Nov 212010

Arsenal 2 (Nasri 9, Chamakh 27) Spurs 3 (Bale 50, Van der Vaart pen 67, Kaboul 85)


For 45 minutes the day was going perfectly. Spurs barely turned up in the first half, seemingly overawed by seventeen years of defeats at our place. A two goal lead had been established without us ever getting out of second gear, and we were in complete control – Fabregas was running the show in midfield, Bale and Van der Vaart were entirely anonymous, and it seemed for all the world that we would take the chance to go top, a position that would be maintained as Chelsea would later lose at Birmingham.

Yet somehow, you sensed it wasn’t over. In fact, at half time, I wrote on Twitter: “Terrific half. One way traffic. Game not over though.“. That Spurs would come out in the second half with renewed purpose was inevitable. A entire stadium was aware of it. Yet somehow, the eleven on the field seemed completely oblivious. The tone was set in the opening moments after the break – Spurs harried and pressed, and we started resorting to hopeful Hollywood balls. Minutes later, Bale halved the deficit after sloppy defending saw Defoe win an aerial battle he had no right to win, and when Bale’s run was untracked, Van der Vaart found him to give them the start the desperately needed.

It was finally a test of our mettle, and quite frankly, it was a test we failed woefully. A mentally strong team would have been angered that their dominance had not put the game to bed, and would have come back hard at rivals whose defending in the first half suggested plenty more goals were on offer if they had a real go. Instead, we retreated into our shell, no-one willing to drive the team forward and pin the opposition back. It was exactly the invitation Spurs needed to chase the equaliser that had previously seemed beyond them, and they gleefully accepted.

Even at 2-1, you could see the frustration building. Wenger was prowling the touchline anxiously, and we started giving away a succession of cheap free kicks, surely the daftest thing it was possible for us to do – a) we’re susceptible to set pieces and b) the constant stop-start nature of the game prevented us creating any of the flow our style depends on. And we only had ourselves to blame.

That much is certainly true of the equaliser. They won a cheap free kick thirty yards out, but what followed should give Cesc nightmares. He inexplicably raised his arms before the kick was even taken, and not only that, seemed to be dragging Chamakh’s arms up into the air too. The ball found his outstretched limb, and the resultant penalty was as much as inevitability as it was the correct decision. The match was level.

Wenger responded by taking off Chamakh and bringing on Van Persie, but the Dutchman looked short of match practice and offered little. Again, we showed our mental fragility in what followed – there were still 23 minutes left, plenty of time to re-establish control and wrest the match away from our buoyed opponents. Instead, we continued to pump long balls up to our mystery seven foot striker and commit stupid fouls. Finally, one free kick found its target, Kaboul headed home, and Spurs had a day to savour. A comeback was never likely – we hadn’t responded to them raising their game throughout the entire half, we were unlikely to in the final few moments.

It could and should have been so different. The first half display was about as good as it gets – calm, assured, incisive and dominant. Nasri profited on some awful keeping when he miscontrolled Cesc’s chipped through ball – Gomes failed to come off his line quickly enough and the Frenchman rounded him to score from what seemed an impossible angle. And when a swift counter attack saw Chamakh poke home twelve seconds after Spurs had the ball in our area, we seemed set for a memorable derby day, and a sojourn to the top of the league.

And we could have had more – Chamakh was twice played through but despite being beyond the last defender, he dallied, looked for support and eventually lost the ball. It was indicative of our lack of ruthlessness – Spurs were there for the taking, and absolute hiding was in the offing, but we let them get back into it. And having done so, we rolled over pitifully.

It is difficult to single out the individual culprits, because that really wasn’t the issue – everyone individually had an adequate game from a technical point of view. But you need more than that in derbies. Hell, you need more than that in most matches – collectively, there was no drive in the second half, no desire to stand up to the increased fight of our nearest neighbours. And considering the lengthy list of players who have played in these fixtures before and should understand their meaning, that is pretty damning.

I also thought Wenger got his substitutions very wrong. By making three like-for-like swaps, nothing really changed. None of the alterations gave Spurs anything to think about, anything to disrupt their increasing momentum. And why, at 2-2, was Denilson left on? What exactly were we protecting at that point? I realise we were still heading for a point, but draws are not a lot of good in this league. If you’re level, go for the win – you will win some and lose some, but the reward of three points for a victory means that overall, you will be up. Don’t believe me? Take a look at the league – Chelsea have lost four of their fourteen games, yet sit above unbeaten United. Why? Because they haven’t been drawing games – they either win, or lose. It is our only saving grace in that it is true of us too – four losses by this point is usually terminal, but we’ve won eight of the other ten and remain in touch as a result.

