Looking Forward

 

ARSENAL

Premier League

Saturday 17th November 2001

What is there to say about this match ??  One that has been awaited for some time.  And not just for the obvious return of one S. Cumball.

With Hoddle back in the manager's office, Spurs have returned to some sort of form and also to a style of play that saw them dominate the North London scene back in the Sixties and Seventies.  Arsenal fans are concerned that we might be a threat to them - not quite yet, but very soon if the progression continues.  The FA Cup semi-final did not provide a suitable example of how Hoddle has changed the team, as he only had six days to prepare.  Now, six months on, we will see how far we have come.

The amount of money spent by Arsenal over the summer was massive and the arrival of Jeffers, Wright, van Bronckhorst and Inamoto have yet to make a notable impact.

With David Seaman on the way over the top of the hill and losing his place for club and country, new signing from Ipswich Town, Richard Wright, has not been the instant success that was hoped.  Signed for £5 million, the burly keeper has had a torrid time since coming into the team.  Wrapped up with an own goal (punching a free-kick into his own net) against Charlton Athletic last week, he will no doubt develop into a fine keeper, but in the spotlight at Highbury, that might be slower than they thought having been thrown in earlier than expected.  Beyond Wright, with Seaman injured and Manninger on a  year's loan to Fiorentina, is a tall, but inexperienced young keeper Stuart Taylor.

At the back, where Arsenal had been so strong for many years with the four familiar, but ugly faces, there is no indecision and vulnerability.  Adams is still there from time to time, but in his last season, he is seeing out time and although he thunders around, he is now a bit of a dinosaur of a defender.  Alongside him, their free transfer of the summer is playing just like that - someone not worth a great deal. Signing Cumball was meant to be the answer to the lack of depth in their defence, as exposed by Man U at Old Trafford last season in their 6-12 romp over the Gooners.  As every goal goes into the Arsenal net there is a number 23 shirt just behind the play with an arm raised.  How quickly they learn.  Martin Keown is still there too, but appears to be suffering from carrying the bunch of monkeys around him.  Luzhny is a carthorse, Lauren is playing out of position at the back and Dixon is out injured and out of the club pretty soon.  Ashley Cole is rated very highly by experts, but his desire to dive in makes him suspect and his love of getting forward leaves spaces behind his runs.  Frenchman Gilles Grimandi is a liability, because of his lack of spatial awareness and his temperament, with Matthew Upson an up and coming central defender, who has been stuck in the reserves and injured for a four years now.  That only leaves Igor Stepanovs, who because of a passport scandal has been packed off to Belgium on loan for the season.  

Midfield has been bolstered with the signing of Dutchman van Bronckhorst, who has perhaps been the biggest success of those brought in over the summer.  He plays as a wing-back, although he had been deployed in central midfield at Glasgow Rangers previously.  He must be a danger as he appears behind the defence to pop up at the far post, so Ziege will need to be aware of his presence.  Edu and Inamoto were brought in to great fanfares and the fans don't think they were fair value for money.  The Brazilian has been out of favour and fitness, while the Japanese player is not up to the Premiership yet, so looks to be a callous money-making signing by the Highbury side.  Swedish midfielder Freddie Ljungberg has been a surprise hit with Arsenal, scoring from midfield and performing at a high level, but this says a lot about ho they play these days, because alongside Parlour they are the engine room of the midfield.  Neither is as silky as the Gooners like to make out their side is, so there is little coming from them in the way of creation.  It is no doubt hoped that will eventually come from the white boots of Jermaine Pennant.  Signed for £1 million as a 16 year old from Notts County, he is an England Under-21, but looks to be flashy rather than effective at the moment.

