Spurs 3-3 Arsenal
What a game this was.
It may prove to be the straw that broke the camel’s back with regards to our title challenge — although one could argue our camel has been lying, crushed in the desert for some time now — but if you can’t appreciate a game of football like that then football is not for you.
Following our 3-2 to defeat to Spurs earlier in the season, I wrote this about the game:
“North London Derbies are consistently crazy games of football, where changes in energy and momentum happen quicker than the players can adjust, and yet again this proved the case.”
Once again, this proved to be true as we played out classic game of attacking football against our biggest rivals.
We stole the lead early with a superb Theo Walcott goal, they pulled it back almost immediately through an ever better one from Rafael van der Vaart. Then Samir Nasri scored the sort of long-range strike that many people believe we don’t score enough, before Robin van Persie’s smashed home a third before half-time. Tom Huddlestone bettered Nasri’s belter with a superb strike of his own, van Persie had another goal incorrectly chalked off for offside and Spurs grabbed a point when Szczesny brought down Lennon and van der Vaart converted from the spot.
The game was played at a manic speed from start to finish. As was the case at The Emirates earlier in the season we started stronger and Spurs finished stronger. Without making excuses it was evident that their seven-day rest since their last game was an advantage over our much shorter break and they deservedly grabbed a point here.
The Arsenal cynics will suggest that our failure to protect another two-goal lead was yet another example of our fragile mental state. Perhaps they are right. But with the game played at the pace it was, with the emphasis of attacking football on display it was not surprising. This was not a game about protecting leads, it was about scoring goals, and had van Persie’s second goal stood at 3-2 then it may well have been enough to see us grab the points we needed.
I left the end of this game feeling frustrated but proud of this team. They really did fight, every single one of them.
Cesc Fabregas gave a virtuoso performance from start to finish, the early assist for Walcott and the final shot on goal from distance in the 93rd minute summarising his will to win. How people can question this man’s leadership qualities or his faith in the club is beyond me.
Likewise our other big attacking players: Nasri, van Persie and Walcott, all stood up tonight. They tired in the end, as evidenced by the substitutions of both wingers and the Dutchman’s quiet final half-hour, but with a goal each to their name they did their bit to win the game.
Unfortunately our defence made a few errors over the course of the game, Sagna uncharacteristically caught out of position for the penalty, Szczesny getting his judgment wrong and Johan Djourou less impressive than usual. But under the circumstances, with both teams attacking in waves, this was completely understandable.
Implications for the title race
It’s surely over now, isn’t it? But is it?
Chelsea’s re-emergence in the titlerace, a result of their storming return to form and Manchester United’s drop in quality of late, could be the deciding factor. It means we are more likely to finish third now, but their presence could prove to unsettle the team on top. With all eyes now focused on Chelsea as United’s biggest threat at the top, is this the sort of environment our team, one that is struggling to clear the final hurdle, could flourish in?
The Bolton game, just like every one of our final five fixtures, is must-win.
In terms of personnel I can see Andrey Arshavin and Jack Wilshere returning to the side. Abou Diaby is out with a calf problem while our back five should remain unchanged. Fabregas said that he hasn’t felt as good on the pitch as he did at Spurs since his injury at Stoke in late February, which is an excellent sign.
Given our exceptional record away from home and our consistency at the back, I expect us to get three points tomorrow.
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