Thursday, 15 April 2010


Arsenal went to White Hart Lane full of hope last night for the famous north London derby and should have been favourites to take all three points to dislodge Manchester United from second slot in the Premiership. But, the fixture failed to live up to expectations and Arsenal were sluggish and second rate to a Spurs side who were out to impress. Spurs had not beaten Arsenal for 10 years in a league fixture but they earned their just desert by robbing the visitors of any slim snippet of a chance to pressure Chelsea for the title. But Arsenal could have taken the lead in the opening minutes when Campbell, returning to the expected boos from the home supporters at his former hunting ground, had his effort blocked on the line by Benoit Assou-Ekotto. This was the closest Arsenal came to hitting the target during a first half that witnessed their usual precision passing falling short of the mark and by losing most of 50-50 challenges to a Spurs team that looked far more prepared for the challenge. 

When Danny Rose scored the first for Spurs, on this his league debut, it was goalkeeper Almunia who showed the same level of inconsistency that makes one doubt whether he has the class needed to keep goal for a club chasing the championship. He was left badly exposed, much as he had in the first leg of the European match against Barcelona. When he could have  held on to a cross, instead he chose to punch the ball away despite being unchallenged. This left young Rose to make hitting a fine 30 yard volley look easy' leaving the stricken keeper clawing at air. Arsenal had none of their usual cutting edge vigour and were unable to penetrate a tight, well organised Tottenham defence. With Fabregas, Arshavin and Song all noticeably missing from the injury stricken squad, the Gunners lacked any necessary thrust to get the job done. Sagna and Clichy overlapped well but all too frequently their passes were easily intercepted and Bendtner in the role of lone striker failed to capitalise on their efforts. The great Dane, together with Emanuel Eboue still raise doubts with supporters over Wenger's faith in them. Both seem second rate for a vital fixture when the likes of Walcott, Van Persie and Eduardo were all sitting on the bench. Bendtner's one-footedness and poor conversion rate from simple chances and Eboue's temperament and selfishness on  the ball make them odd choices when their is better talent waiting to come on.. 

To add to Arsenal's problems Thomas Vermaelen limped off with a calf injury and was replaced by Silvestre. It was late tackles rather than anything more malicious that finally stretched referee Mark Clattenburg's patience, Luka Modric was booked for a foul on Sagna, closely followed by an overzealous Denilson after he had caught Rose and then Kaboul was yellow carded after bringing down Rosicky. Campbell added some life to the attack as Arsenal made a late effort towards half time by skilfully heading down a ball that Rosiky wasted with a poor effort easily blocked by Ledley King. As the first period ebbed away Pavlyuchenko set up Modric but this time Almuina pulled off a good save.

Arsene Wenger looked like thunder and he could not have been too pleased when David Bentley was introduced for the second half. Had he been at his best the former Gunner could have reaked havoc on his former employer as he had done on a previous encounter. But it was not to be, Instead it was left to Bale to outstep Silvestre to latch on to a sharp pass from Defoe to slot easily pass Almunia. Sagna was replaced by Walcott and for a brief time Arsenal had some swagger. The England international's efforts were wasted when after making some thrusting early moves he was left with no target man in space to pass to. Huddlestone, Bale and Assou-Ekotto combined well to snuff out any further threats from the right wing untl late in the game. 

With less than half an hour to go it was at last time to introduce Robin Van Persie for his first appearance since November. And what a difference he made. Arsenal swiftly perked up and with 80 minutes gone he took a ball on his chest, turned and fired a fierce volley past his two close markers forcing an outstanding save from Gomes. A minute later Rosiky had the opportunity to pull a goal back but his strike was wild and went astray hitting the corner flag. It was now all Arsenal and two minutes later Dawson floored Diaby. Van Persie showed how much he has been missed when he struck a vicious free kick that again forced a fine save Gomes when he managed to claw it away from the angle between post and crossbar.As Arsenal were looking more threatening Campbell came forward again forcing a third save from Gomes in as many minutes when the Brazilian pushed his effort on to the bar and away for a corner.True to form, Arsenal clawed a goal back in the 84th minute after Van Persie had moved the ball to Walcott who hit a pin sharp cross to Bendtner who turned it in. But despite increasing the pressure and a further 25 yard drive from Van Persie two minutes from normal time, for once Arsenal failed in their last ditch efforts to save any points and Spurs ended the worthy victors.

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