Derby Day, Honors Even

Tott'scum 1-1 Arsenal

On a day that looked as grim as the Reaper himself in the first half, Arsenal came back and showed no small amount of bottle in order to scrape a draw against our nearest and dearest. Many will say that the Scum asked a lot of questions against us, and they'd be partially right. I would say to that claim many things...not the least of which being our injury crisis vs. essentially their full squad. Also, the second half was quite the different story, with the Scum on the back foot for the vast majority of it. In the end, a draw was probably a fair result, and it ended up being a cracking game towards the end as well. I can't complain all that much in the end.

Right from the off, Tottenham grabbed the game by the throat and didn't let go until Steve Bennett blew the halftime whistle. They were just far more up for it than we were...I think there were a fair few players in burgundy who weren't aware that this was a derby day. Whenever we had the ball, there were always two or three guys in white there to shepherd the ball away to safety or to outright steal it. In short, they completely pushed us around. Teemu Tainio in particular was a snarling, vicious presence out on the wing...he would often jump in to the center to break up an attack or to harry one of our players. I can't imagine why he's not starting for them all the time. On top of that, Arsenal weren't helping themselves with the quality (or lack thereof) of their passing. The hallmark of our recent squads was the ability to just know where the other guy was going to run, and then slotting diagonal balls out for that player to meet. When it works, it eviscerates defenses. When it doesn't, it looks like there's 10 guys out there unaware that they're on the same team. Whenever the Arsenal did have the ball, they couldn't get anywhere near the penalty area...either the Scum closed us down, or one of our guys would send a lazy pass to nowhere. The only half-chance we had in the first 45 was a header from Mathieu Flamini that looked to have gone off his face or his chest -- the ball doesn't usually go off on right angles otherwise.

Speaking of young Flamini, he had an absolute nightmare. He not only probably should have done better with that half-chance, he was booked early and was also muscled off the ball damn near every time he had it. He's a quality player and I think he'll be useful to us in the future, but right now he's in an appalling run of form. Arsene Wenger saw enough at halftime (in every sense of the word), and took him off. I'll get back to that in a second.

First, there's the matter of the opening goal. I believe it was Flamini who fouled a Scum player in a halfway-dangerous area. Michael Carrick (who had a storming game for them, always a danger from set pieces) floated the ball in, and Ledley King took advantage of the fact that no one was interested in marking him to thunder home a powerful header. Some will look at that goal and reckon that Jens Lehmann should have saved it, since it did go in off his hand, and it was close to him rather than in one of the corners. What they don't understand is that when the ball is coming in that fast and that heavy, even getting something on it isn't normally enough. Especially when the ball is coming in close to you, your first instinct is to flinch -- it happens to everyone (even professional-level keepers) from time to time, and that's why it's actually easier mentally to dive full-extension to make a save. Your body handles impact better when it's ready for it (hence the reason why most KOs in boxing happen on punches the fighter doesn't see). So, I don't blame our mad German for that.

As I write this, Middlesbrough has just converted a penalty to take a 3-0 halftime lead on our other dear rivals, Manchester United. Life is good at the moment, I'd have to say.

Anyway, I wish they had broadcast the halftime team talk...I imagine it had something to do with hanging Flamini by his toenails from the rafters and swearing in French (apparently, if you believe those fancy moving pictures we call the movies, it's like wiping your ass with silk). Whatever AW said, it absolutely worked...Arsenal eased into the match for the first 5 or 10 minutes of the second half, but after that, the game was theirs. Flamini came off for Pires, and immediately our midfield made more sense. Cesc Fabregas moved from the right back to his preferred place in the center, Freddie Ljungberg shifted to the right, and Pires took the left. Once we got into the match, the passes started to click again, and all of a sudden, Spurs barely saw our end of the field. However, when they did, they were always dangerous...it took a string of absolutely top-drawer saves from Lehmann (including a fantastic lunge low to his left to deny Defoe) to keep us in it.

Speaking of Lehmann, he got hit by some sort of missile in the second half. Luckily, he was OK to continue, but I think it speaks volumes about the Scum. It especially speaks to the level of filth that supports them. In the first half when they were bossing the game, they showed a bunch of crowd shots of these sub-humans smugly celebrating. Intelligent people know that you can't get too excited when there's a long way to go, and on top of that, they're all ugly and misshapen. Believe me, I lived in Tottenham for three months (I studied in London, and they couldn't have put me ANYWHERE else...I mean, I was literally about 400 yards from Shite Hart Lane). Now, I've avoided my usual foul language elsewhere in this particular report because I want the following words to have their fullest possible weight...I want to make sure it conveys the depth of my loathing and hatred. Tottenham Hotspur fans, you are all fucking Neanderthal cunts. Maybe one of these days you'll evolve and actually become something close to human beings. Cunts.

Back to the matter at hand, in the starting lineup, my main issue was the lack of a start for Robin van Persie. I don't know why he's not starting every game (oddly, I have the same question about Robbie Keane for the other mob), and I don't know why he didn't come in at halftime (Dennis Bergkamp was completely anonymous today).

An Arsenal equalizer was starting to look increasingly likely. And, sure enough, some comical goalkeeping from Paul Robinson allowed us to get the draw we deserved. Before I get into that though, I should say that Robinson was very good in the few other times he was tested. For as little as we produced early on, he was called into question a few times, and made one good save in particular off the foot of Ljungberg. But, off an Arsenal corner, his two-handed slap at the ball didn't come anywhere close to clearing it, and Pires couldn't contain his smile as he hammered the ball into the empty net. All square then, and as stated, that's a fair result.

Despite the goal, and definitely uncharacteristic for me, my Man of the Match was one of their guys. Michael Dawson was immense for them in the back, making several key blocks and generally making life miserable for us. Having been a fan for a decently long time now, it's disconcerting to me to see this team actually having a defense worth mentioning, but all four of them are good, solid Premiership-worthy players. Odd.

Good match, solid entertainment, and now I'm off to booze it up. Take it easy, Gooners!


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