How to win a North London Derby, by Harry Redknapp and supporting cast
Arsenal 2 Spurs 3
Oh ye of little faith. Myself included. Go on, hands up, even in the dejection and misery felt when the second Arsenal goal went in who had a feeling that somehow we were not out of the game? Even if you couldn't quite bring yourself to believe, I'm certain there were many of us out there who took solace in the fact that surely things would not get any worse which would mean they could only get better. And Spurs, when they do better it's not the bog standard type of bland and boring good. It's undeniable heart in mouth fantastic good.
The way we shaped up for the first half wasn't the only problem we gave ourselves. Giving space to Fabregas and the scum allowing for infinite time on the ball for them to lap up whilst we failed to display any guile or determination, brushed aside with ample easy. It was all gearing up to be another textbook Emirates humiliation. Let's all lube up and bend over because it's less work than standing up against the wall and throwing the bar of soap at their smug terrorising face.
Not sure what the worst highlight of the first half was for me. Gomes trying to claim the ball softly softly, scared it might suddenly and inexplicably evolve into something with a mouth and bite his hands off. Our Brazilian preferring to squander it allowing Nasri (the first ever female professional footballer to participate amongst men) to score from an acute angle for the 1-0. Cheap. Stupidly cheap. The ball from deep that found its way into the path of the ugly bint was from our seasoned tormenter Cesc who was given the freedom of the park to turn and pass. You felt at this ever so early juncture he would do this at will.
Another highlight was Nasri running off to celebrate, screaming out and slapping his chest and badge. I guess all for Willy G's benefit. Calm down Zizou. The second goal was another nomination for worst highlight of the first forty five. Because of the nature of its birth. Pav, keeping the ball in, but not in our possession (not that I'm blaming him but he started the move, the unlucky sod, from our own penalty area) for them to then counter attack off the back of it and score - it was easy. Comfortable. Effortless.
Cracking stuff. Sorry I meant cacking stuff. I was cacking it.
Surrendering by virtue of not turning up. Again. I was being inundated with texts messages and tweets. Laugh out loud they told me. I was at home, on my own in the living room, with the missus pottering about in the kitchen/bedrooms/wherever tidying up. Still slightly more noise than you'd expect to find at the Emirates, especially once she started to hoover up the hallway. But I sat in solitude, no words from my mouth other than a muttering of 'ffs'.
Volume on the tv was turned down, I didn’t bother with the half-time Sky Sports assessment. I didn't need two pundits and a presenter to tell me we were f*cking sh*t. It's not like Arsenal were tearing us a new one. They were having a go. Okay perhaps they were tearing us a new one because a comparison of both sides would have had us at opposite sides of the footballing spectrum.
They dominated possession, had us chasing shadows. Slick passing whilst we burst lungs for what seemed like nothing.
But yet that whisper in my mind taunted and teased me. It's only two nil right? I playfully posted on the Glory Glory forum at half time we'd win 3-2. A gleeful prediction shared out of desperation. First five minutes I said to myself, we'll know if once more we have displayed a lack of mental strength and belief that will doom us to yet another away failure to them and a 69th away game without a win to the traditional Top 4.
Within five minutes of the re-start, we scored.
It's the type of irony that I'd happily share a bed with and go bareback. Here is Tottenham Hotspur. Unused clipboard. No tactics. Completely out of the game and suddenly not just back in it with a goal but looking like we believe we could get something more out of it.
Harry is not Jose. Never will be. And it's usually all pretty much reactive and instinctive in terms of application. He adapts to the predicament and the players react to his new instructions. It's refreshing, be it naïve at times, and frustrating (the question still remains: Why not start off the opening minute the way we started off the 46th minute?).
Harry twitched and tweaked. He narrowed the midfield so that we were no longer stretched on the flanks. Tightened it up so that we could not just stand up against their midfield but take the fight to them - make them chase us and the ball. And the introduction of Defoe (on for the sacrificed Lennon) was the catalyst for the comeback.
BAE finding Defoe who jumped six hundred feet into the air to head the ball onto van der Vaart who had sixteen Arsenal players around him, pushing the ball into the path of a marauding rampant Bale who caressed it with one touch and passed it into the net with this another. It was bliss. It was a punch to the gut of the enemy that left them winded unable to stand up in defiance. World class control and finish from a player that will be world class in time.
We can chat away amongst ourselves about how they reacted to our goal, if you want. Perhaps for all their fancy pretty football and stand-out individuals, they lack a spirit and belief they once had in abundance. Who cares? I don't. We've been gutless for years and in the past two we've grown in stature and I'm hardly going to make excuses for the opposition. If they can't handle it and if they allow themselves to be engulfed by a resurgence in-game, then boo f*cking hoo. It makes them not good enough to win. Our places on that football spectrum - reversed.
As the minutes ding donged by we started to show commitment. Pride. Apparently at half-time Harry had a go at Bale for shaking Sagna's hand after a clash. Told him off, explaining we are not 'nice guys'. Whatever you say about Harry and his agenda(s), he wants to win. And if he's our manager then that means he wants us to win. He worked magical mojo at half-time that galvanised the side and allowed our top players to further galvanise the ones around them.
