Apologies for the paucity of updates recently, a complete lack of time has left me unable to comment on either the Sunderland or Spurs matches, both of which were notable in their own ways.
Starting with the less good – it might seem a distant memory after Tuesday night’s glories but that last second Darren Bent equaliser stung. However, to be fair – Sunderland deserved it, they created some decent chances, our goal was a complete fluke and while Rosicky could have sealed it with the penalty, we created little else. It is easy to forget that a point at Sunderland is not a disgrace – we’ve come away with less in recent times.
It is all too easy to look at Chelsea and feel like we’re slipping away. But they’ve had five of the easiest fixtures of the entire season, while our three away games have been Liverpool, Blackburn and Sunderland. No disgrace to be four points behind them at this stage, and I certainly don’t buy the argument that we have to win at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea will drop points, they just haven’t been challenged yet.
On to Tuesday night, and even the most blinkered Spurs fan has to admit they were lucky to take us to extra time. The game should have been over at half time – a early penalty denied was followed by our opener, and then Gibbs would have extended our lead but for an erroneous offside flag.
Wilshere was outstanding, and rightly earned plaudits not just for his supreme play, but his attitude amidst a very clear gameplan to kick him off the park. Spurs rotationally chopped him down, but he kept getting up and carrying on. Not many 18 year olds would keep their head under such provocation, and surely now any lingering doubts about his immaturity have vanished. He is the real deal.
But we only held a one goal lead, and with Fabianski in goal that is a tenuous one indeed. Sure, Keane was offside for their equaliser, but then inexplicably shot tamely towards the side Fabianski was guarding (his positioning was awful – covering one side far more than the other). Despite being presented with a relatively simple save, the Pole let the ball slip through his fingers. Shot stopping is supposed to be his forte. Long term readers will know I’ve been a staunch defender of the young man, but at some point his chances surely have to run out, even for the most patient and forgiving.
No matter – as the game wore on we regained control, and had numerous nearly moments before extra time began. Finally, Spurs cracked, first tugging Nasri and then Chamakh when clear on goal. The penalties were inevitable, the lack of red cards baffling. Nasri tucked both away, and when Arshavin buried a fourth before the first fifteen minutes were up, the Spurs faithful streamed out.
I have to say, I was staggered by the Spurs attitude in extra time. 3-1 down with 25 minutes left to play, they completely gave up, despite our obvious goalkeeping frailties, and their memories of recent comebacks against us. It was bizarre.
As the week continued, the win became more valuable. Chelsea and City, two super-rich clubs with supposed strength in depth, rotated and crashed out, while Liverpool lost in hilarious fashion to Northampton. With Everton also gone that leave us, United and then…..Villa?
I’m sure Wenger will give chances to the youngsters if we face lower opposition at home, but if we come up against the few remaining challenging teams I hope we go for it – we’ve been gifted a glorious chance of lifting silverware and it would be a shame to waste it. Balance is required – rest some, but don’t sacrifice.
Looking forward, and there is likely to be some rotation for WBA tomorrow – with an away Champions League match followed by the Chelsea game next weekend, there is no point in risking anyone. So no Vermaelen, no Diaby, and I’d be tempted to rest the likes of Wilshere and Nasri too. We should still have too much for them.
Chelsea’s season starts tomorrow. If they drop points, let’s capitalise. Enjoy the game.