull a god damn Eboue, do something but what you don’t do is attack!

Up 4-2 in the 90th minute and we’re attacking, because that’s what the manager wants. What are you people, on dope???

I said that the game would be a watershed for both teams in terms of this season. Unfortunately, I think that means Spurs aren’t going to make the drop but neither is Arsenal a serious title contender.  Defense wins championships and shipping two goals in the last two minutes is.. well.. indefensible.

Have at me.

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29
Oct
08

Mind the gap

I was wondering why the kickoff was scheduled for 1pm PST today and now I know: the rest of the world has moved their clocks back on a normal schedule, but we here in ‘Merica are not moving our clocks back until November.

* sigh*

Irregardless of U.S. clockism, the kickoff is 8pm GMT and unless you just awoke from a coma you know that Arsenal are hosting Tottenham Hotspurs in the first North London derby of the 2008/2009 season. Everyone is ramping up for the match with Adebayor looking for revenge, Red Action reminding us of so many great moments and calling for the supporters to be in full voice, and, contradicting Adebayor and the DVD dealers on Seven Sisters Lane, The Boss is playing down both the 5-1 loss last year and the effect that Redknapp could possibly have on the Spurs.

What is important is how well we will play – not who sits on the Spurs bench. In the longer term, he will change things for Spurs. But for this specific game, it is about how we play.

That’s a ballsy statement by Wenger, but it is the truth: we are at home, we are on form, we have a full squad to choose from, and we are a top club and they are a bottom club. Arsenal are the favorites here and we need to play like it: play our game, control the pace, frustrate them, take our chances, and let our discipline shine through.  If we can do that they will get frustrated and fall back on their old habits and then their indiscipline will come to the fore. In a lot of ways this game could be a watershed moment for both clubs — as Wenger says — depending on how they play.

How we play will largely be a reflection of the team that Arsene picks. There’s some speculation that he will pick 2 goal/3 assist Denilson to start along side Cesc today, but even the dot com is using qualifiers in picking him as one of the key matchups today. That’s only natural, since Le Boss is talking about rotating the squad and the impact that his super subs might have. It’s kind of foolish to speculate but I suspect that Arsene is planning on bringing Theo on late tonight — especially if we find ourselves behind.

So, let’s not find ourselves behind! Right?

Finally, if you want to have a laugh, The Times Online’s “The Game” subsection is seriously comparing Arsenal’s 7 trophies to Spurs 2 in some vain attempt to show that “the gap” between the two clubs isn’t as wide as some think.  Uhhh… right.

Ok, I’m off to the tub to get ready for work. Many of us (Spurs and Gooners alike) are meeting up at Doyle’s for a replay of the match at 3pm local time, join us if you are in town and remember not to mention the score if you see me!

Up the Arse!

28
Oct
08

This North London derby could get kinda ‘arry


I’ve said it before, as a relatively new supporter (just 10 years) I have to admit that I see Chelsea as more of a rival than Tottenham. Sure, there was the lasagna season and that was a bit of a close call as far as Tottenham pushing us for a rivalry but really, with Chelsea the competition has been going strong now for 8 years solid.

Even still, the North London derby is always a great match and has produced so many iconic moments — Theirry Henry’s goal at the lane, Adebayor’s goal of the season last year, the DVD inspiring 5-1 loss in the Carling Cup — and I have a feeling that this match will turn out no different. Especially with Pompey old boss Redknapp recently taking over.

Frankly I was hoping that Juande Ramos would cling to the rim of the flushing toilet that was Spurs season long enough to stay in charge of the team for this clash but unfortunately he was replaced.  Of course, immediately Spurs are hailing the new boss as the difference maker with Pavlyuchenko saying that

During today’s [Monday] training session, everybody was smiling at last – recently, players had looked rather sulky. I hope after the victory we should have a breakthrough.

It’s a little early to be claiming a breakthrough but still all of their hope is certainly a worry. It’s such an abundance of hope that their supporters are already talking about “top four” status again. Sure, focus on getting out of relegation this year, but then top four here they come!

But that’s the life of a Spurs supporter I guess: irrational exuberance. I only know two and they seem like decent enough guys but the guy that Arsenal.com found to put together comments ahead of the match is completely nuts.

Arsenal didn’t play particularly well at West Ham but Spurs did play well against Bolton so you never know what will happen.

Yes, that 2-0 win for Arsenal wasn’t particularly good… Sorry but, Robin van Persie and the rest of the world disagrees. When asked whether he thinks that ‘arry Redknapp can fire Spurs off the foot of the table, RvP responded with an emphatic:

I don’t know and I honestly don’t care. The game against Spurs is one on its own and it’s a big one, irrespective of where they are in the table. They won their first game on Sunday, which is great for them, but we’ll see what happens on Wednesday. It was a massive win for us against West Ham that proved we have the resilience to challenge for the league.

I love it. See, Arsenal players know that every game counts toward winning the league and that’s what this team is trying to do this year. RvP rightly dismisses all the psychoanalysis and reminds everyone that Arsenal mean business.

Yes, it’s a big match. Yes, their opponents are buyoued by the appointment of a new manager and a lucky win over an inconsistent squad like Bolton. But this is a north london derby and Arsenal would be up for the challenge whether Tottenham were at the top of the table rather than the foot. Simple as that.

As for squad selection, God himself couldn’t tell you who ‘arry Redknapp will choose other than to say that Gareth Bale and Michael Dawson won’t be available due to their indiscipline against Hull. Arsene, meanwhile has basically a full squad (Rosicky and Eduardo don’t count!) at his disposal and I suspect that we will see Sagna return to the starting lineup. Other than Sagna, again, God himself couldn’t tell you for sure who Arsene will play. I think the team we fielded against West Ham would do nicely against Spuds but Wenger’s been kinda erratic with lineups this season owing to the 18 headed hydra that is occupying Flamini’s vacated spot, so I won’t be so bold as to predict who will get the start at midfield.

No… wait… I see through the hazy mist of the Dragon’s breath that Arsene will play a 4-5-1 with both Diaby and Song partnering Cesc in the center of the park, Nasri out left, Theo out right, Adebayor up front and a back four of Sagna, Silvestre, Gallas, and Clichy.

See, like a Spurs fan I too can make shit up.

Anyway, the match is a late kickoff over in England and so it’s being carried here in the afternoon. Doyle’s is going to record the match for us and a bunch of us are going down there to watch the replay of the game at 3pm local time. Stop by if you want to cheer on the boys but don’t tell us the score!

P.S. Tony Adams has been named coach of Pompey, which nearly completes Pompey’s transformation into Arsenal South. Good for him, may Pompey finish just behind Arsenal in all competitions.




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