Tottenham Hotspur 4-5 Arsenal

Disclaimer: if any of my analysis is silly or incorrect, I blame sleep deprivation. Fucking 7 AM EST kickoffs.

Naybet (37)
Henry (45)
Lauren (pen 55)
Vieira (60)
Defoe (61)
Ljungberg (69)
King (74)
Pires (81)

So, another boring North London derby then, huh?

The lineups:

The Champions: Jens Lehmann - Ashley Cole, Pascal Cygan, Kolo Abib Toure, Lauren Bisan-Etane - Jose Antonio Reyes (Robert Pires 68), Patrick Vieira, Francesc Fabregas Soler, Fredrik Ljungberg - Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp (Robin van Persie 82)

The Lily White Scum: Paul Robinson - Noe Pamarot, Noureddine Naybet, Ledley King, Erik Edman - Reto Zeigler, Michael Carrick, Miguel Pedro Mendes (Simon Davies 68), Michael Brown (Frederic Kanoute 76) - Jermain Defoe, Robbie Keane (Anthony Gardner 90)

My alarm went off at 5:50 in the AM this morning, as I anticipated a packed Nevada Smith's for this one, hideous start time aside. Turns out we didn't have to leave THAT early, but in the end, it turned out to be a match worth not sleeping at all to see (as my roommate did...I got about four hours). While we all hate the Tottenscum, even the guy with the reddest-and-whitest glasses out there has to admit that derby day is always a tough proposition. Hell, any London derby is a battle, as Crystal Palace so emphatically proved last week. One thing I was especially worried about was the New Broom Syndrome, with the alien-looking Martin Jol now officially in charge of the North London Sunday Parks League All-Stars. But, while it often wasn't pretty, Arsenal were just a shade less embarrassing on the defensive front than their opponents. This is three points that I don't mind having, and putting five past the white bastards is a wonderful bonus. Hey Martin! Ishn't dat veeeeeeeird?

If you saw the first twenty minutes, however, you would have bet all four of your limbs that there wouldn't be three goals in it, let alone nine. The Scum had the better of it in the early going...they weren't entirely in the rhythm of the game themselves, but Arsenal were just awful. Passes going too far, guys not making runs, the first touch failing everyone. To give our opponents some credit, they were defending decently, and they were starting to find some cohesion in the midfield. It was a worrying sign, and I figured that they would be more likely to score first (if anyone were to score at all) if it kept up. Even though Arsenal started to get some possession after the 20-minute mark, they couldn't string enough passes together to seriously threaten the Scum defense. And, as Arsenal improved, so did the Scum...by the half hour, they had all gotten onto the same page. Unsurprisingly, they were the ones to open the scoring. They won a free kick in a mildly dangerous area, but I didn't think there'd be anything in it (by the half hour, I thought this had "dire 0-0 draw" written all over it). Carrick floated it in beautifully though, with Naybet wide open. An easy finish ensued, and I can't say they didn't deserve it at the time.

So, 1-0 down, and it damn near could have been two. For all of you that assign all non-Cygan blame to Crazy Jens, I want you to pay close attention to this bit. If we go down 2-0 at Shite Hart Lane, this very likely ends up becoming a different game. A shot got deflected, and it looked like it was going to tuck itself in right underneath the crossbar. But, Lehmann recovered brilliantly and managed to juuuuuuust paw it over the crossbar. If we win the league by three points or less this season, I want you all to remember that save.

The rest of the first half dragged itself along, and the prospect of trailing to the Scum at halftime loomed large. But, in retrospect, could we really have expected Henry to stand by and let that happen? Like many of the goals in this game, it came out of virtually nothing -- Lauren just kind of hoofed a ball into the area. Henry did well to bring it down with two defenders on him. He scuffed the shot, but that's what I think beat Robinson...he had to be expecting Thierry to blast it. When a shooter is going to put power on a shot, they have to take an extra second or so to tee it up, and in that second, the goalkeeper will get himself set as well...planting his feet, mentally preparing for an object to come flying at him at high speeds, that sort of thing. But, while it all only takes a second, you're completely incapacitated in that moment. So, when a quick scuffed roller comes at you in that state, that's why you see a lot of goals scored that way. The keeper would save it normally, but the misdirection leaves them a second too late to get there. That aside, it was yet another case of Henry coming through in the clutch. That was a massive, massive goal...even if it probably didn't make Le Boss lower his voice any during the halftime team talk.

