Bendtner and Almunia Leap to Tottenham’s Misfortune

This is what Derbies are all about. Form goes out of the window for both sides in what essentially whittles down to a cup match: even if one team is doomed to relegation while the other sits safe in mid-table, the blood and thunder of a derby always remains for some unknown, spiritual reason.

Of course, saying that effectively ignores a stinker of a first-half – with Christmas shopping and the like already leaving me exhausted as it is, I did not need something as stop start as that half to keep me heading back to the kitchen for another cup of tea.

-{Chelsea may be more of a title rival in London, but Tottenham remain the Montegue to Arsenal’s Capulet.}-

With a mixture of a makeshift Tottenham side fighting for every ball, an Arsenal side unable to find its rythym and Rob Styles blatant ham-handedness (has the man ever heard of ‘flowing football?’), the first half was a stop-start affair with neither side experiencing a sustained period of dominance.

Of course, the upper hand was interchangeable throughout, with Berbatov – despite his incessant sulking – a lingering threat and Jamie O’Hara having a blinder of a game on his full debut for Tottenham. Arsenal only managed to fashion their first real chance of the match around the half hour mark, with Adebayor holding off the Spurs defence to let Eboue into the box, who shot at a diving Robinson.

Spurs would have been the happier team going into the tunnel at the half-time break, but the pats on the back would not have lasted long once Adebayor – so many times the bane of Spurs’ existence – slotted in the opener on the 47th minute.

The buildup was a thing of beauty, with Fabregas – so quiet in large spells throughout the match – advanced on the Spurs defence before knocking a sumptuous backheel to a lingering Adebayor, who finished with aplomb.

And just as I was sitting thinking Arsenal would go on to dominate, Spurs decided to take that baton instead. Robbie Keane advanced down Arsenal’s right flank, before feeding in Berbatov with a backheel (flavour of the match, it seemed), who smashed the ball into the roof of the net from Almunia’s left.

Replays suggest Almunia could have done a bit more than he did placement-wise, but the shot itself was near unstoppable. Watching Tottenham from then on gave the slightest sense of foreboding that that magical ’20 unbeaten’ was looking a little tenuous.

And so it proved – Robbie Keane snuck into the box to thump a header against the post minutes before Berbatov again advanced into the box,only to be felled after Kolo Toure pegged his trailing foot.

“Oh, bollocks…”, I’m sure so many muttered. Robbie Keane – villified and detested by so many Gooners, stood peering into the limelight of Arsenal’s penalty spot. Standing in front of him was the ‘must-be-replaced at-all-costs’, ‘white elephant’, ‘will not win us any points’ ‘clown’ of a keeper, Manuel Almunia.

-{How Lehmann must have smiled wryly for the cameras when the current incumbent yet again justified his place between the Arsenal posts.}-

Keane rocked, came forward, and shot low to the keeper’s right. I say ‘keeper’s right’, and not ‘to the right’, because that side belonged only to Manuel. Diving low, Almunia parried the ball to the right of the box, with the Arsenal defence eventually clearing to survive a crazy 6 minutes which may very well have seen Tottenham come out on top.

How Lehmann must have smiled wryly for the cameras when the current incumbent yet again justified his place between the Arsenal posts. No fist pumping or any bravado for Almunia – still watching the ball and realising there was more of a job to do in a teetering match.

The deflated Keane was immediately substituted for Jermaine Defoe. At the same time, Nicklas Bendtner was coming on to replace Emmanuel Eboue. Not a single minute later, Arsenal had a corner to relieve the pressure.

Relief very soon became ecstasy. Fabregas floated in the corner for Nicklas Bendtner – a mere 19 years of age and yet to touch the ball in the match – leapt high and imperiously to bullet the header in for 2-1, and the eventual winner.

Tottenham were down, out and very abject. They had had the glorious chance of winning the game, only for it to be ripped heroically and cruelly (if such things can go together) from their grasp.

Bendtner still had time later to feed in Adebayor for another chance at goal, only for the African to be muscled out by the defence. In the end, it was a derby that we all wanted to see – result aside – in that it was generally a crazy affair that produced much more drama in the last 45 minutes than the whole of ‘Grandslam Sunday’ last week.

Chelsea may be more of a title rival in London, but Tottenham remain the Montegue to Arsenal’s Capulet. The affair gave a rest from the unpleasant aggro of last week’s clash; the festive spirit perhaps permeating a bit onto the field. In short, there’s not much to jeer and taunt about in any Spurs fans’ direction. Tottenham gave of their best, given their injuries, and were it us in that position – as we have been on so many occassions – we would be hailing our own players for the effort on display.

Third-Gen ratings as follows:

  • Almunia – 7.5: Was at fault for his positioning for Berbatov’s goal, but made glorious amends by saving Keane’s penalty low to his right. Keeps winning us points, much to the chagrin of many Arsenal fans who desperately want him out for some reason.
  • Sagna – 7: A solid game, though endured a rare occassion in being nutmegged by the youthful Abel Taarabt.
  • Toure – 8: The foul that lead to Keane’s missed penalty aside, put himself about with authority, gusto and the usual Kolo-grade effort. Remained assured in the tackle while the rest of the team had a little off-day.
  • Gallas -7: Did what was required of him and captained the side well through a derby of fluctuating fortunes. His card for ‘dissent’ was questionable.
  • Clichy – 7.5: His duel with Lennon was good value for money, and at times the upper hand chopped and changed between the two. In the end, came out the better when Arsenal calmed the match down in the final ten minutes.
  • Eboue – 6: Had a shot saved by Robinson, but had a quiet 70 minutes before being replaced.
  • Flamini – 7: Performed well throughout the match. Tireless runner, with a threatening shot right at the start of the match.
  • Fabregas – 6.5: An off day for the Spaniard, but yet still comes out with two assists. He will be hoping to perform better next time, but credit to how he ends up with such statistics after playing so absently. A superb back heel to set Adebayor up for the goal.
  • Rosicky – 6: His passing improved in the second half, and did not do anything beyond what was expected of him.
  • Hleb – 7: Was at fault somewhat for how isolated Adebayor was up front, but improved his game in the second, demonstrating his usual mojo in the dribbling and probing.
  • Adebayor – 7.5: Far too isolated in the first half, but kept his marvellous scoring record up against Spurs. Always a danger, no matter how useless some fans will insist he apparently is.
  • Substitutes – Bendtner – 8: Did exactly what was required of him as a substitute, and did it emphatically. A bullet header to seal the win, and a dangerous pass to open Adebayor up late on.
  • Gilberto – 7: Sent on for his experience in the last ten minutes, and kept the team calm in the face of some Tottenham pressure.