In the forward line, the French dominate. Henry has pace to spare and is a cool finisher, but has missed some glaring open goals this season.  You can't let him get away from you nor have sight of goal either.  His fellow countryman and Arsenal's most expensive signing Wiltord scored a hat-trick against Man U's youth team in the Worthington Cup, but apart from that, he has struggled and missed a hatful of chances against us in the semi.  Completing the French forwards is Pires, who is a nasty piece of work.  His late tackles are dangerous and he moans whenever anyone gets close to him.  He needs to be closely marked to prevent him getting into the game and this will frustrate him no end.  Completing the forward line up are Bergkamp and Kanu.  Both players capable of turning a game on it's head, they are rarely used by Wenger.  Alright when he is not flying, Bergkamp is still a master orchestrator and can bring others into the game with his excellent vision, whereas Kanu is more of an individual, who no-one (least of all him) appears to know what is coming next.  However, both have done damage to us in the past.  Francis Jeffers came in to a herald of trumpets as the next great England striker, but he has yet to find a regular slot in the Arsenal line-up.  A talented goalscorer and smart runner, the England Under-21 has had limited chances to play in the Premiership, but he was top scorer at Everton, when they were struggling at the bottom of the table.

So, as you see there is a lot of quality and numbers there, but it is not all coming together for them at the moment.  Much of the reason why is the refusal of the manager to sign his new contract with rumours linking him to Manchester United, Barcelona and the French national team.  It is quite a disruptive factor in their club this season.

Where does that leave Tottenham though ??  Well, with Glenn wanting to take as many points as he can at home, it is necessary for a solid, but enterprising show and therefore, in a white hot atmosphere, I reckon it will end ...

PREDICTION : -  Tottenham   2   Arsenal  1

For more information on the opponents and their history, including full result history of matches between the two teams, click here.

 

 

Tottenham  1    Arsenal  1                                     (Half time score: 0-0)
PREMIER LEAGUE
Saturday 17th November 2001
Weather : -  Grey, overcast, dry.
Crowd : -   36,049
Referee : -  Jeff Winter (Whitley Bay)

Scorers : -  Tottenham   -   Poyet  90
                  Arsenal -  Pires 81

CARDS

Spurs :   Ferdinand (violent conduct) 18, Sheringham 83 (foul)

Arsenal :  Keown (violent conduct) 18

TEAMS 

Spurs : Sullivan; Perry, King, Richards, Taricco; Freund (Davies 84), Anderton, Poyet, Ziege;  Ferdinand (Sergei Rebrov 70), Sheringham
Subs not used : -  Beasant, Bunjevcevic, Thatcher

Arsenal :  Wright; Lauren, Campbell, Keown, Cole; Parlour, Vieira, Grimandi, Pires; Bergkamp (Kanu 70), Wiltord
Subs not used : -  Taylor, Ljungberg, van Bronckhorst, Tavlaridis

A full bloodied North London derby was nothing more than was expected by the eager crowd at White Hart Lane today.  In the end, the twist in the tale was a bitter one for the visitors, but a well-deserved one for Tottenham.

With all the hype surrounding the match, it was little surprise that it did not really match up to the expectation, although Spurs had the better of the match as a whole.  The lack of goals to show for the majority of possession was a worry, with the sides going into half time 0-0.  The early exchanges saw Spurs giving the ball away a lot; especially Gus, who tried to find his colleagues with back-heels and flicks, but they all went astray.  Things got better as the half wore on and Spurs played some good football, which is not what you could say for Arsenal.  They scrabbled around and scratched for the ball, but didn't create anything of note.

Meanwhile, Spurs were finding Christian Ziege on the left and his wicked low crosses were causing mayhem in the Arse defence.  One was nearly turned in by Keown and another slid wide off Les' shin.  Poyet drove a knock down from Ferdie just over the bar, while a similar set up by Ziege at the far post created a shooting chance for Teddy, but it was blocked by some desperate defending.  Keown and Sir Les went into the ref's book for having a punch-up more impressive than an Audley Harrison bout off the ball; this was a theme to be carried on throughout the afternoon.  

A corner from the boot of Ziege reached the head of Dean Richards and his powerful header hit the bar, bounced down and out, although it seemed to have gone over the line.  Every time the ball went near Wright in the Arsenal goal, there was a sense of panic and he failed to take the ball cleanly in the air most of the afternoon.  Especially, when he went up with Ferdinand and he profited when the ball dropped, by poking it in. However, the ref didn't agree and gave a free kick for either a handball or a foul on the keeper.

