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Slipperduke

The Camden Cad
Joined
Aug 24, 2004
Messages
4,333
Location
North London
Arsene Wenger stared down his inquisitor, apparently caught between contempt and fury. A 4-4 draw at home to Tottenham, under any circumstances, is a poor result, but to be asked where he thought he, "lost the game," seemed to be pushing it a little.

"We did not lose," he said slowly. "I must remind you of the scoreline."

The strange thing was that no-one had even blinked when the question was asked. It felt, to everyone in the room, to all the Arsenal fans wandering off into the cold North London night, perhaps even to Wenger himself, like a defeat. Despite numerous press reports yesterday of a resurgent or a never-say-die Tottenham, it can't be overtstated enough that this game was over at 4-2 with a minute to go. It is to Arsenal's shame, more than to Tottenham's credit, that it ended as a draw.

A few stats for any angry Spurs fans already reaching for the writing paper. Between William Gallas' 46th minute header and Jermaine Jenas' beautiful 89th minute third, Tottenham had two chances. One was Darren Bent's hastily tucked away rebound, the other was a less successful long range effort from David Bentley. Better teams than Spurs have given Arsenal more to worry about and still come away with nothing. Heads had dropped, the play had slowed and they were out of this game. At least half of the away fans had slipped off home, along with a fair proportion of the home support. It was over.

Harry Redknapp is too experienced to read much into the result. Even as the journalists lined up easy questions about "fighting for the badge" and "reinvigorated players", it was interesting to see him hauling the conversation back to his team's abject defending and the need to work on set-pieces. He is all too aware that, far from being 4-4, this could very easily have been 5-1.

Credit where credit is due though, he has certainly lightened the mood around the club. From the press officers to the players, there were more smiles than we've been used to in the last twelve months. Redknapp's decision to award squad numbers to an exiled group of five, out-of-favour players has united a moody dressing room who, he told the press, celebrated as one after the game. For all of Arsenal's negligence Tottenham still had to take their chances and they did so with the courage that they had failed to show under Juande Ramos.

"Confidence is key to everything," said Redknapp. "Life, everything, it's all about confidence."

But how will Wenger restore that precious resource to his squad now? He must surely take this, and the defeats to Hull and Fulham, as a sign that the maturity required for a title challenge is simply not present in this team. Gael Clichy could have done anything with the ball in the 89th minute, but he panicked and fell over instead. Arsenal could have run into the corner flags in the 93rd minute, but they played a ludicrously ambitious ball forward and gave possession away. Someone on that pitch should have been calming the situation because you wouldn't see this happening to a team with John Terry, Jamie Carragher or Rio Ferdinand in the ranks.

For all of Wenger's protestations, I'm tempted to side with the mistaken journalist. Arsenal lost this game 4-4.




SLIP-UP - It seems so harsh to blame one of Arsenal's most underrated, uncomplaining, high-performing players for this debacle, but what can you do? If Gael Clichy at stayed on his feet, none of this would have happened. Let's hope his team-mates are the understanding type.

HEARTBREAK - The Arsenal fans were stunned into silence by their team's hopeless capitulation. Well, most of them anyway. A handful turned to the press box and started screaming abuse at the Japanese journalists, telling them that they'd be waiting for them in the car-park. Welcome to England, chaps.

DODGY KEEPER - Juande Ramos apparently bought Gomes on the basis of his performance for PSV against Spurs last season. I watched that game. Gomes made three good saves and matched them with three horrendous mistakes. You can't say that Tottenham weren't warned.

PUNTERS RANT- Where do you start? Anyone who had backed Arsenal was probably halfway to the Singapore Pools, ticket in hand, before Tottenham had even got their third. Oh, the things I'd want hit Clichy with if I'd backed a home win....

MAN OF THE MATCH - With a match that was itself more impressive than any individual man, this is less about attainment and more about improvement. Luka Modric is still not into top gear, but he is at last showing signs of his real potential. This was much better from the young Croat.

MATCH STATS

Arsenal

Manuel Almunia 5, Bakary Sagna 6, Cesc Fabregas 6, Samir Nasri 7 (Alexandre Song 6), William Gallas 7, Robin van Persie 7 (Abou Diaby 6), Theo Walcott 6 (Emmanuel Eboue 6), Denilson 7, Mikael Silvestre 6, Gael Clichy 5, Emmanuel Adebayor 6

Tottenham

Gomes 5, Alan Hutton 4 (Chris Gunter 6), Gareth Bale 5 (Aaron Lennon 6), David Bentley 7, Tom Huddlestone 7, Jermaine Jenas 7, Roman Pavlyuchenko 6, Luka Modric 7, Vedran Corluka 7, Benoit Assout-Ekotto 6, Jonathan Woodgate 7

Yellow Cards - Diaby (Arsenal), Assou-Ekotto, Bentley, Huddlestone, Jenas (Spurs)

Red Cards - None

Attendance - 60,043
 
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