Regular readers know that I always see the bright side – in fact I’m often criticised for it. But I can see absolutely no positive from today’s game – instead I see a spineless performance against a team we held a proud record against, an indication that lessons have not been learnt from previous capitulations in games we seemed to be cruising to victory in (notably Wigan six months ago). There is nothing good to take from that, because there is no indication that we won’t do exactly the same thing in a month’s time. Impressive away wins will ultimately count for nothing if we roll over like this again.

That said, Chelsea did lose, so the day was only 95% of a complete disaster. That we are just two points off the lead having lost three of our opening seven home games is remarkable – no team in the league, all the way down to West Ham, have lost more home games than us. That said, only the two teams above us have won more, a testament to our no-draws policy, and neither of them can match our away form. It is truly a crazy season.

But it doesn’t matter how many times our opponents gift us chances to take command of the league when we so regularly put in displays like that. The only consistent thing about us at the moment is our sheer inconsistency – we have been superb over the last ten days gaining valuable wins at Wolves and Everton, but all that hard work unravelled in 45 minutes of spinelessness.

Thanks to none of our rivals looking much more impressive than us, we are still very much in the race. But many more performances like that, and you can rule out any chance of silverware.

One last thing – following the game, Sky asked the question ‘is this a change in the balance of power?‘, and suggested that Spurs can now win the league. Seriously. Excuse my language, but kindly fuck off. Spurs have just won away at a Big Four side for the first time in 68 attempts, and have triumphed on our ground for the first time in seventeen years. And frankly, they’ve only done it because we played crap. There is no change to the pecking order. Lest you’ve forgotten, we’ve already coasted past them at the Lane once this season.

I sincerely hope that before we face them there again in the league, Wenger makes the players watch the inevitable DVD of this game. And then makes them put it right. They owe us.

  15 Responses to “Mental fragility comes to the fore again as a proud record disappears”

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  2. Arsene Wenger`s cheap bargain can seriously fck off,Kos ,squil and effing denilson ,the bitch couldn`t be arsed to track his runner,won`t be unhappy if we sold these bastards in January oh and Cesc at 2-1 really wtf was that !!!

  3. Another bitter goon. Spurs didn’t win, we lost rubbish.

    The game is between two sides. If one takes advantage of the others shortcomings, then they WIN AND the other loses.

    Also you didn’t put us in our place at WHL. Take a good long look at the teamsheet that game. The tide is slightly shifting as you are now celebrating beating makeshift spurs teams in the cup whilst we beat you in the league. Ooh the irony.

    Also I hope this puts to bed Arsenal fans theory that horse face van persie was so good at whl he nearly turned it around on his own. Spurs had played out 120 minutes just three days prior and tailed off which coinsided with van persie entering the pitch. As you saw today, with more minutes under his belt and against a second string spurs back two he offered little.

    • To be clear, the piece wasn’t intended to slight Spurs – you took advantage of our frailties today and I fully accept that. But we let you back in – we were awful in that second half and most sides would not have given you a sniff. That was oour failing, hence the ‘we lost’ angle. I stand by it.

      But seriously, look at the teamsheets for the Carling Cup and you’ll see we retained only two players from the previous league game – it looked a strong side but it was a reserve one – we just have a big squad. Don’t try to switch that one around – we have no need to celebrate one Carling Cup win – we have plenty over the past few years.

      As for Van Persie, he isn’t match fit yet, so I’m not sure what your point is – today does not prove anything other than he’ll take some time to get going. In fairness, he usually does take some time to get up to speed.

      • P.S Meant to add that the two players we retained in that Carling Cup game were Djourou and Denilson, neither of whom are first choices.

        It was miles from being a first choice team.

        But seriously, what winds me up about Spurs is the constant ‘we’re now better than you rhetoric’. It is quite tired – it takes more than one match, more than one season even, to get into that position.

        We’re closer than in recent years, I’ll accept that, but you have some way to go yet.

  4. Our crowd today was a disgrace – the players must have felt the nerves around the Stadium as we failed to muster any volume after the Spuds equalised. If we are not up for a battle in the North London Derby of all games then God help us all in future crunch ties…

    • Seriously? I actually thought the atmosphere was electric, much better than in recent weeks.

    • Crowd was great… Players were poor, very very poor. We will be back but this will hurt till we are top of the table. Bad day, bad game. To the spuds “may your mother be mounted by a rabid dog” Ghandi

      Arsenal, Arsenal, ARSENAL

  5. i cant understand why djourou didnt start!!!!!!!kos was never ready for this,,bad call by the gaffer in my opinion and it NEARLY cost us dearly,,lets be honest here ,its still as u stand in the league,i still think were the best team in the league and come may we WILL be champions,dont stop believing!!!!

