Welcome back. Despite only managing to draw against Tottenham, I felt our overall performance today was much improved following three defeats on the bounce.
The 2-2 full-time scoreline at White Hart Lane, combined with Leicester’s win at Watford and Manchester City’s comfortable victory over Aston Villa, means we’re now eight points off the Premier League summit and will fall a point below Manuel Pellegrini’s men into fourth if they win their game in hand. In terms of the title race then, the point we earned today could be vital, just as the two dropped could prove fatal – only time will tell.
But for the immediate future, we have to be encouraged by our display today, particularly seeing as we had to play the final 35 minutes or so with a man less following Francis Coquelin’s second-half dismissal for a second yellow. That we managed to grab an equaliser with ten men, after two quick-fire Sp*rs strikes within seven minutes of Coquelin’s red card had cancelled out Aaron Ramsey’s exquisitely-taken first half opener, was as pleasing as it was surprising.
After all, this was a much-vaunted Tottenham team, proudly sitting a place and three points above us in the table at the start of the match, boasting the best defensive record in the league and the healthiest goal difference. Their team contained the media-hyped hybrid of Zinedine Zidane, Garrincha and Eusebio that is Dele Alli, and were managed by the man with the Midas touch in Mauricio Pochettino.
They fielded a core of oh-so-honest English lads who will no doubt conquer the Continent at this summer’s Euros, and who help form a team that plays in an innovative high-intensity style that will never ever waver as the season progresses. They’re destined for the title and there’s never been a a team quite like them. They’re one of England’s own …
And yet, they couldn’t beat an Arsenal side in their worst run of form of the season, missing key players and playing with a man less for almost half the game. Tottenham will always be sh*t, no matter how this one-off title-chasing campaign ends for them.
Back to us though and after a difficult first 30 minutes or so when the hosts piled on the pressure without creating many clear-cut chances, we went one-nil up with a goal owing as much to the composure and vision of Hector Bellerin as it did the magnificent improvisation of Ramsey.
Danny Welbeck, who played up front and put in a non-stop shift in his just his second league start in almost a year, picked up possession on the left, cut inside, looked up and squared it carefully to Bellerin. Our Cockney Catalan played it first-time to Ramsey in the middle who pulled off a brilliant back-heeled shot at goal, somehow generating elevation in guiding it past Hugo Lloris.
With six minutes of the half to play after that goal, we turned the screw and launched a couple more attacks as Sp*rs froze a little and the realisation appeared to dawn on them that they’re actually nothing special at all, and that they’re only in the title race because of a freak set of circumstances. At that point, we had them – they knew it and we knew it.
What we also knew at half-time though, was that Coquelin had been cautioned and would therefore need to be extra careful in the second half to avoid another booking. Arsene Wenger said as much after the game in revealing he reminded his compatriot at the break that he was treading a tightrope. Unfortunately, within ten minutes of second half action, Coquelin recklessly slid in on Harry Kane on the by-line, inevitably earning a second yellow and a red.
No qualms, no complaints, it was a mindless rush of blood and we were now up against it. What I would point out though, is that Kane, for all his striking qualities, and admittedly, as his goal later in the game highlighted, he has them in abundance, purposely made contact with Coquelin in that way all shameless divers do, when he could easily have hurdled the challenge and continued his run.
The striker jumped, left both his airborne legs trailing to ensure connection with Coquelin’s and I thought I’d point it out because I haven’t seen anyone else do it. Of course, it would be a booking 99 times out of a hundred, but a truly honest player with nothing but trying to get forward and score a goal on his mind would have left Coquelin trailing and without contact, they’d have been no caution. Sadly, they’re aren’t too many of that ilk around in football, even English ones, and we were left facing an uphill task to keep our lead.
A bit abrupt but I’ve run out of time. I’ll pick this up tomorrow.
See you on Sunday.