The moment when Walcott scored the fifth and final goal in a 5-2 come-from-behind thumping of our nearest neighbours, who would finish the game with ten men having claimed beforehand that they had ‘closed the gap’, elicited a strange feeling – a repetitious one, an echo of a previous experience. Strangely familiar, if you will.
Of course, some experiences are worth repeating, which is why we all watched the game, and followed it up by chuckling in front of the highlights, particularly at the Spurs fans who cheered so joyously when they took an early lead, in the belief that the pre-game bravado was going to be followed up by a victory to wipe out the memory of the humiliation they received back in February. Instead, they suffered a replica caning, and left long before the end once more, with the taunts of the brilliant home crowd ringing in their ears.
Arsenal fans have a reputation for being a little bipolar, both for swinging between raucous support and despair on matchday and for the contrast in volume between the home and away fans. I’ve always found that to be a baffling accusation, particularly given that a lot of the home and away fans are in fact the same people, and I find it highly unlikely that they sing their hearts out at Carrow Road and then sit rigidly in their seats at the Grove. There is a difference in atmosphere, but I think that is borne more from the corporate feel of our stunning amphitheatre rather than the actions of the individuals within. Still, when the place is rocking, it is something to behold, and yesterday’s game was played out to the backdrop of a united fanbase driving the team on with inspirational force. It was a beautiful thing to see and hear.
The game itself turned on another moment of madness from the man who rarely endears himself to his existing employers, let alone his former ones, and when Adebayor recklessly planted his studs into Cazorla’s ankle, despite the Spaniard being a long way off the ground, there was only going to be one outcome. Howard Webb, who actually had an excellent game (something that isn’t said enough when a referee performs well) produced the red, and the excellent start made by the visitors evaporated. Mertesacker powered a header home, his first for the club, to level the scores, before Podolski and Giroud all but ended the game by the break, the latter after excellent work from Cazorla, fortunately unhurt by the earlier act.
At half time, my only wish for us was to push onwards. Never at our best when sitting back, it was clear that our best option was to keep attacking, and perhaps make this a humiliation that Spurs’ season would not recover from – they have plenty of recent history in that regard. Apart from a wobbly opening to the second half, and a few worried moments after Bale reduced the deficit, that was exactly what we got. We never settled for what we had, we kept trying to drive another nail in the beliefs of all of those that thought this would be The Season Spurs Finish Above Arsenal, a phenomenon many young fans have never seen.
Picking out individuals seems churlish after such a focused and impressive team performance, but the triumvirate of new signings were all excellent – Giroud, Cazorla and Podolski threatened throughout – and Walcott answered yet more critics with a barnstorming display down the right, capped off with a goal after he moved to the centre. But despite all our excellent attacking verve, one man at the back deserves special mention, and that is Laurent Koscielny, who covered superbly on at least three occasions in the first twenty minutes when Vermaelen found himself in the wrong position. The captain started in wobbly fashion, but to his credit grew after those early moments and was superb from there on, but without Koscielny’s alertness we could have been in big trouble in those opening moments.
Ultimately, North London superiority was re-established (or just re-emphasised, if you believe it was never really lost), and while there are those who still cling to the claim that Spurs have the better team or squad (the sight of Huddlestone lining up in midfield against Wilshere, Arteta and Cazorla was entertaining on that particular front), I don’t believe they will be a challenger for a top four berth this season. Say what you like about Harry Redknapp (and after his embarrassing performance on Match of the Day last night, you or I are unlikely to say anything positive), but Spurs looked a better team under him than they do now, and I stick to my pre-match prediction that Everton will finish above them. I also fully expect St Totteringham’s Day to arrive in the customary months of March and April, rather than being delayed to the final day.
But all that is for another time. For now, we bask in the glow of another thumping victory over those who seek to overturn us. Monday morning looks brighter for all that face those on the other side of the fence, and a much needed feelgood factor is back.
I might go and watch those highlights again.