The second half was more even handed, with space opening up and Vieira started coming into the game more (i.e. stamping all over Chris Perry and getting away with it while a harassing chase by Dean Richards on him earned the Gooner a free-kick).  However, Spurs were still creating chances and Wright had to be alert to turn away headers from Richards twice and a Sheringham effort.  He also tipped a Poyet snap shot away when it was going wide.  There was panic in their ranks again when a Sheringham header was cleared away from the line by Cole and a few dodgy moments when their new central defender and keeper were not on the same wavelength.  The clearest chance came early in the half, when Poyet rose highest to meet a cross from Treacle and Keown was beaten, but so was the crossbar, as the ball went over.

It was not all one way traffic though. Arsenal started to make chances and with their second direct effort, they scored.  Grimandi had tested the Spurs keeper from distance earlier, but then having run with the ball to the halfway line, Pires turned up on the edge of the box to receive the ball from Wiltord and drive a hard shot past Sullivan into the corner of the net.  Moments before, the ball had flashed across the Spurs goal with no Gooner available to tap it into an unguarded net.  As the game swung back and forth with Spurs seeking to get something form the match, a Richards header was well saved low down by Richard Wright and it seemed like it wasn't to be Tottenham's day, as Arsenal broke and Parlour forced a fine save out of Sullivan.

With three minutes of added time announced, Spurs went on one last charge.  Simon Davies and Sergei Rebrov (both second half subs) linked up on the right wing and the Ukrainian put in a deep cross.  It looked as though the chance had gone as it swung away from goal, but it found Poyet just beyond the penalty spot.  His volley was well controlled and he kept it low, but Wright had saved everything thrown at him and seemed to have this covered.  However, the ball slipped away from his hands and nestled in the inside of the side netting.  The Spurs fans erupted.

For all those who were there, it was justice as Spurs had been the better side on the day.  For all the talk about central defenders, on the day there was only one to talk about when it came to on the pitch action ... and that was Ledley King.  His cool presence and strong tackling and general positional play was in stark contrast to a befuddled figure at the other end, who had little to go home with, but the derision of 34,000 Spurs fans ringing in his ears.  On this evidence, we will not miss him at all.

MEHSTG TOP MAN : -  LEDLEY KING

Pete Stachio

 

A DOSE OF THEIR OWN MEDICINE

 

So, he came, he left, he came back.  And so what ??  Can anyone really say that on the day that Ledley King was head and shoulders above his former captain ??  The young Spurs man looked comfortable on the ball, showed that he could ease his way to getting the ball off opponents rather than the desperate lunges that the Arsenal 23 resorted too (or should that be two-footed ??).  his passes didn't always find their man, but then neither did the other's and Ledley were always more probing and more thoughtful.  As for the One Who is Now a Goner, he fell flat on his fat arse when attempting one defence splitting pass, to roars of laughter from the Spurs crowd and applause around the ground.  He certainly does seem to be having a bit of trouble keeping his fitness up and appears to have had some extra weight on his backside.  Having stepped into the breach, King has made it his own, so much so that we don't feel the loss as much as was initially thought.  

Of course, he has some fine team-mates to help him progress.  The signing of Dean Richards looks a better one with each game.  Not only is he good in the air, but shows good awareness of the game to take the initiative on the ground to be first to the ball or intercept.  And, of course, he offers an aerial threat at the other end, as his crashing header off the bar in the first half showed.  Where was the Russian linesman when you need him ??  But there were other examples of Deano's heading ability in the box - laying the ball back for others and also joining the attack to test Wright out down near his post.  Perry also shone in a way he hasn't done regularly since becoming a Lilywhite.  Again, he was first to the ball in the tackle and he used the ball better than he has done recently, providing a solid performance that might keep Bunjy on the bench for a while.  

