Another North London derby, another derby loss and, predictably, a load of doom and gloom predictions against Arsenal. If you have read my previous posts, then you will know that I am a largely optimistic supporter. Today, however, I do not feel I am being optimistic but simply realistic.
I was going to write an article midweek about how we should have a reality check. Just as I try not to get too pessimistic after a defeat, I try not to be overly optimistic when we win. Today, however, the doom and gloom foretellers have found their voices again. I find it unbelievable how negative some people can be (I don’t mean Arsenal fans in particular; I’m mainly pointing at the media).
I think that today was another top North London derby which Spurs edged. I don’t think that it’s indicative of the change of power in North London. And I definitely think that we will get somewhere this season with these performances. People love to take signals from the game, to take our performance and predict how bad the rest of the season will be. But I honestly believe that we played quite well today. We are being heavily criticised for ‘fragility at the back’: what fragility? Yes we let Sandro (I think it was him anyway) run unmarked from a throw in which then eventually led to a cracking strike from Walker and a goal, but apart from that, we kept their attacking players relatively quiet. I know that most take crunching tackles and body on the line stops as great defending (and it is) but this is actually living on the edge and is indicative of a stretched team. True top class defending is, as a team, not offering them these opportunities in the first place.
They have many top class players such as Modric, Bale, van der Vaart and Adebayor, so limiting their opportunities is no mean feat at all. I think that Gibbs, on the left, had a great game and is the reason why Van der Vaart was so quiet. The centre backs, while not terrific, were (in my opinion) solid. Mertesacker kept Adebayor largely in check and Song was composed, while also getting a very handy assist. All in all, we gave them only three clear cut opportunities: Parker (who never looked likely to score), Adebayor (who produced a superb save from Sczcesny) and Bale at the end, who got the better of Jenkinson. And, when talking about clear cut chances, we had a few of our own: Gervinho’s gaping miss and Walcott’s curler which went over the bar. Our problems came from the right back position, when Sagna was replaced by Jenkison. I feel for the lad, as in the two EPL matches he has played in, he has been up against Ashley Young and Gareth Bale, two world class players. I think that it’s ironic that their two goals came from possibly their two most difficult opportunities, the strike which Sczcesny, perhaps, should have done better with and Van der Vaart’s finish.
This brings me something which most have overlooked. I know that this sounds like griping but the Van der Vaart goal was a debacle of refereeing. I can understand that the referee might have missed it but the linesman? That’s poor, especially when you consider that a deliberate handball is, by the rules, a second yellow, which would have had the man sent off. I see it as a Thierry Henry vs. Ireland incident. If this wasn’t bad enough, the referee then refuses to book him when he celebrates with the fans, which should also have resulted in a sending off! A sending off for celebrating with the fans is probably very harsh but the rest of it is perfectly legitimate.
We should also not forget that this defensive performance was with three CBs missing and our DM filling in. Though I think that Coquelin had a good match, can you imagine how much more secure we would have been had there been another natural CB with Mertesacker, and Song covering them? But I think that Song will learn from the experience and come back as an even better player for it.
The defensive display was especially good when you consider that Liverpool went to the Lane just two weeks ago and were hammered 4-0. And yet people still think that they are bigger contenders for fourth spot? This doesn’t quite sit right.
In conclusion, I think that our defensive display has been misread and that the mistakes that we did make in the game have been blown out of proportion by the media. Furthermore, I don’t think that our display means anything great for the future (though, of course, it is a disappointing three points dropped and we must get back to winning as soon as possible). There is also a strong case for uneven footing in the game, the odds being tilted towards Tottenham, for two reasons: we had two first choice CBs injured as opposed to their one second choice CB injured and also because I believe that they scored one illegitimate goal and should have had a man sent off. I, for one, will be accepting the defeat and moving on and looking forward to the rest of the season. This after seeing my Arsenal looking sharp again, playing football that is nearing our best and being just edged out of a thrilling North London derby.
by SV Gunner