Eboue Off But Not A Pointless Exercise
Tottenham Hotspur 0 – 0 Arsenal
A bright day that saw the re-emergence of Eduardo turned sour with Emmanuel Eboue’s dismissal. In the end, a point will do but is disappointing given the paucity of opportunities presented to the numerically superior (and that is the only sense in which Tottenham can claim any bragging rights – we finished with eleven men, you didn’t.
Wenger started with Toure and Gallas in the centre of the defence, influenced perhaps by Keane’s goal in December. Even though the defence held firm, there are still questions about Toure and Gallas together. They dealt comfortably with the hosts front two and Sagna / Clichy gave little change to their opponents yet it strikes me that the central pair do not seem confident in each other when playing together. Whether that is simply due to the course of events in 2008 or a more specific problem is food for Wenger to ponder over the coming months.
The opening spell was typical of derbies; a lot of huff, just as much puff and not a lot else until Eboue put the ball into the net and was harshly adjudged to have fouled someone in the process. Initially, I thought it was because the Spurs defender had tripped over Adebayor but it seems that Eboue’s hand on Woodgate’s back was judged to be too rough, tough and manly. It was to be one of Adebayor’s last telling contributions, good to see him walking to take his place on the bench at the start of the second half and hopefully two weeks rest – he would probably have not played against Cardiff anyway – will see him back and raring to go. Reports suggest that he will have an extra week on top of that but we shall see.
Referees are once more under the spotlight following Old Mother Riley’s performance at Anfield last weekend. Mike Dean ensured that the lighting men continued to analyse The Men In Black with his theatrical dismissal of Emmanuel Eboue. Having given himself time to make the decision by taking a slow walk to the incident, he booked Modric for diving.
The decision to send Eboue off was one that never happens to a home team. Little argument for booking him for dissent initially but the sending off shows how much officialdom is misinterpreting violent conduct. Yes, it was petulant and yes, he let his colleagues down. However, you question where commonsense has gone from players and officials. On a weekend where – shock! horror! – we are told that players deliberately get themselves booked to miss suit themselves (let’s not leave out the bookings earned because it suits their managers or the fixture lists) but the question I cannot satisfactorily answer is whether he would have been even booked were the referee not intent on quelling his own insecurities by making himself the centre of attention?
It was not Eboue’s day; the goal disallowed re-affirmed my view that the non-contact sport which Blatter, Platini and their acolytes want to see introduced is being insidiously invoked by referees. Ignoring the team aspect for a moment, it is hard not to feel a considerable amount of sympathy for Eboue. Not in the dismissal but for the fact that he was shaping up to have his best game in an Arsenal shirt for some time. His endeavours were more effective when he crossed the pitch to the left and it indicated an understanding of how Arsene wants his midfielders to work, comfortable on the ball, at ease on either side. In an interview in The Guardian at the weekend, the impact of the booing he received told. Little that anybody who participated in that will care but I’m sure his wife who was seven month’s pregnant at the time, really appreciated your contribution.
Once they had the advantage with eleven men, it was little surprise that Tottenham had the lion’s share of possession. Perhaps even less of a surprise that they did little with it. Keane should have scored with a header, Almunia stranded in no-man’s land. The Tottenham captain might have done better with a half-chance, struck wide from the edge of the area. More culpable was Pavyluchenko who shot high and wide from a good angle for a right-footed player, following Toure’s airkick in the area.
Despite their diminution of numbers, the midfield’s hard work prevented clear-cut chances to Tottenham. Nasri, a peripheral figure in the first half, became more influential in the second, moving into the centre with Denilson going wide. Despite this, it was too often the case that the final ball found an Arsenal forward outnumbered.
It is hard to pick out a Man of the Match as there were any number of hard-working performances, Song and Denilson stood out from the midfield pack for supporting the back four and attack all afternoon. Up front, van Persie was tireless in his link play and lacking in the good fortune that he enjoyed last month. A point though, in the circumstances, is a decent enough result, tempered only by the fact that it is another opportunity to take advantage of Chelsea’s poor form to close the gap.
The latter stages of games have been productive for Arsenal in recent months. This time it was not to be with Song stabbing wide when he should have perhaps done better from a corner whilst Bendtner brought a good save from Cuducini with a fierce drive. The ensuing clearance from the set-piece gave Modric the best opening but he lamely shot low when a chipped effort over Almunia would have sealed all three points. It was an assertive save from the Spaniard, part of a possible answer to his critics who claim that he cannot win Arsenal any points.
Plus points are that consecutive clean sheets will build defensive confidence to bolster the attack. Seeing Eduardo on the bench is something else, hopefully a runout in midweek will be successful with perhaps an appearance by himself and Arshavin against Cardiff?
Having had a month of Liverpool in crisis, the hacks were obviously bored with News of the World, ahem, reporters suggesting that Adebayor, van Persie and Fabregas were all going to leave if the club fails to qualify for the Champions League – according to a “ubiquitous source” – whilst simultaneously using “Mrs Arshavin”‘s website detrimental comments about London – she’s not entirely wrong, in my opinion – to confirm their supposition that the club are teetering on the edge of oblivion. All pretty bog standard derby day stuff from ‘Appy ‘Arry’s mates.
An insight as to why those stories appeared came from Ian Ridley, erstwhile Mail on Sunday columnist and ex-Weymouth owner:
You get used to trying to sift the truth from misinformation in this game…But Arsene Wenger? He denied outright any interest in Andrey Arshavin, yet the agent involved, Phil Smith, revealed after the deal was done that Arsenal were given permission to talk to the Russian before Christmas. You hope that one of the game’s most sensible men gets back to his old honest self now
Did-bloody-dums. Once you have picked yourself up off the floor from laughing, when a journalist bleats about a lack of truth you realise that it is not a woman scorned that hell hath no fury like, simply football writers who have not been made privy to every nuance of a transfer negotiation. Back to the good old days then…