Hand Der Vaart Strikes As Arsenal Are Pole-Axed In Defeat
Tottenham Hotspur 2 – 1 Arsenal
1 – 0 van der Vaart (40)
1 – 1 Ramsey (51)
2 – 1 Walker (71)
Arsenal fell to their fourth Premier League defeat of the season, the magic number as far as champions are concerned. No team, the received wisdom tells us, can lose more than four games in a season and still finish top of the Premier League at the end of the 38th game. With ninety three points remaining to be won, Arsenal must land ninety to be realistically in with a chance of domestic league glory, a tall order. Robert Pershing Wadlow tall.
Out of reach was the tacit admission by the manager after the match,
[It’s] not realistic to say today that we will win the league. We have to fight to come back into a much better position, that’s reality.
Now that is out of the way, can we get on with the rest of the season? According to Arsène, the team played with the handbrake on. It’s an all too familiar refrain. The statement is more baffling in that no answers seem forthcoming as to why and when the brake will release; the footballing equivalent of the chicken and egg conundrum.
Arsenal’s problems yesterday were all too familiar. Missing when it appeared easier to score, conceding when on top, failing to capitalise after an equaliser, conceding with an individual error from a player who had been otherwise outstanding. And failing to create a clear opening when chasing the game, a failing that gnaws at the soul.
Yes, this is a defeat that hurts. Not just because it’s Tottenham and Lord knows that is bad enough. Not just because Clive Allen is an irritating low-rent, classless wannabe who never was or will be. Not just because the media this morning paints a picture of Poor Little Adebayor, those vile chants show what a horrible lot Arsenal fans are. And yes, the chants were frankly distasteful. Mr Redknapp, you are right to condemn them.
But don’t take the moral high ground with us, certainly when your tax affairs are considered worthy of criminal investigation; certainly not when your own supporters abuse your opposite number with something infinitely more vile, chants that you see fit to ignore. As do your media pals, refusing to give them the headline attention, reducing them to by-products, almost forgiving them as tit-for-tat.
More that the scenario is becoming all too familiar. Just when you think a corner is being turned, the road straightens. No-one says supporting a team is easy, anyone who thinks so will be off to an internet retailer to buy their City top.
But this is painful.
We can point to refereeing inconsistencies. van der Vaart’s handball, running to the crowd; both yellow cards, both the second that should lead to a red under the rules. But to be honest, I have no issue with the celebration; was it any different to any Arsenal player in similar circumstances? No.
The former? Hard to spot but spotting infringements is why there is a team of officials. They missed it and having a fourth official on the touchline is devoid of reason if they are not watching footage for these moments. TV companies have replays instantaneously, a decision inside thirty seconds; seemingly beyond the wit of football’s authorities to implement. Yes, we will be caught out by those decisions as well as benefitting.
Let’s not lose sight of one thing. Arsenal did not do enough to merit a win. There is still not a team ethic instilled but there are hints that better times lay ahead. When they arrive, well, how long is a piece of string.
Szczesny was outstanding until the goal. Post-match, his manager reported on the player’s ‘devastation‘; I wish I was confident that the rest of the squad felt as low. You sense with the Pole that he has taken it heart because of the personal mistake but also the nature of the match.
Adebayor (twice), van der Vaart and Parker were kept out in the first half, the former Arsenal man well-shepherded by the defence all afternoon. He escaped to provide the assist for the opening goal but overall Alex Song and Mertesacker once played well as a partnership.
Song’s deeper deployment meant another start for Coquelin, once more promising. Whilst Arteta prompted but there was a spark missing, the sparkle that a world-class player brings to proceedings. That little bit extra, the difference, the drive. It was not there and in truth has been missing thus far this season. Up front, Robin van Persie puffed and huffed, added guile but lacked support and service.
The season was summed up by the injury to Sagna. Out until January, it places great weight on the shoulders of Carl Jenkinson. Bought as an understudy, he now has the lead role. And let’s be honest, if he has not crumbled under the pressure created from his last two away matches, the young lad is mentally capable of being Arsenal’s right back in Sagna’s absence.
It is a wretched stomach-turning feeling this morning. God, I hate Tottenham.