Isn’t it strange how football can directly affect your life. For quite a while now, I’ve had the face of a man constantly screwed by a giant Whale penis or something, which yes, is crude, but I imagine it to be also very painful and that has been the overriding emotion as an Arsenal fan for months now.
Today, after a 5-2 win in what has been dubbed the ‘North London Demolition’, rather than the normal phrase of ‘North London Derby’, I sit here typing this positively skipping, which I must stress is purely figurative, as it would be damned hard to write a post whilst skipping. It’s brilliant how football has such a factor in emotions when it comes to the fans. I have a mate who lives his Rugby and has never experienced such an atavistic form of tribalism and in his words, he’s jealous of never being able to experience such emotions channelled through sport.
So, naturally, we’ll start in North London for today’s post, where Arsenal of course hammered Spurs 5-2.
First of all, much has been made of Arsenal’s worst side in fifteen years hammering Spurs’ best side for fifty years and my theory is that if Arsenal do indeed overhaul this seven point gap held by Spurs – which is far from beyond them – then the psychological damage inflicted on Spurs could last a life time. Having invested so much timy, money and effort into overhauling Arsenal as ‘top Dog’ in North London, how damaging must it be for Spurs, from boardroom level, down to the fans, to know your best team in 50 years is still inferior to possibly the worst Arsenal side in fifteen years.
I can’t remember in which book I read it, I think it must have been been a biography written on Arséne Wenger by Myles Palmer, and in said book, Arsene Wenger is quoted from an old interview, talking of how hard it was for his players when they lost their long unbeaten run to Manchester United after 49 matches. Arsene Wenger told of a great mental effort to go unbeaten for 49 matches and after having done it for so long, to then lose a match, found that his players had grown win-weary, unable to replicate what they’d just achieved. As a motivational tool, Wenger had told his charges they must prepare themselves to do it all again, to stay at the top, but was met with, ‘we’ve just gone unbeaten for 49 matches, we’re very tired, give us a break’.
Such a monumental effort had shattered his players and if Tottenham Hotspurs fail to finish above Arsenal this season, having held the high ground for so long, then there will be a similar feeling amongst the staff at Spurs.
To achieve Champions League football this season, Spurs have had to throw every competition they’ve entered to stand a chance. Rather than make progress in the Europa League and Carling Cup, Spurs made sure they were knocked out early in order to concentrate on achieving a spot in the top four. A replay against Stevenage in the FA Cup is unwanted and if it weren’t for Stevenage being relatively ‘easy’ opposition, even for Spurs’ second string, I would hazard a guess that Spurs would be out of the FA Cup too if they had their way.
So to throw competitions, brake Daniel Levy’s transfer policy of signing young with a sell-on value (Spurs signed Scott Parker, aged 31 and Emmanuel Adebayor, age 28, on a season-long loan, being paid masses in wages, which goes 100% against Spurs’ policy when it comes to signing players) and still finish below their enemy, would account for a monumental strike on Spurs’ mentality. As a consequence, an unsettled Luka Modric would once again ask to leave White Hart Lane and things could start to unravel.
Would Emmanuel Adebayor sign for Spurs permanently to compete for fourth? Would Rafael Van Der Vaart, a player approaching his last legs fancy competing for fourth spot every year? You also have to ask if Gareth Bale, Assou-Ekkoto, William Gallas, Younes Kaboul and Sandro would be that willing to stay if they’re going nowhere as club apart from fourth spot. Merely competing for fourth spot has seen the likes of Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri, Alex Hleb, Mathieu Flamini, Gael Clichy and Thierry Henry all depart Arsenal for a better shot at silverware. Third place in the Premiership is currently a trophy for Spurs and if Arsenal overhaul that gap, then a whole pile of things will start to happen at White Hart Lane., so it’s pivotal Spurs achieve their trophy of third spot.
As for the game itself, well, the start was quite phenomenal. Spurs started brightly for the first three minutes, scored a deflected goal and went a goal ahead, but after that, everything was Arsenal, there was no question who was winning a 50/50 challenge and twenty-one shots, thirteen of which were on target, paints a perfect picture of just how good Arsenal were offensively. Even after Spurs’ second goal after Bale had dived to win a penalty, you could sense Arsenal would get more chances and with the way Spurs were defending, you could sense that would come sooner rather than later.
When Arsenal did start on their road to a remarkable come back, it was Bacary Sagna of all people who really ignited Arsenal’s afternoon. Moments after Robin Van Persie had hit the post, a cross found Sagna’s forehead and sensing Spurs were rocking and that there were more goals to come, Sagna grabbed the ball and ran back to the half-way line, determined to ‘beat the enemy’. Van Persie indeed brought Arsenal level just a few minutes later, which a fantastic goal, totally befitting of the Dutchman, who is simply the best striker in the world right now. If it hadn’t been for injuries during his career, then Van Persie’s goal tally would have surpassed that of Thierry Henry by now, of that I’m sure.
