In my time supporting Spurs I have found there are two types of Spurs fans: Those who have unwavering faith in the ability of our team to pull out a win when we need it - and then those, like myself, who know all the ways in which Tottenham will let you down and remain pessimistic and jaded. With three wins in a row, and undefeated in our last six, many Spurs fans were probably aligned with the former. While we’re facing our most bitter rivals, we are at home and we are in form. With a slightly questionable Starting XI, notably the centre back pairing, it was clear todays game would be interesting to say the least. But then again, it’s the North London Derby.
As a Canadian, the news that Wayne “The Great One” Gretzky was a Spurs fan and was actually at the game was huge for me. Every bone in my hockey-loving body was clamoring with excitement that our national hero was actually a fan of my team. Joining other Canadian legends such as Steve Nash, and the man who defies borders, John Cena (someone fact check this one) as self-declared Spurs fans. However, in the Spursiest of fashion when we presented him with an honorary kit become the game….we misspelled his name. GretZky, not GretSky. Anyway, on to the match.
Our first half performance can be summarised by two words. However, neither of those words are printable in a respectable family publication such as this. Our passing was sloppy, often times too short or too late. We played long balls without lifting our heads, and spent a large portion of the first half defending. While possession stats slightly in our favor, we had a lot of trouble actually stringing together an attack or getting service to Kane. We maintained 0 shots on goal, with our best chances coming from Rose down the left. Generally our team was bad. Just going to be honest about it. Carroll – who channeled the ghost of Zidane with a brilliant heel flick in Arsenal’s box- Rose, and Dier were the only standouts. Townsend continually running in to nothing, Chadli’s passing and positioning was poor (although his dribbling was pretty sharp), and Eriksen looking lackadaisical and slow. Kane, as we have become accustom to, looking frustrated and lacking that sharp play that saw him score 31 last season.
We simply were not sharp. Our backline, minus rose, were slow and often caught ball watching. Arsenal clearly targeted our right side of Fazio and Trippier, focusing their attacks from the flank. In the 26th minute we saw Ox smash a shot from outside the box, which Vorm parried right in to the path of Flamini and the flat-footed center backs simply watched as he hit it in for a goal. This error really highlights what we were missing without Hugo, who surely would have pushed it past the post and our or held on. We were largely unable to recover from the deficit before the half, with our attacks ending up toothless and our chances sparse. Every single Arsenal player once again proved to be a giant asshole, with Olivier Giroud leading the charge, hoping to secure the 2015 trophy for the FA’s “Biggest Prick” award (pictured below). It was clear our problem was a lack of cohesion (as I’ve said so many times) or bite, our only bright side was that all of Arsenal’s midfield were going in to the second half on yellow cards. Our defenders need to be sharper, and our attack needs to be worked more. Our long-ball focus was simply not working, and Poch needed to make some changes.
Coming out for the second half it was clear that Eriksen growing into the match, forcing a good save from Ospina which Kane slams home…only to find he’s offside. However, our attack was improving and we were maintaining the bulk of possession. While our touch was still a little sloppy, we were coming out strong and really going for the win. We continued to berate their backline and try to penetrate to create chances. Quicker passing from Eriksen and Townsend, and Trippier’s ball delivery (which is why we bought him) really picking up our attack. Chambers and the re-animated corpse of Per Mertesacker looking a bit catatonic. Finally, in the 56th minute Chadli smashes a cross low in to the box and Chambers hits it in for an own goal!!! Spurs equalize!! Arsenal started to wake up, but we maintained the bulk of possession through to the 65th. Our best chance was an AMAZING bicycle kick from Kane that was very very unfortunately and unluckily cleared off the line by Gibbs. 66 minutes in and we see the best EPL purchase of the last 3 years come on, with Son on for Townsend. Oh, and I guess Sanchez came on for Campbell too. A ball trickles through for Giroud and Vorm makes a great save coming out in time to slide in for a save. Our passing throughout the half was better, our defense sharper (still some errors) and Kane really woke up. More so than the way in which we seemingly woke up for the second half, was the way in which we slowed the ball down in possession. We worked in to their half and were able to establish a presence, and create chances. Exactly what the game needed.
Except, we are Spurs, and a redirection that goes 40 yards in to the air falls right on to Flamini’s foot and he smashes a volley in from outside the box. We dominate the half, we improve massively, and then this happens. You see what I’m talking about? The man who scores once in a century scores two in a game against us…can only be Spurs. Following Arsenal’s goal we seemingly reverted to hurried long balls and lost all shape and form. We looked flat-footed, lazy, and completely disheartened. In the 83rd, we subbed N’Jie on for Dier which would either be a masterstroke of attacking or leave us vulnerable to a counter attack. Would Poch once again save the day with substitutions and tweaks to the game plan or would we fall victim to the ghosts of Spurs past that haunt us every single moment of every single game? Fazio consistently reminding us how bad he is, and our passing disintegrating. We were unable to really test Ospina, who is objectively bad, and suffered the loss.
So with the first round defeat, we bow out of the “[Your Ad Here] Cup” (what is it even called this year?) in a disappointing, but not unexpected fashion. Arsenal players prove the theory of physical constants by demonstrating how dickish they really are and our uncoordinated and hurried attack fails to do much of anything. At the end of the day we were simply caught flatfooted. While it would be hard to argue we didn’t edged them performance wise, it would be harder to argue that we would have probably one with a slightly different (ahem centerbacks ahem) XI. Arsenal have claimed their trophy for the year because apparently beating us is the greatest thing to ever happen to them, and the fans edge closer to the top of the ‘Most Annoying Fans’ table, even on points with Liverpool and 3 above Tim Sherwood, with Harry Redknapp tackling up the coveted fourth spot.
Our passing lacked bite, our players weren’t sharp, and while we lucky were able to rest the majority of our team to go in to the city draw this weekend, a defeat to the scum is never an easy pill to swallow. We did however look pretty good, which is reassuring due to the fact that this Cup pretty much means nothing. On to City this weekend where I will be equally pessimistic and equally sarcastic!