Taricco is less of a defender, but more of a flying winger for us these days !!  He makes his presence felt by pushing his opposite number back and he does have a decent cross on him.  He doesn't always beat the first man with it, which is frustrating, but he continues to play like a man possessed, even after being clattered by Pires (a particularly nasty, snide player, who should be sorted out by the FA, as he does something distasteful or something that could end a player's career far too regularly and gets away with it as he is "only a forward"), he carried on to maintain his place on the flank.  He is matched on the other side by Ziege, who put in some crosses that made the keeper and defenders worry about who was going to do something about them.  One nearly resulted in Keown nudging the ball into his own goal, while others were hacked away from the six yard box.  However, as the game went on, he faded and was much less effective in the second half.

Anderton had a strange game.  He was involved, but mainly in a tackling role !!  His natural passing game was not clicking and although he did good work, he was not as noticeable going forward as he had been in recent matches.  Along with Poyet in midfield, they worked hard to restrict the influence of Vieira in that area of the pitch and did so well, until the latter part of the second half.  He got away with dragging Anderton to the floor and running all over Perry (quite literally).  How he doesn't get penalised I don't know, but then Parlour got away with two bad fouls early on, while Ted got a yellow later for a late challenge that the other side regularly put in.  Poyet had an odd game too.  Seemingly out of the match for long periods, he was always involved.  I know that sounds at odds with itself, but he crashed a Ferdinand knock down over the bar with a rising shot in the first half; had a strong header over at the start of the second period; a shot saved that was going wide after Les had rescued a long-throw that Arsenal's 23 was going to shepherd off for a goal kick and finally smacked a fine volley through the grasp of the keeper for the equaliser in the last seconds.  He has hit a good scoring run of form and that is something Spurs have missed for some time.  A genuinely free-scoring midfielder to add to those picked up by the strikers.

Teddy wasn't on the top of his game today, perhaps letting his dislike for anything red and white to take precedence.  He was so desperate to put one over on them that he let his composure go and got booked for a rash challenge on Grimandi and had a stand-up row with Vieira.  Les put in a good showing, chasing down defenders, worrying Wright in the air, setting up his colleagues and generally getting involved.  It is all a bit of an Indian summer for him and Sergei must be frustrated at seeing him playing well.  However, as Hoddle said, it is down to the subs to make an impact when they come on and that is what Rebrov did.  His last minute cross found Gus to score the equaliser.  Davies was also instrumental in the move, but it was a well-worked goal, starting at the back.  King brought the ball out, passing to Poyet, who knocked it on to Davies on the right.  Some nice manoeuvring between him and Rebrov found the space to put the ball into the box.  As a build up, it couldn't have been better.  It exemplified our style of play throughout the whole game against an Arsenal side who were only missing Henry form their best XI.  

It is another step in the rehabilitation of the club and one that shows that despite what Adrian Childs on TalkSport said about "What progress have Spurs made as it was the same result as last season?" that Tottenham are getting back to the top the right way.  While people spread conjecture without seeing the side regularly, the team are proving that they will get to where they want and do it their own way.  You can see that the players enjoy playing that way and their football got some reward yesterday, even though they were playing against the masters of sneaking something they don't deserve.

Bergkamp had said that North London meant little to Arsenal now.  Maybe that is the influence of all the overseas players or maybe the fact that they are not from North London anyway !!  It looked to me like he was bothered as he spent the whole game moaning at the referee that things were not going his way.  It was obvious that some of the players hadn't got the hang of the derby, as Lauren went to take a throw and when the ball was thrown back to him with a bit of force, he tried to stare out the Spurs fan responsible !!  The atmosphere was nothing less than you would expect and the Librarians also entered into the spirit of things with their 90 minutes of silence, briefly punctuated by their goal.  At the end their silence was only half as effective as they only had half their number in the ground, as the others had departed.  It was some sort of retribution for all those last minute goals they have scored against us through the years.

Let's just spend a moment giving our thoughts for the Turkish lorry driver, who was stopped by the Police to use his vehicle as a barrier for the Arsenal coach to protect them form the flying missiles.  He must have thought he had entered a war zone.  With the helicopters flying overhead, I thought it might be a quiet night on the streets of Kandahar that night.

But, back to the football ... when we come up against the Woolwich Wanderers at home next season, we will again be able to judge our progress.