In the second half, Arsenal continued as they had left things at half time, continually pressing Spurs into making mistakes, keeping the tempo of their passing and interchanges at an unbearably high level for Spurs to contest. Rosicky’s goal and Arsenal’s third of the afternoon personified what Arsenal are all about, with players from midfield scoring goals having been the orchestrator of said move. Rosicky started the move for his goal, and then duly finished it. Do you think it’s a coincidence that when in midweek, Tomas Rosicky and Cesc Fabregas ate dinner together in London, (Cesc presented at the Brit Awards) that Rosicky would score his first league goal for Arsenal in over fifty games? In my mind, I’d like to think Fabregas advised Rosicky on how to move and improve his goal tally. ‘Little Mozart’, as Rosicky has been known throughout his career, has always been blessed with a sublime touch, but has never been a prolific goalscorer. (or ‘assister’, for that matter) Hopefully, Rosicky’s goal sees the realisation of Rosicky’s technique, all be it late in his career.
If Rosicky personified Arsenal’s passing game yesterday, then it was Theo Walcott who moonlighted as Arsenal’s poster for inconsistency. In the first half, Theo was indecisive, poor on the ball nad was having a poor game. I will admit now as to thinking out-loud, ‘why have we not loaned Theo to Zenit rather than Arshavin?’ I found my reason in the second half when Theo scored a brace and put things beyond Spurs.
It’s difficult to remember that Theo is only twenty-two and at that age, is still developing. For this season, Theo now has five goals and seven assists to his name, which is great for a wide player. Not many wingers achieve such stats and that has to be recognised. Theo has a good return and although frustrating, his final ball is showing a marked improvement.
A magnificent day for Arsenal is hard to type up as an Arsenal fan, I could type forever and fail to justice with another 3,000 words on top of this one, so for now, I’m going to move on to yesterday’s Carling Cup Final…
Carling Cup Final
Now, whilst I saw only the first half of this match, I will say one thing; the quality of the Championship is improving every year, that gap is now a lot smaller and we’re seeing it proved in cup matches such as this one. Leicester City provided an excellent example when they beat Norwich City 2-1, away from home, in the FA Cup last weekend.
The stats do provide a story of sheer dominance on Liverpool’s part, as do pictures of a physically broken Rudy Gestede, who barely had the legs to take his penalty. Throughout 120 minutes of Cup Final football, Liverpool fired off 39 shots compared to Cardiff’s paltry total of 11. Whilst in regards of attacking play and use of the ball, in which Liverpool were superior, Cardiff must be commended for their discipline when it came to defending. In regard to professionalism, there isn’t much between Premiership and Championship, though Liverpool evidently had the upper edge when it came to quality, as you would expect of a Premiership side occupying the upper echelons.
After Joe Mason had opened the scoring for Cardiff, you sensed that this Cup Final has been somewhere before and it had, with Birmingham City beating Arsenal last season in a huge shock. Until the 60th minute, Cardiff appeared to be en route to doing the same, before Martin Skrtel equalised for Liverpool.
In extra-time, Dirk Kuyt took Liverpool into the lead on the 108th minute and with Cardiff all but done physically, there appeared to be one apparent victor in all of this. However, when I said that there isn’t much of a gap in professionalism, this is what I meant by it when Cardiff found their equaliser in the 118th minute through Ben Turner, who bundled in from a corner. Tired, but still able to turn the pressure on Liverpool, I’ll say it repeatedly until it’s widely recognised that Cardiff should be commended for their part in the Carling Cup Final.
Although Liverpool missed their first two penalties in the shoot-out, they still managed to win 3-2, presenting Liverpool with their first trophy in six years.
Sheffield Wednesday have felt the force of my ‘anger’ in recent weeks, with shocking results against the likes of Exeter City, Stevenage and Chesterfield Town. Having started the new season so brightly, Wednesday had been starting to fade and due to working closely with season ticket holders at Hillsborough, I was growing as frustrated as they were with how results were going.
Since the departure of Ben Marshall, it would seem Sheffield Wednesday have struggled for form, it’s no coincidence that Marshall’s departure from Wednesday’s attack has seen a very evident down turn in form. The loan signing of Sanchez Watt did nothing for Wednesday as the winger duly failed to adapt to life in Sheffield and John Bostock doesn’t offer the same threat Marshall can.
Whilst Wednesday aren’t an expansive team when it comes to playing football, they are solid, which has been the hallmark of many Gary Megson teams. Hard to brake down and difficult to score against at Hillsborough, Wednesday’s consistent home form at their fortress has been the building ground for this season and yesterday, Wednesday re-ignited their good work from earlier this season with a 1-0 win over Sheffield United.
Whilst the Blades started the better and generally looked the better side when it came to open play, they did look vulnerable to crosses and set-pieces, with Wednesday’s winner coming virtue of a cross, from which Chris O’Grady scored.
Though Sheffield Wednesday have not yet banished their demons after a dreadful run, hopefully, yesterday can provide a spark on which Wednesday can charge their promotions ambitions.
That’s all from me today, I’ll see you in the comments section!