This meant the likes of vdV and Modric were now more involved able to play to their strengths. JD up top with Pav, vdV out on the right but running into central positions. 4-4-2, be it not set in stone. We were set up with one thing in mind. Attack. The intent forged with leadership - something you might nod towards the opposition and agree they lacked. It was more direct in style in terms of pushing forwards but it was effective and it instilled confidence.
How many times have we seen this now? Never say die Spurs. We lived dangerous at times but we have to accept that this new breed of Spurs has it in them to claw themselves back from the brink.
Luka weaving and dinking through red shirts only to be fouled (more irony here - isn't it Wenger who constantly bangs on about flair players being hacked down constantly?) allowing for Kaboul and Rafa to stand over the ball, surveying options. Blast it through or curl it around?
What we got was a gift, one to cancel out the generosity of the first we gave them. Hands up if you're a bottler? Thank you Cesc. Heart in mouth once more. Cool as you like, Rafa sends him the wrong way. There's even time for some age-old conspiracy support work from Phil Dowd who booked Raf for placing his finger to his mouth whilst running past and looking at the Arsenal fans before he got to the away section to celebrate. Because that's really really worth a yellow card that. Unlike, I don’t know, an Arsenal player scoring at one end of the pitch and running down to the other end and sliding in front of the away fans.
2-2. And one or two red scarfed fans must have muttered to each other about choking and capitulation. Usually associated with Lily white and not ghastly red. Unlike the classic 4-4 there was still time on the clock and the third goal helped to illustrate that even though our defence is much maligned (with three key players out) their defence (with one key player out) is at times as accommodating us ours. I'd still prefer Gomes between the sticks than what they have to choose from.
In came the cross from Rafa (yet again involved), Kaboul's touch with his head finding its way into the net. This was now ridiculous. Uncharted (well, forgotten) territory. 2-0 down, 3-2 up. 17 years finally ended. Sixty eight games laid to rest. How very dare we. Can the new script-writer be signed on a 20 year contract please?
I screamed and shouted like a mad man whilst the missus (now sitting on the sofa whilst I bounced off the walls) asked me, "You're not going to start crying, are you?"
I held the tears back, man up I told myself. Like the eleven heroes standing proud on the swamp, within touching distance of a win. I remembered the words of a gooner (via Twitter) at half-time telling me in an unholy patronising manner that it was all okay because we had Bale and you never know - we might roar back in the second half. Now that's irony. I think there must be a network outage in his area because he's not been online since.
And in amongst the talismanic leader and undoubted world class ability of van der Vaart and our crafter of creative work Luka we had Gareth 'never does it in the league' Bale and a certain Jermaine Jenas who has managed to make us forget that Huddlestone is missing from our midfield. At the back Kaboul, continuing to grow and mature and casting himself as a brand new NLD 'legend' for popping up with the winner.
And then there's William Gallas. Not good enough to have his hand shaken by Nasri, but more than good enough to shake the spark out of his former team-mates. Whether he is reclaiming past form or played to impress because of the occasion (or a combination of both) he deserves the plaudits for a commanding performance. And I hope he continues to play at this level. He has done himself a massive favour, endearing himself to the faithful. He's proved a point, to us, himself and them lot down the road.
I wasn't sure what to make of Harry handing him the captains armband. I'm hardcore Tottenham like most of you I guess, and it's sometimes hard to see past certain emotions. It's naturally not going to sit well seeing other players bypassed and Gallas made captain, but it was a stroke of genus. Inspired. If it wasn't for his effort first half we might have been punished further, with the game out of sight before half time arrived.
To win, in this manner, and to have Arsenal collapse on their own patch and take a hard kick to their chest from our boot - it was all rather majestic. Adding this onto the back of our 2-1 Lane victory and seeing how a similar hoodoo with Chelsea was finally laid to rest in recent times - it's not something to be dismissed as a mere fluke. We've grown a set of balls. Hopefully this victory will kick-start a run of games where the focus is evident from the start rather than appearing mid way through. Cease the moment and all that type of stuff.
Post-match was equally telling. vdV once more displaying the mindset that we've never had in the past - suggesting we move onto the next game. I like that. Not for the first time he's saying quite publicly - keep your feet firmly on the ground. But that's not to say we - the fans - can't gloat. Just a little. It's deserved.
Shall we make a dvd? Perhaps Arsenal will release one covering the first half only.
We dared to do. It was a thing of beauty to watch them lot display the type of traits we have been cursed with in the past. Plenty of graft to be had yet. But you sense no open bus parade mentality any more from us. Just the desire to improve.
Kudos to Harry. Even if it takes us 45 minutes for us to find our way. Although there is something wonderful about the guts and spirit we now possess. We obviously have no need for a clipboard. Maybe we can lend it to Arsene Wenger. As long as it doesn't come back broken.
Spurs; as likely to win the title as Arsenal. For a backhanded compliment, that pretty much shows the demise of the dark gulf that has separated us for so long. Not off the back of this single away day comeback. But over the past 2/3 seasons. They are still a good side and we still have to finish above them to truly claim the tide has turned. But it's hardly beyond the realms of possibility any more.
Going forwards, this game, this NLD, is no longer one we should look ahead to and knowingly have to endure. We can now look forward…and enjoy.
Come. On. You. Spurs.