“`All right,’ said the Cat; and this time it vanished quite slowly, beginning with the end of the tail, and ending with the grin, which remained some time after the rest of it had gone.”
And all across the lovelier half of North London, grins remain, just lingering in the air. What a marvellous weekend’s work.
Fully aware that we had failed to win away at the top four since the last Ice Age, ‘Arry ordered our heroes to adopt The Lazarus Approach that has served us fairly well on a couple of occasions this season on our travels in the Champions League. Accordingly, our lot just did not bother in the first half when things began at 0-0, instead opting for the challenge of overturning a multi-goal second half deficit, against a ticking clock and away from home, because it’s just much more fun that way. With the second half comeback in mind, the central midfield of Jenas and Modders diligently avoided doing anything that might be interpreted as gaining a semblance of control of the game in its opening 45 minutes, and also surreptitiously made their excuses whenever the back-four needed help in that lamentable first half.
All of which set things up nicely for the latest chapter in the ongoing 4-4-2 vs 4-5-1 debate. How easy it is to forget how at the start of the season ‘Arry was derided for the gung-ho 4-4-2 away to Young Boys. No two ways about it, on Saturday the half-time switch to 4-4-2 helped to prompt the about-turn. Amidst all the excitement and nerves, from my lofty perch I must confess that I rather ignored some of the subtler tactical nuances of the game, and opted instead for the more Neanderthalic approach of screaming and cursing at the TV whilst slurping beer, spearing wild animals and making fire. Nevertheless, on reflection it did seem that the addition of Defoe made the world of difference, not least by giving the l’Arse back-four reason to break sweat; while our 4-4-2 featured a distinctly narrow midfield four, which mightily effectively nullified the other lot.
Van Der Vaart – Huzzah!
VDV remains convinced that the boundaries of the pitch are marked by electric fences rather than white paint, and consequently spent his time as a right-winger ploughing straight up and down the centre of the pitch – but given that he created/scored all three of our goals, I think he earned the right to sit down on the centre-spot and smoke Amsterdam’s finest for the rest of the game if that is what he wanted. The chap’s technical mastery and love of the game was epitomised in his assist for the first goal, when I’m pretty sure he actually kissed the ball as it dropped from the sky, before letting it roll down his chest and flicking on to Bale.
Bale – Huzzah!
A propos Bale, the slick manner in which he collected the ball without breaking stride was worth a goal in itself, at least in terms of downright dreaminess. As luck would have it the equally slick manner in which he then flicked the ball past Fabianski was worth a goal in the more commonly-recognised literal manner. Aside from the magnitude of the occasion, in terms of pure quality, it was a cracking little effort – as most of his goals tend to be.
Gallas – Huzzah!
However, while VDV and Bale did the glamorous stuff, the hero of the hour and a half was back at the other end of the pitch. In recent weeks on this very corner of the interweb the commitment of Gallas to the lilywhite cause has been under great scrutiny, with suspicion rife at AANP Towers that while picking up his pay-cheque from Daniel Levy he still packs his sandwiches in an Arsenal lunch-box. Yesterday however, Gallas turned in the performance of a man possessed by the spirit of an indomitable blue and white cockerel. In the first half in particular, while his lilywhite chums fell over themselves to let l’Arse do whatever they jolly well pleased, Gallas shook a clenched fist and did his damnedest to keep those rotters at bay, with all manner of crunching tackles and dogged harrying. Whatever next?
Some Words on Our Vanquished Opponents
We tend not usually to bother with the opposition around these parts – ‘tis a Spurs blog after all – but having watched the game in the company of a couple of gooner chums the sweet smell of Schadenfreude has been wafting through the corridors of AANP Towers all weekend. Sometimes a memorable win is marked by a performance practically perfect in ever way (Inter Milan, or Chelski last season, par example). This time however, I’m happy to accept that we were awful in the first half, and hardly vintage Tottenham Hotspur in the second. It was not so much a game that had me beating my chest with pride as crying with laughter come the final whistle, for the glory glory of this occasion was to be found in the quite magnificent manner in which l’Arse imploded. Within spitting distance of the top of the table they completely lost the plot, with their handshakes and handballs and whatnot. To nab game, set and match, from two-nil down, and on their own patch – it was just too much fun.
Where Will It All End?
While our heroes no doubt charged off to Faces to celebrate, ‘Arry ensured that everyone associated with the club kept their feet on the ground by talking up our title prospects. It is possible for sure, mathematically and all that, but AANP is not going to grab its latest pay-cheque and charge down to the bookmakers quite just yet.
As with Saturday’s win, success this season seems likely to be aided as much by the shortcomings of others as by our own good work. One startling feature of this campaign has been the fact that every five minutes one of the genuine title-challengers is losing to a non-descript team from somewhere in that grey mid-table area. One or two good wins by any of the top five and over-excited types start making breathless noises about winning the title – which is actually a Man City reference. Opportunity certainly knocks for someone or other, and for all our dropped points against Wigan and West Ham, another top four finish remains very much within our grasp (although the return of the Champions League this week will presumably dent our league form once again).
Still, even if the season ends in the ignominy of failure to win the Premiership, we have already ticked off more boxes than I would have dreamed possible a few months back. Wins at home to l’Arse and Chelski last year; and sealing our top-four spot; and beating Young Boys; and beating Inter; and beating l’Arse on their own pitch – in isolation all of these are just commemorative DVDs, but add them together and our heroes are trundling along in the right direction, make no mistake.