Written by 26may
5-2? What a day, and not just for the bookies. Hyperbole it may be, but I can think of few more suitable games to be described as epic.
I admit it, I approached this game full of pessimism. We’re not as bad as some make us out to be but it is beyond dispute that we have declined, while our N17 neighbours have finally, finally got themselves a decent squad. Our fragility is such that I felt I’d have been pleased with one point today. Not in my wildest dreams did I expect us to thrash the old enemy and in such dramatic fashion. Scoring enough goals to go back above Chelsea was not on my agenda.
So how did it happen?
First off, Wenger’s team selection was spot on. Having been out of the loop in recent weeks, I was surprised to see Rosicky and Benayoun in the starting XI, but they were both excellent. Quietly, Rosicky has been one of our form players this season, mixing efficient passing with intelligent movement and purposeful dribbling. But goalscoring has disappeared from his repertoire. What a time to rediscover it, with a perfectly timed run to finish off a lovely passing move and put us into the lead.
And Yossi was our Duracell bunny, constantly offering an option to the man with the ball, but also having the intelligence always to probe the defenders he faced. The obvious choice might have seen Wenger have Gervinho or Chamberlain start the match, but he had the guts to resist doing the obvious, and put Benayoun up against the excellent Kyle Walker. I admit, I’ve been a fan of the Israeli since he joined us and have been a little frustrated to see him not given much quality match time. He is proper quality.
And Robin van Persie was, well, Robin van Persie: excellence personified.
The Arsenal performance in first half hour was pretty uneven, with Sagna and Walcott looking especially out of sorts, and Arteta and Song not looking very focused. But they dragged good performances out of themselves, and the midfield established control over their Spurs counterparts.
The Arsenal defence had started in pretty charitable mood, leaving too much space for Saha to run into in the build-up to the first Spurs goal and being vulnerable on the break when we were pressing for an equaliser. They were carved open by a sublime through ball from Luka Modric to Gareth Bale, but everyone’s favourite chimpanzee took a cynical dive to earn a penalty to put Spurs two up. The atmosphere was all anxiety and depression.
But the defence recovered its poise and was rarely tested after conceding that second goal. Koscielny was imperious in dominating Adebayor pretty much throughout, and Vermaelen showed he is better than the shadow of a player he was in the Milan game. Spurs helped us, giving us enough breathing space for us to recover.
And then the game began a mental phase of half an hour around the halftime break. Spurs seemed to fold, especially in defence, where only Walker can claim to have earned his money. Kaboul and King were terrible, and played like strangers.
First Sagna, who had seemed incapable of holding onto the ball up to then, powered home a header, then Robin the Master found a pocket of space on the edge of the penalty area from which he gloriously swept home the equaliser. Tails were most definitely up.
At halftime, Harry “I pay my taxes, me” Redknapp bizarrely chose to put Sandro on the right wing rather than Aaron Lennon, as well as putting van deer Vaart on for Saha. Thanks Harry, much appreciated. Sandro’s a good player but he’s no winger, and vdV was really poor on the day.
Meanwhile, our forward players continued to rip Spurs to shreds. With little cover from Parker, who compared badly to the inestimable Alex Song, King, Kaboul and Assou-Ekotto were carved open three times in quick succession. Rosicky, arguably our man of the match, put us in front before incredibly Walcott remembered what he can do with the ball at his feet and just the keeper to beat. After putting a sighter just past the post, he nailed two chances in quick succession (admittedly after some random ball control). Heavenly stuff for the good guys, and an incredible comeback was complete.
We should remember this game for a long time to come, such enjoyable performances and results are rare and precious things. But we also need to use this as an inspiration for the remainder of the season. The squad has its weaknesses, and those need to be attended to in the summer, but there is also real quality there.
Player ratings from Herb’s Army
Arsenal were simply different class today and normal order has been restored.
Szczesny – No chance with either goal (never a penalty!). Has the potential to be immense next season. 7
Sagna – After a shaky couple of games, was back to his imperious self, and what a goal! 9
Gibbs – Is growing with every game and today he looked an Arsenal player 8
Koscielny – He has developed into a quality centre-half. 8
Vermaelen – Stepped up well today. 8
Song – When he and we got into our game, Song was colossal today. If only he could do this in more games. 9
Arteta – For me personally, his best game so far, highlighted by his exquisite cross for Sagna’s goal. 9
Rosicky – The performance we all knew he was capable of, but have waited an age to witness. 9
Walcott – A complete enigma. Confounded his critics (yes I’m amongst them), with a scintillating second half showing 9
Benayoun – Fantastic link and tireless work-rate from our much under-used Israeli. 8
van Persie – Our very own super-hero just keeps delivering the magic. 9
Thank you Arsene, thank you Arsenal.