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North London Entertains the World

There were two games being played last night at similar times. One is called El Clásico (The Classic) while the other is simply called the north London derby. Over the years the only people intrigued and excited by goings on in north London were fans of Spurs and Arsenal, with the possible neutral watching on TV hoping for a fight. When Real Madrid and Barcelone lock horns however, the footballing world stops what they’re doing and pay attention.

Football fans all over the world who decided to watch El Clasico last night either started turning over in droves or have woken this morning with a sense of missed opportunity. It’s like when you were at school and all your mates were talking about how they watched Emmanuel on channel 4 the night before and you’d watch The Bill because you didn’t realise there was anything with boobs in it on the other side. Kids don’t realise how lucky they are nowadays with on demand TV and the internet in general. Pornography, hard or soft wasn’t easy to get hold of 20 years ago. Which brings me nicely to my point, kind of. 20 years ago, the NLD was crap. I’m generalising here of course. Just over 20 years ago one of the greatest NLD’s in a Spurs fans mind took place at Wembley but usually it didn’t contain “water-cooler” moments.

It meant the world to me of course as it did to every Spurs fan and it was higher on an Arsenal fans agenda than many of them would admit today but it was generally speaking not great for quality, entertaining football. Then along came Arsene Wenger and changed Arsenal’s philosophy from dour, boring, no-one wants to watch them but as long as they win 1-0 no-one will complain into a proper football team, a team that models themselves on Barcelona apparently. Don’t you believe it. The “Arsenal” way is nothing more than the “Tottenham” way. Always has been, always will be, as much as they won’t want to admit it, but this is where I want to give credit to Arsenal and in particular Wenger.

Don’t get me wrong. I hate them. Absolutely despise them and him. Moaning about everything, nothing’s ever his fault or his teams fault. I hate the fact he’s a petulant, horrible little man. However through extremely gritted teeth I can appreciate the style of football they try to play. The reason is because it’s how I want my team to play, it’s how my team have played and do play. It’s the way I believe football should be played by every team. It’s the beautiful game, not the throw-in and lump it up field game. Of course there’a also the fact that without Wenger changing their long history or boring but winning football instead of Redknapp having a very reasonable record against them for Spurs we would more than likely still be getting our arses handed to us on a regular basis.

In recent years the NLD has produced goals, goals and more goals. Simply because both teams like to attack. Neither team can defend either of course which helps the entertainment but when you consider both set’s of fans spend a small fortune watching their teams it’s good to see them being entertained. Last night was the real El Clasico. Nothing in Spain can hold a candle to the sheer commitment, exhilarating speed and 90 minutes of football that would’ve left everyone feeling like they got their monies worth at the final whistle. That’s what it’s all about after all. Right, enough about the match up in general, what about last nights game?

Firstly, I didn’t write a match preview because I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I had a terrible feeling about the game and when we were 3-1 down it was no great surprise to me. I believe my tweet at the time was “Game Over”.

If you’re a regular visitor to my corner of the internet you’ll have noticed I pick up on what I believe are mistakes by our beloved leader. I do have another but I’ll come onto that in a second. I believe while I’m more than happy to have a little moan and groan about things I will also give credit where it’s due in equal measure. Not so long ago my game over tweet would’ve been spot on, that is until Harry Redknapp came along. Quite what he’s done or how you do it I don’t know but we’ve shown time and time again this season what fantastic character there is within the club. Unfortunately the only way to see if a club has this character is to give the opposition a lead time and time again too but I guess we can’t have it all.

I didn’t like the starting line up without Sandro in the team. I’ve got a bit of a pet peeve about players just walking back into the team to replace someone who’s performed well. I believe everyone should fight for their place and therefore Tommy Huddlestone’s immediate inclusion in games since his return from injury at the expense of Sandro isn’t right, but especially in a game where it’s obvious we’d need someone who could break down the oppositions midfield. My starting 11 had no Huddlestone, no vdV and no Corluka, preferring to start with Lennon and Kaboul on the right. I guess if I was in charge we might not have conceded any goals but we wouldn’t have scored any either and back we go to the mid nineties bore draws ;)

Unfortunately Tommy proved me right with his performance in the first half but he slightly redeemed himself with a striker every bit as spectacular as Danny Rose’s last season. His lacklustre celebration gave us an insight into his own feelings on his performance up to that point. He had already lost the ball easily in the centre of the field which was the first mistake in many that ultimately led to Arsenal’s opening goal. Forgive me if I get the names of players wrong but having not seen replay after replay I’m going on initial memory here but I believe it was Fabregas who stole the ball from Huddlestone and fed it to van Persie. The second mistake was made by Gallas who immediately ran to close the Dutchman down when he could’ve held his line and then Dawson tried his best to play offside when the simpler thing to do would’ve been to just mark Walcott and wait for him to trip over the ball or get injured.