IAN STEVENSON

 

CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF 
THE GLOATING KIND

 

Well the Nomads from Woolwich have visited us again; this time with Arch defector Sol Bin Campbell in their number.  The build up for this fixture began back in July when our ex-captain crossed the divide.  Some enterprising soul burned an effigy to set the tone, while the next day saw Arsene Whinger pleading for us not to hate him. (Does the man know nothing of football fans?)

Despite pleas for calm, Bill Nicholsonís testimonial against Fiorentina was overshadowed by anti Campbell sentiments.  Then the season proper got underway.

During the week prior to the game, some fleet street hacks were realising that tension was indeed mounting in N17, and the usual comments about lunatic fringes were being bandied about. Some suggesting that there was a racist element to the Spurs fans attitude.  None of them recall how we used to treat him or how we now lionise Ledley King  and still they tried to suggest that by honoring his contract, Scumbell was in some way doing us a favour.

The matchday arrived and so I made my way to the ground.  The High Road was, as usual, packed with fans, all the pubs were full and as usual for this fixture, there were no Gooners visible.  There was a higher Police presence than of late, and a sizeable crowd had gathered outside the main gate (Sky news put it at 4000).  They were singing and the Police were trying to keep them all on the pavement.  The Police helicopter turned up and so did a large Articulated lorry from Istanbul.  This was stopped outside the White Hart (Rudolfs) and the opposition coach accompanied by outriders arrived from the direction of Seven Sisters.  The Police then placed one of their Transit vans half across the road to shield the coach as it turned.  The angry crowd surged and a hail of half empty beer cans bombarded the coach as it disappeared into the main car park.  The atmosphere was electric.  I entered the ground.

All around me the Spurs fans held balloons with the word "Judas" printed on them.  The crowd were still quiet.  Holding itís collective breath.  Then players started to come onto the pitch for their warm up, the booing began and in company with Patrick Vieira, our ex-captain stepped onto the pitch.  The booing reached a crescendo as Campbell began a series of runs back and forth across the pitch.  He was greeted with cries of "Judas, Judas" and all manner of other abuse.  This was kept up wherever the man went and when the crowd were not baying at him, they whistled.

Some of the Spurs fans joined in with the pre match sing-song to lighten the atmosphere as the two sets of players kept a respectful distance between them.  Then both sets of players left the field until they both re-entered the arena for the kick off.

The planned Minute of Contempt did not take place.  I suppose the atmosphere was so intense no one was going to keep quiet and it would only have given the Arse contingent the chance to sing unopposed.

The match began at a furious pace.  The abuse towards Campbell continued and it was obvious it would be a permanent feature of the match.  From the outset there was a battle going on between Keown and Ferdinand; it spilled over several times before referee Winter booked them both.  Spurs had the better of the first half; our best chance coming when Richards hit the bar with a header.  Poyet and Sheringham both went close as well.  In the defence King was in dominant form.

The second half saw Arsenal establishing a grip in midfield with Vieira impressing they produced two shots that Sullivan saved well.  Spurs continued to push and the Arsenal goal seemed charmed as Wright or Cole saved them repeatedly.

Arsenal replaced Bergkamp with Kanu and Spurs swapped Ferdinand for Rebrov.  The match entered itís last ten minutes.  A foray by the previously quiet Wiltord was resisted by Anderton, but the Frenchman allowed the ball to run on to the advancing Pires.  His well struck shot was half parried by Sullivan, but it found itís way into our net.  Campbell twenty yards behind the action celebrated enthusiastically.  This attracted more vitriol from the home fans.

The visiting fans believing the points were theirs celebrated in their usual way, but the Spurs players were undaunted and we went close twice more through Sheringham and Richards.  The match reached ninety minutes with three minute of stoppage time indicated.  As the three minutes expired Rebrov was released deep on the right, where he delivered a long high cross to the lurking Poyet, who sent in a shot that Wright could only help into the net.

There was just enough time for the visitors to kick off again before the final whistle.

Most of the visiting supporters did not see this as they had left by then.  Trudging back to hide under their stones until our next encounter.

EDDIE GILBEY

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