Writer: Tim Stillman
Date:Wednesday January 23 2008
First things first....ouch! That hurt. I was fully prepared for defeat in this game, the second after the final whistle blew at the league game in December, I was convinced they would win this tie. If we're honest, we've had more than our fair share of luck in this fixture in the 9 year unbeaten run and there were real signs at the Grove in December that Spurs would end the run sooner rather than later. But the size of the scoreline makes it pretty unbearable in truth. I questioned the squad on this forum yesterday, I felt we had betrayed what this competition meant to us. The development of a number of our first team squad is owed largely to extended runs in the Carling Cup and taking the kids out now when they were good enough to win at Ewood Park, Anfield, Goodison Park, Bramall Lane and to come back from a two goal defecit at White Hart Lane, I felt they had earned their shot. With the trophy hunt on on three other fronts, I felt risking the fitness of Cesc, Gallas, Hleb and Adebayor was criminal. But in the end, as it turned out, the kids would surely have done a better job anyway! Ironically, Hleb and Gallas probably had their worst games in Arsenal shirts anyway and Adebayor might still face a suspension for a moronic reaction to Bendtner himself being a moron.
Anyways, my usual route to the Lane was disrupted by the fact that my tube was not stopping at Tottenham Hale, so myself, Barry and Elliott had to tolerate the long, long walk down the unsalubrious Seven Sisters Road. A couple of guys who appeared to be giving us the evil eye on the tube (bear in mind we weren't in colours) were promptly pulled aside by a line of Police at the entrance of Seven Sisters, suggesting that we were well and truly in the bowels of the trenches! Arsenal began brightly, with Diaby marauding forwards and Hleb looking to torment Tottenham (it was the only period of the game where he did look handy). But Spurs sucker punched Arsenal early on and never looked back. Jermaine Jenas strode forward and placed a shot in off the inside of the post from outside the box. The travelling Gooners had seen it all before....or so we thought! Bendtner drove Hleb's cut back just over, but it was all Spurs, with the majestic Berbatov in particular giving Arsenal's backline the run around. Spurs went two up when Jenas' free kick was floated in and Nicklas Bendtner repeated a neat trick of scoring in a North London derby. However, the fact that he so brilliantly placed his header past the hapless Fabianski and into his own net left the Tottenham fans tasting some revenge.
Minutes later, Lennon put Berbatov through with the Arsenal backline all at sea, Berbatov took an age to line up his shot before seeing his low strike cannon off the post. Half time came and it was strangely the Arsenal fans in better voice, 'we're on our waaaaaaaay' rang out throughout the half time, as did the new Adebayor ditty as aired at Fulham. A rather brave exclamation of 'two nil and you'll f**k it up' was quite funny at the time, but ultimately backfired in spades. Arsenal began the second period with purpose as Tottenham defended in numbers, it looked for a minute as though the ghost of seasons past would haunt White Hart Lane. But alas, Tottenham had a more cunning game plan than the shaky Jol incarnations of seasons past. Lennon broke away in acres of space, goodness knows where Gilberto was (he did play didn't he?), probably thinking if his next career move. His performance, together with Diaby's abject laziness should illustrate more than ever what a stupid prick Diarra actually is. Lennon slipped Keane through and the largely anonymous striker hit an early shot which Fabianski fumbled into the net.
The Gunners looked to reply instantly, Sagna's cross was hooked onto the bar by Nicklas Bendtner, the follow up header was easily saved by Cerny on the line. Spurs had the counter attacking game down to a tee and exploited it again on 59 minutes, Lennon finishing a flowing move which had scores of Gooners heading for the exit. Having watched a trouncing, I can well understand it on this occasion, usually I would rage at such an apoplexy. But given the rigours of the gauntlet on the way out of White Hart Lane, I can understand the desire to leave in one piece (more on that later). Even so, 59 minutes was a tad pathetic. At this point, I was thinking that Cesc should be replaced immediately with the game out of our reach, instead Adebayor was brought on and that was just plain stupidity from the manager. With the shock well and truly absorbed the travelling Gooners began to break out the enormous arsenal of material we possess to mock our neighbours, so songs about lasagne, 71 2004, will you ever see Tottenham win the league etc were belted out. Adebayor gave Arsenal a brief respite, continuing his ongoing vendetta against the White Hart Lane net by turning and blasting home a sweet twenty yard shot. The home fans went quiet for a brief spell, allowing those hardy souls who stayed to all too briefly mock their hosts, 'it's so quiet, at the Lane' being given more than one airing.
But as the minutes marched on and the prospect of a comeback evaporated, Arsenal fans indulged in one more chorus of 'we're on our waaaaaay' to remind the Spuddies what its like to contest the Champions League. Before acquiescing to the resignatory chant of, 'it only took nine years.' But Spurs fans were well past caring by this stage, filling the ground with their own coccophiny of Wembley songs. Arsenal attacked again and when Bendtner did not pass to Adebayor on the left hand side, I could see the Togonator's stare from the South Stand upper tier. The bad blood spilled over as the pair squared up to each other, and Ade clearly headbutted Nedntner. As Gallas tried to intervene , Bedntner turned his ire onto the skipper. Bad move Nicky. Arsenal tend to keep these things in house, but I would like to think/ strongly suggest that Bendtner and Adebayor's wage packets might find themselves being donated to Treehouse for the next two weeks. Nobody likes defeat, but I didn't go and plant one on every Gooner in my proximity. The pair of them behaved like utter twats and owe everybody in the Arsenal fraternity a huge apology. Kudos to Gallas for doing the skippers job. But Adebayor hadn't concluded his twatishness yet, thrusting his hand out to Lee Young Pyo's face which could easily have resulted in a second yellow card and Arsenal missing a player we simply cannot be without through the stupidest suspension ever. I await apologies from both 'men.'
With the board for injury time up, I have to admit it. Myself and Rich decided that, having watched Spurs thump Arsenal, and watched Adebayor thump Bedntner, we really didn't want to be on the end of a consolatory fist or coin on the way out, so we made haste for the exit to increase our chances of escaping the Lane alive. It is the first time I have ever left a game early, and I don't feel at all guilty about it. Having watched an insipid performance, I think I was well within my rights to look after my own personal safety. With Tottenham fans understandably not exactly in a hurry to leave, it was a simple and quiet exit for once. As we passed a pub on the Seven Sister's Road, I saw a screen through the window as Arsenal mounted one last attack. Hleb was dispossessed for the umpteenth time as someone or other, probably Lennon, skipped down the right and squared for Malbranque to score. I did not stop to watch the ensuing celebrations or the final whistle!
It was a pretty rough night all in all, we've lost badly and, most infuriatingly, the likes of Hleb, Fabregas, Gallas and Sagna have played games that they need not have played, which could have far more dire consequences on our season than a Carling Cup semi final. It was always going to happen and we have to take this one. Given the choice I don't think there is a Gooner out there who would have swapped this game for the six points we took off of Tottenham in the league. If you'd constructed a straw poll of a hundred Gooners, I bet 99 or more would rather take three points off of Newcastle in our next league game. But we can have no excuses, firstly, that was far from a reserve team, that is what is so frustrating, we should have given the kids another chance (they could scarsely have done worse!) Secondly, 6-2 on aggregate far from flatters Tottenham over the two legs, they were the better team both times. That's something I am prepared to take on the chin. Both of them!LD.
Date:Wednesday January 23 2008
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