For all of a certain spuds players bravado this week, Spurs haven’t actually won a league match away against any of the big 4 in more then 16 years. To be honest.they never really looked liked changing that today.
So onto the team, Almunia was recalled back into goal and the usual defence (Clichy, Gallas, Vermaelen and Sagna) sat behind what I suppose was a 5 man midfield (Fabregas, Song, Arshavin, Diaby and Bendtner) with RVP up front. The spuds had a few injuries which meant Bentley started (to a rousing reception to the Arsenal fans ) and Crouch also played making Arshavin seem even more of a dwarf then normal. The crowd were hyped, the ref (Clattenburg) all set to miss numerous spurs hand balls throughout the game yet pull us up on our one and only, and so the 164th North London Derby began.
I had hoped after the fiasco last week against West Ham that we would be really up for it today. The fans certainly were and in his programme notes Cesc stated that the painful 4-4 draw from last season was giving the players motivation but quite frankly you could have fooled me. The first 40 minutes were like no north London derby I have ever seen, maybe it was the morning kick off but both Spurs and Arsenal seemed half asleep. We were poor, they were worse, it was slow paced with noone really chasing after the ball, sloppy passing and little drive and determination from either team.
‘Highlights’ from the first 40 minutes included Bentley lucky to get away without a yellow after a handball and a bad challenge on Vermaelan, Bentdner and Arshavin both having shots goalwards but neither looking like going in, Robbie Keane saw a headed effort go to the left of the post, Fabregas had a shot well saved by Gomes and Arshavin also had another few efforts, one off target and one blocked but we still didn’t look like we had really got out of 2nd gear and after about 35 minutes Bendtner hobbled off to be replaced by Eduardo. The crowd were getting frustrated, Diaby really was appalling and a half time cuppa was looking inviting (in fact I know of one fan who was sent by his mates to get the beers in early and missed the last 5 minutes of the 1st half – theres a lesson in that somewhere…) when suddenly, out of the blue, it happened! We only went and flipping scored! Robin Van Persie pushing home a cross from Sagna that Gomes really should have done better with as it slipped under him. Cue much celebration, yet before we had even taken our seats again, Palacios just gifted possession to Fabregas from the kick off and he ran through a stock still spurs defence to slot coolly past Gomes. 2 goals in about 11 seconds! What a turnaround! Half time much more cheerful for the home fans then they thought a few minutes earlier.
At the start of the 2nd half we still seemed to be in second gear and its clear that thoughts of West Ham were preying on some gooners minds. Thankfully the 2 quick goals seemed to have knocked the stuffing out of Spurs so our lackadaisical play wasn’t too much of a problem though I fear if we had been playing Chelsea or Manchester United we could have suffered and things might have gone differently. Bentley had a good effort from a free kick saved well by Almunia but they rarely threatened and we had quite a nice little game of keep ball which the fans enjoyed (briefly distracting them from enquiring of David Bentley what the score was…) Then on the hour with the Spurs defence fairly static presuming a free kick after a foul on Eduardo, Clattenberg actually got something right for once and waved advantage and Robin Van Persie slotted home (again) inside the 6 yard box from another Sagna pass (again) Bacary proving wrong all the gooners who have derided his crossing for most of this season with two assists in one game. A rousing rendition of “are you Tottenham in disguise?” followed as the Arsenal faithful relaxed a little more. Robbie Keane went off shortly after (we presumed to be replaced by someone way superior to the Arsenal team from the amazing Spuds bench he had been raving about, but it turned out to be Roman Pavlyuchenko…) The rest of the half was played out with little of note other then Wenger failing to sub Diaby (RVP came off for Ramsey) and Eduardo missing the best chance of the game when shooting wide after being put 1 on 1 with the keeper after a pass from Fabregas.
Full time, 3 points in the bag and crowing rights ours. What more could an Arsenal fan want? (Apart from Diaby sold and us to have shown a little more determination and desire…) Still, despite not putting in our best performance we won and it possibly bodes well that we did without playing at 100% as that’s something we have struggled with in the past and something Manchester Utd and Chelsea manage to do often. Onward march The Arsenal!
Match report by Goonergirl