So there I was. Five minutes into a relentless chorus of ‘Que Sera Sera’, with practically the whole ground joining in, arms raised, smiles all around. And Spurs go and score a 5th. We’ve beaten the scum. And we get a Cup Final as a bonus prize. Proper Glory night, bragging rights back with us. At least for the whole of Wednesday.
I forgot to buy a programme before the kick-off. Decided this was an omen. Along with the ‘1999 Worthington Cup winners’ key-ring I found when clearing out some old junk the day before the game (that sat in my pocket). In Bootlaces, before the game, I reiterated the need for self-belief, on the pitch and in the terraces. We jokingly laughed when suggesting, ‘we could do with another 5-1 semi-final win’. The footballing Gods were listening for once.
Ooh the highlights…
Jenas performance and his goading of the away support after the opening goal
Dawson regaining the ability to defend (probably because of the next guy…)
King again showing us all just how important and immense he is. Incredible the difference he can make to our defence
Tainio, doing the job Ramos expected from him
Lennon on form
Berbatov’s flick (to release Lennon) and nutmeg on Gallas
The home support/atmosphere - probably the best it's been any where in the country this season
Berbatov looking genuinely happy
Arsenal fans leaving on the 60th minute mark
The irony of Bendtner scoring with his head
Theo ‘Only had five touches’ Walcott
Only negative was Paul Robinson's absence at the end of the game. He ventured into the dressing room at the final whistle, thinking more about himself, as Graham Roberts put it 'first, second and third' rather than 'the club, his team-mates and the fans'. Unless of course, Robinson is on his out of the club, and 'celebrating' would be a tad too uncomfortable if he is departing. I'll leave this conspiracy for another time.
Back to the game and the Arsenal team which included (at various points in the game) Gallas (17 Prem apperances), Eduardo (13), Hleb (19), Denilson (7), Fabregas (19), Walcott (13), Gilberto (12) Adebayor (21), Bendtner (14), Sagna(21), Diaby (9).
Kids? Reserves? Excuses?
Six of these players started their last league game and nine of them played in the league game prior to their last. Yes, arguably it was a fragmented side and their defence at times was calamitous compared to their seasoned 'proper line-up'. But all we can do is attempt to defeat the opposition no matter who they are.
Arsenal had Fabianski. We had Cerny.
Our team was made up of fringe players too. Add Huddlestone and Boateng to the list. That's a fair few. And Spurs had no World Cup winners either. See how perception works to your advantage when you want it to?
Ramos and Poyet’s message to the players pre-match was simple. WIN. In fact, kudos to finally having people at Spurs who understand the art of war. None of the usual tripe our players shout before big games that result with egg-on-face. We used what Arsenal said as a motivating tool to get the players up for it. Rather than tell the world we will win, we tell the world how great they are. Thus making us the underdog and allowing the 'words' and soundbites coming out of the Emirates to motivate us for the 90 minutes.
“There were a few interviews this week and they helped us a lot. They don't realise how much they help us when they say these things. They said we were scared of them, so many things. The players proved today they have no fear of anyone.” - Poyet
All the things I (we) have asked for happened. Even when Berbatov hit the post, and I thought ‘shit, here we go again, we just can’t kill them off’ – we do just that moments into the second half. Turns out we are not a bunch of bottlers after all. A bit of confidence, tuned into the right mentality frequency with the reassurance that we are tactically spot-on under Ramos and it can come together. Spurs can defeat their demons.
It's good to see a complete unit for once, in such an important game. All players following their instructions. Tainio, bless his little cotton socks, always injured but proved his worth giving us far more experience than O’Hara and biting at the ankles of the Arsenal midfield.
This is just the one game and the one performance, but under Ramos (and in fact, this season in generally) we have not been overhauled or thrashed. We've played awful at times, but this game shows we can deliver when it matters. Granted, this was a North London Cup game and the hard graft is in the Prem, but with continued improving fitness and commitment levels and the return of key players along with new ones and the balance and growth of the team can only go one way. Above West Ham. And then a bit more further up the table.
The sudden realisation that hard work equals success has dawned on a side that has at times waited for the result to happen rather than create it themselves.
We didn’t choke. We didn’t falter. We cut them to shreds at times. We even had the luxury of taking off Berbatov and Keane with 30 minutes to go. And little surprise that Wenger once more fails to lose gracefully.
Show me a good loser and I’ll show you a loser….or something along those lines, is the excuse drummed out every time people point and wag their finger at the direction of Wenger. He apparently didn’t believe the score line represented what he saw on the pitch and that we were not the better side over two legs. Thankfully, some Arsenal fans are gracious to admit they lost to the better side – even avoiding the tiresome excuse of ‘our reserves’. It was criminal we didn’t win at the Emirates (wasteful chances) but in hindsight, it set up the game for last nights demolition.
The fact that he isn’t magnanimous about it and a couple of their players decided to have a tiff out on the pitch speaks volumes. Talking of volumes, cracking atmosphere. When we turn it on, we turn it on.
The Gooners managed a chorus of “2-0 and you fucked it up”, at half-time, but even they didn't appear too confident of the gloat. A kind reminder that was rammed down their throats in the second half. But can’t say I really spent that much time looking their way during the course of the game. The noise emanating from each side (shock horror, even the West Stand) was [cliché]electric[/cliché]. One positive about having a compact ground is the fact you can drum up that 12th man. Although the continued rise in noise levels had a lot to do with the players lifting us up for once. This wasn't just about us the fans embracing it. The players finally tasted victory over the auld enemy. Robbie Keane, 101 goals into his Spurs career, finally being able to jig his way to the win.
You have to go back to the early 80’s for the last time we smacked them this hard. And in a season where we have been involved in several end to end classics, this pulsating masterpiece (calm down) makes it all the sweeter. If you’re gonna end a record/curse/jinx, then 5-1 is pretty much fucking a.
In previous encounters Spurs have dominated large parts of the game. But that's been a trademark death-march precession, as we always end up with nothing out of the game. So near yet so far. This time round, we sat back, and killed them with the counter-attack. Very Arsenalesque.
Strength, commitment, composure, confidence all evident. With the addition of sharp quick passing. Didn't matter how long they kept the ball for, when we won it back we made it count. It was effective and it was stunning.
The difference between last years disaster (being 2-0 up) was we didn't sit back and play long balls. We hassled and passed and kept the ball when we had to (one of KPB's strengths when coming on as a sub). We carved out chances, all mostly on target, 5 hitting the back of the net.
It was beautiful. It was wonderful. It was a fucking long time coming.
Thanks for finally bucking a trend. I've missed this feeling.