Their second and third goals were also error’s by us more than great play by them. The second would’ve been stopped had Sandro played again and indeed possibly Lennon. Nasri cut inside and vdV just stopped tracking him so he ran into a wide open space 25 yards from goal where Sandro would’ve been waiting. A neat little 1-2 was played before still 20 yards out Nasri (not Naseri gooner fans – that song doesn’t work with his name) shot through the legs of the diving (stay on your feet) Dawson and into the centre of the net. Does Gomes take some of the blame for that one? I’m not sure, there was a crowd of players in front of him but you’d like to think your keeper would save shots like that. I’m not going to mention the howler he made with van Persie’s offside goal. Benefit of the doubt and all that, he definitely heard the whistle which is why he did one of his now trademark dives away from the ball. The third goal was just poor defending by Gallas. A player who has been many peoples signing of the season, more so than vdV and it’s hard to argue with that really. How I dearly wanted him to score a winner last night though.

In between their 3 goals and Tommy’s thunderbolt (I wonder if he’ll ever score a tap in?) was a return to goalscoring for Rafa. Personally I didn’t think he had a particularly good game but with any player if they score two goals, they’ve scored two goals. That’s the aim of the game and if all they’ve done in 90 minutes of football is score two goals that usually good enough so again, benefit of the doubt. Lets hope he plays “ok” but scores two goals in our remaining 6 games of the season.

So 3-2 at half time and it was most definitely game on. The Arsenal players heads visibly dropped. A combination of losing when 2-0 up against us early in the season, drawing from 4-0 up against Newcastle, losing the Carling Cup final, drawing in the last minute against Sunderland and other memorable moments in a season that’s divided gooner fans on the future of Whinger. Redknapp made a couple of decent substitutions, one forced with thanks to Bale being softer than the Stay Puft Marshmallow man (that’s harsh I know as he did get kicked up in the air a couple of times but I liked the analogy) and the other tactical by replacing Corluka with Kaboul. We also started pushing up and playing a much higher line.

The main difference though was the full backs who both pushed forward at every opportunity or more importantly, pushed Walcott and Nasri back. Neither got much of the ball in the second half, especially Walcott who became as useless as we all think he is. Thankfully it took Wenger until the 82nd minute to realise that. Huddlestone dropped a lot deeper to cover the full backs forward runs and performed much better. He was picking up the ball deep but thanks to the pressure put on the Arsenal midfielders by Modric, Pav, vdV and Lennon he had time to bring the ball forward and pass from a much more advanced position than he was doing in the first half. Modric pushed forward which meant Arsenal’s want away talisman, Fabregas, had to drop back too to cover and didn’t get as much of the ball. This was key. Stop Fabregas and you often stop Arsenal.

We started concentrating our passes down the flanks more but in particular we varied our passing. In the first half we were constantly looking for passes central to Huddlestone and Modric but with Arsenal playing a 3 in midfield compared to our 2, they were getting overrun and often losing the ball. This meant Arsenal were winning the ball high up the pitch and we were getting hemmed into our own half, having to drop deep just to get the ball. With Ekotto and Kaboul getting forward superbly and with such great effect as well as Huddlestone playing his favourite deep lying “quarter back” position we had more out balls and variety to our play than Arsenal could cope with. The like s of Nasri and Walcott were being asked to track back, mark and tackle which they don’t like to do.

As a result of us doing this Arsenal’s attacking players weren’t getting the ball as much or in as dangerous areas as they were in the first half. van Persie had spent most of the first half occupying Gallas and Dawson centrally, and receiving the ball to feet pretty much whenever he wanted. The second half saw him move to the channels just to get any sort of service, often to the right where there was more space thanks to Kaboul being the only player in our team who wanted to offer any width on that side (another pet peeve of mine with regards to vdV on the flank).

My man of the match was Ekotto who I felt was superb. His through ball to Lennon which led to the penalty must be enough to warrant a public apology from My Hansen who on more than one occasion has slated the left back. How many of you thought we were going to miss the penalty? I’m sure I wasn’t on my own. vdV admitted after the game he was just glad to see it go in because he was so nervous. I think I would’ve feigned injury if someone had asked me to take it. The game finished and I was delighted with what I’d seen. Not only a Spurs side with steely determination and a never say die attitude but a victory for football and entertainment. As far as the result goes, it’s not great for either side but the fact my one disappointment was that we should’ve won the game and didn’t just shows how far we’ve come.


PS. Haven’t had time to proof read this so if there’s spelling mistakes, gramatical errors or typo’s I apologise.

Submitted by THFC1882

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