Monday, 27 February 2012

Super Tom regains his crown as Arsenal smash five past sorry Spurs

Morning Gooners.

Well really, where do you start with that one? In all my years of following Arsenal, I don't think I can say I've enjoyed  a comeback quite as much as the one I witnessed first hand yesterday at the Grove. Arsenal were superb frankly and their desire not to lose showed.

We often talk about the player's mental strength... a lot of the time it is clearly missing. Not yesterday. They all showed great character to turn around that game. Going two goals down at home to your fiercest rivals and turning the game around to win 5-2 was not something I thought these players were capable of. How wrong I was.

I said in yesterday's blog the manager had a big decision as who to pick in the attacking three behind Robin van Persie and have to admit I was surprised he chose Yossi Benayoun to start on the left ahead of Gervinho and Alex Oxlade Chamberlain. But the tactic worked. The Israeli's work rate proved to be one of the reasons we ended up winning the game.

To say we started badly would be an understatement. I think we stood off them too much and gave them too much respect - something they certainly didn't deserve. And inside four minutes we were behind. The defence was caught out of position, the midfield couldn't get back and Louis Saha's defected shot looped up over Szczesny and into the net.

It looked like we weren't up for it. We weren't passing the ball with any tempo. We were slow, lethargic. But then something changed. Arteta chased down a ball on the right by the touchline and won the challenge and the ball and Arsenal regained possession. To me, that was the turning point.

The Spaniard chased and harried the Spurs player and showed that without time and space on the ball, Spurs wouldn't walk it and we could get something from this game. We then seemed to start doing the same all over the pitch. And that infected the way we defended against Adebayor - Koscielny bossing the Togo international and keeping him quiet all afternoon.

But for all our good work pressing the ball down and winning it back, we couldn't find out shooting boots at the other end. Van Persie went close, Rosicky had a header (yes, I know!) saved by Friedel and Arteta still hasn't found his range from free kicks.

And it was a Spurs counter attack which punctured us for a second time in the afternoon. Modric sent Bale through and the Welshman went through on goal, holding off Gibbs before diving over Szczesny's hands. Referee Mike Dean gave a penalty - how on earth he could have seen any contact (there was none) from his position 40 yards away from the incident is beyond me. Bale cheated and dived and won his team a penalty which was dispatched passed Szczesny by birthday boy Adebayor.

We'd been bit below the belt and wanted revenge. The fight started five minutes later. van Persie's shot hit the post, the ball came out to the left and a cross was swung into the box where an unmarked Sagna rose to challenge for the ball and guided his header into the net. The Frenchman showed the determination which was needed to beat the Spurs defender to the ball and put us on the scoresheet.

Just three minutes later we were level. The captain finding his range after being afforded lots of time and space on the ball. It was an error from the Spurs defence as the Dutchman swiveled and curled a sumptuous shot inside the left hand post.

Level at the break and then ahead six minutes into the second half. Rosicky with a one-two inside the area with Sagna and the Czech international finding the back of the net for the first time in a year. Cue pandemonium inside the Grove.

Spurs couldn't live with us.  

After a poor first half, Walcott became the man of the hour. He was found by van Persie in the 65th minute and a cool chip over Friedel added to our lead.

We knew that Chelsea were ahead on goal difference by a single goal now because of their 3-0 victory over Bolton on Saturday. It meant we required another goal to go fourth. And three minutes later, Walcott bagged it for us.

Song this time was the provider of a deft ball over the top which the England international ran on to. He slotted home past Friedel with excellent precision. Two goals down and then five goals in 28 minutes saw us take our north London rivals apart.

Afterwards Arsene Wenger said:
"Arsenal are alive more than anybody thought before the game.  
"Today we gave a performance that on the spirit side, the technical side, the drive of the whole team, on the style of the game we want to play everything was perfect despite a very bad start.  
"I felt in the first five minutes Tottenham started well, after that it was all us for 85 minutes."
If yesterday was Arsene Wenger's biggest north London derby, then he passed it with flying colours. Did that result paper over the cracks? Maybe a little. We know this team should have done better in Milan and at Sunderland. But if we do finish in the top four after the topsy turvy season we've had, it will be a great achievement.

Football is all about great moments and that result yesterday was a game I will never forget. I won't forget the passion we showed, the vocal backing these players received inside the ground from 58,000 passionate Gooners.

Personally I think the game yesterday was the best match and atmosphere I've experienced since we moved to the Grove. It beats the 2-1 over Barcelona and the 3-1 against Chelsea. It was a standout moment in the history of our new home already.

It would have been a long week had we not got a victory yesterday. Let's enjoy it. We certainly deserve to.

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