  6. How long is Wenger going to get away with this.

    Season after season he talks up how things have improved and that this will be the season where it shows how good the team he has built really is!! But once again this season shows how inept he is both tactically and verbally.

    We have seen his poor tactical choices time and again, but yesterday it was Highlighted by the fact that Redknap made a change that boosted his side at half time – Wenger does nothing for 20+ mins by which time Sp*rs score twice! He then brings on Walcott who has been crap recently and was crap for England 3 days earlier and takes off our best player – Nasri?????? He then leaves on the absolutely sub standard Denilson (why was he in the side in the first place? He takes off Arshavin who was poor once again. He drops Djourou and brings in Kos….why when Dj had played pretty good at Wolves and Everton where we won!!!

    I would also add that the sides he won trophies with contained the defence built by George Graham and the great signing of Denis Bergkamp by Bruce Rioch, no coincidence that since they have gone Wenger has failed to rebuild the defence with quality

    MAYBE IT IS TIME HE WAS RETIRED/REPLACED gracefully before he goes down as the manager that destroyed one of the best sides/clubs in the world…… oh and by the way have a look at his record at Monaco….the similarities are so striking………. they went the same way after he replaced top class players with youngsters….. in the end they sacked him!!!!!!!

  7. This defeat is too difficult to stomach.Wenger is to be blamed.I know Braga are going to be thrashed but wait a minute,at the rate things are going,the gunners could even lose.
    This has been going on for years. He signs kids whereas other managers sign ready made players.I know these kids blahh .The trouble is he doesn’t play them on a regular basis. Vela is a good example.I don’t know but tactically he has been out manouvred but he is too stubborn to think of change to his philosophy.At any other top club he could have been fired.
    Btw managers like Mourino/red faced/ancelotti do not let slip a two goal lead 99.999% of the time.They will play keep shop and hit on the counter swiftly . Wenger also plays on the counter but his will take many passes andt ime to reach enemy territory. An d we know what has happened time and agin.

  8. Arsenal players’ mental faculty needed some serious precise retuning because it always went out of sync in the middle of winning game. Seriously there wasn’t one player with the iron will to win or one that want to stop the Spurs fight back. They just cruise like nothing is going to happen to the outcome of a 2-0 lead because they cannot believe their superiority will evaporate so soon and sudden. Arsenal do not have the marbles to change their game from their regular play to one with a solid defence in yesterday’s game. If they want to defend their lead than turn it into a fortress or keep attacking for a comfortable lead. They did none of both and got swallowed. If Wenger persist and insist he had enough of good players than I said he is totally wrong again, these present group of players are fragile in the mind. They are physically and technically ready for the BPL but their minds are not and is far from ready to be Champions.

  9. Now here is the thing if you can bench Bendtner for saying that he should start every game why not bench Kos and Denilson for being absolutely tits today,i had enough of these fuckers!!won`t miss when they are gone!!

  10. Good of you to casually dismiss any chance of Spurs finishing ahead of you. Are you suggesting that today’s showing makes your team of male escorts more likely than Spurs for high position? Based on what, the stellar character and fight you’ve shown this season?

    I don’t dispute that Arsenal are a good team, but aside from a good win at Everton, what have you done? A draw with 10 man Liverpool? A win over 10 man City? The fact is that teams deciding to give you a game are taking points off you. Brom, Mackems, Toon, Spurs.

    Not claiming Spurs will beat you, but I’m acknowledging the more open and competitive nature of the league. Spurs, City, Pool….Bolton, for god’s sake, are in with a shout. Dismissing the chances of others to best you is just more arrogance of the self annointed sky 4.

    Enjoy your evening.

    • Ha, find me an Arsenal fan who will say Spurs will finish higher this season. It’s an Arsenal blog, and I’m an Arsenal fan, and optimism is the nature – it is the reason Liverpool always say they’ll win the league, and you always say you’ll finish above us.

      You’re right that the league is more open this season, but only because no-one has gone on a run yet. It feels inevitable that at some point, both Chelsea and United will embark on a run (they always do), and if no-one can go with them, the title will go to one of them.

      I have my doubts about us managing it because of our inconsistency, and you have that problem too.

      Part of the reason I’m so convinced that you’ll finish behind us is the Champions League – it looks like you’ll qualify from the group stage and trust me, it is a massive distraction – the first few years any team gets to play the big games, their league form suffers. It took years for us to get the balance right and still we sometimes struggle with it.

      It isn’t arrogance to say you won’t come above us, it is just my opinion.

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