Whatever Arsene said though, it worked. From the second-half kickoff on, the guys had an energy and verve that was sorely lacking in the first half. The passes still weren't connecting, the runs still weren't timed right, but you at least thought that it was getting there. The thought was no longer "I'll take a point out of this"...it was becoming "If we can just make that one last adjustment, we're going to kick their fucking asses." It didn't pan out right away...the uncharacteristically-poor Reyes had a glorious chance fall by the wayside when he scuffed a shot tamely at Robinson (for the misdirection thing to work, you have to go low to a corner. It's far easier to make a reflex save high than it is low...you can even try this at home. Throw your hands up to where a corner would be real quick. Now, try and throw your hands down to where a low corner would be real quick...see which one is faster). Still, the gears were starting to turn, the understanding slowly coming back. The Lily White bastards were living on borrowed time.

The Scum had been strong defensively (Edman had a good game for them even in the final reckoning, at least from what my sleep-deprived mind could tell), but their back line collectively turned back into a pumpkin in the 55th, when Pamarot (who allowed a few calls against him to completely take him out of focus) hauled down Freddie in the area. While I'd be lying if I said that Freddie hadn't dived a few times previously (and Reyes looked like he was auditioning for the Olympics at times), this was as easy a penalty call as there can be. It was unquestionably a foul, and one that took away a scoring chance to boot. Oddly, Lauren was the one to take the spot kick. I thought that a strange choice, but the man did his job with the coolest of finishes. Two-One to the Arsenal, but it was three almost before the celebrations died down. Miscommunication among their increasingly-ragged back line allowed PV4 to steal the ball in their half. While the skipper is not known for his amazing offense prowess, he certainly had no problems scything past the little resistance there was. Even better, his finish was more reminiscent of a deadly striker than a defensive midfielder, as he easily looped the ball over the charging Robinson.

You have to give the Scum credit, though. They easily could have folded their tents and played out time on several occasions. But, they showed an uncharacteristic spirit, and got themselves back into the match. See, the thing with them is that they have a pretty talented assemblage of players, especially on the offensive side of the ball. For instance, I had never seen this Ziegler before, but he was fantastic for them. His bombing runs down the wing and his crossing skill gave us problems for the whole match. As a team, they get the ball through midfield very well, and they're arguably better finishers than a certain other rival of ours (no names given, but it starts with "Manchester United"). Seconds later, Defoe got one back for them off of an amazing individual effort, capped by a wonderful finish into the top corner.

That may have caused some nervous moments, but Arsenal were (offensively, at least) almost in that same mega-gear they found against Boro earlier this season. Boro are a far better side than Spurs, but the guys were just good enough to tear apart the futile roadblocks that the Scum tried to throw up. Just 8 minutes after Defore inched Spurs closer, Arsenal were again two goals in front. Cesc got the ball at the edge of the area, and his pass (against the grain of his own motion) to Freddie left everyone in a white shirt for dead. Once again, Robinson was the last guy standing in the Alamo. Freddie easily finished, and the game was dead. Right?

Well no, actually. That damned Carrick curled another free kick in, and King got on the end of it to close the gap. At this point, a game of "Can You Top This?" was breaking out...and with both defenses doing their best Jenna Jameson impersonation, this would have been a 9-8 game if they had played like this from the start.

(OK, I admit it...I'm rushing through this. Football Manager 2005 calls out to me. It's saying: "Don't finish the match report...no one reads this shite anyway. Play me...plaaaaaaaaaay meeeeeeeeeeeee")

Mendes went off for them, and pouted his way into the dressing room. Good luck with him, Mr. Jol. You may want to look into a full-time nanny. The disappointing Reyes went off to make way for Pires, and he made his presence felt bigtime. However much that kidney infection is bothering him, it's more than the Tottenham defense was able to...that's for sure. In a goal that ended up even better than Defoe's, Super Rob beat about 38271937 defenders, and then slotted home past the short side of Robinson. Brilliant, brilliant stuff. The Scum closed the gap again, though, when that damned Zeigler produced a wonderful cross that sprung Kanoute for an easy finish.

That 15 minutes or so of injury time didn't have you biting your nails, right? Nope...me neither.

But, either way, the job is done, the Scum are seen off despite a horrendous defensive performance, and Sol is coming back in three games. Works for me. Hopefully those blue cunts on the other side of London get stuffed in their London derby later today. As for us, West Brom at home next week...that should be the perfect game in our incremental climb back up from the Old Trafford injustice. See you then!


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