In the end, it was a fantastic display for the Premiership, and for the resources of our own club. We remain four points ahead of Manchester United (which could be whittled down to one should they win tonight), but it’s good to be Christmas champions for the first time in….gosh, four years?

At times, it’s been one hell of a bad omen to be topping the table at Christmas, but you cannot say anyone but the most hopeful of Gooners expected this position in pre-season. My hat is waving in celebration in Wenger’s direction. He has done a superb job so far this season. Now comes the Christmas break before a boxing day match at Fratton Park and the final fixture of the year against Everton at Goodison Park. Two difficult fixtures that will need a lot of concentration and a full squad with renewed tempo.

Here’s hoping for the best in that department. Savour the win – though Spurs fans should be congratulated for their team’s performance. (A note to Dimitar Berbatov, however: Thierry Henry did not sulk as much as you do, mate. Find a new club.)

A final note, again, to Arsenal Analysis (no link provided) – I would call a boycott to this site, as much as I would call boycotts to the Sportingo’s, Cought Offside’s and Tribalfootball’s of the world. Stop giving hits to a guy making up stories without any whiff of sources. his ‘exclusives’ on Dimitrov and co are never linked to anyone, with Wenger quotes that are not reported anywhere else. Please, be sensible, and give the cretin a big middle finger.

All the best – a Christmas Eve post for you lot tomorrow, then I’m taking a break for Christmas Day, I’m sure you’ll understand. Portsmouth Preview on Boxing Day, of course.

Stay well, one and all.

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8 Comments

Filed under Arsenal, Blogging, English Premier League, Match Reports, Tottenham

8 responses to “Bendtner and Almunia Leap to Tottenham’s Misfortune

  1. Pingback: Hadiah Krismas untuk penyokong Gunners at Arsenal Malaysia

  2. Steve duK

    Top of the league and playing great football. Do you remember the 80s when the Spuds never shut up about their supposed attractive football. Even when we were winning the league, they slated us because our football was apparently ‘boring’. I hope they can now admit that we are the team that all neutrals want to watch and that their club has declined into a pitiful waste of money!!!

    Re. Tactics – I really think Ade was so isolated yesterday and we should have played 4 – 4 – 2, with Hleb on the right and Eboue in the changing room. I also think that Nik would offer more to the team than Ade. Ade maybe top scorer, but my granny could score with the service our midfield provides. Give Nik a chance with RVP and I’d bet anything that he’ll not only score but provide much more for the team than Ade does.

    I also think that Lehmann shouldn’t even be on the bench after his reaction to the penalty save yesterday. Fab mark 2 proved he is a good keeper against Blackburn and he should get the substitute spot. Al was great and he really seems to be improving with each game. I think he will be a world-class keeper in a season or two’s time.

    Nice double over the spuds – again – fingers crossed we can win the title again. Great song I heard for the first time last night (Where have I been you ask – Australia for the last couple of years, so that explains it) “You won the league – In black and white” etc – LMFAO)

    Up The Arse!!!!!!!!

  3. jammathon

    I cannot be bothered to respond to the ‘another striker would scare ten goals a match in our side’ anti-Ade diatribe. Funny how they always acknowledge that he’s leading scorer in the Premier League, too. If you want Shevchenkos, van Nistelroois and Benzemas, go support Chelsea.

  4. Steve duK

    Jamm – I think you missed my point mate. I don’t advocate buying anyone else, only giving Bentdner and Eddie a go with RVP. I think Nik may give more to the side than Ade does – just my opinion. If it doesn’t work, revert back, but why have two top class strikers on the bench and only play them (and judge them) on their performances with our second string team. Give them a go with Cesc et al and see how they perform.

    I also think – and I sorry if it upset you, that’s not my intention – that Ade has got too cocky about his starting position and the amount of goals he’s scoring. He’s quoted saying words to the effect that he’s taken over Henry’s role and he believes he very good at it. I think his ego has got a little too big and a few matches on the bench would help him understand his place in a great TEAM.

    By the way – Happy Christmas

  5. jammathon

    Steve: Nothing to do with being upset. This is football, not politics.

    The fact of the matter is is that not many recognize Adebayor’s world-class himself. And he keeps scoring. Why remove a man that keeps scoring from the side? The idea that there are players like Bendtner and Eduardo (the latter of which still has a lot of work to do) pushing for a place means Adebayor has to keep scoring to keep his place. He’s doing this, and fans still want him out.

    It’s quite rediculous.

  6. kriz

    lol.. we should play a 4-3-3 then 🙂

    rvp loves the right wing
    ade loves the left wing
    nick can get the central role 🙂

  7. I think Clichy was more than 7.5, he made sure Lennon did next to nothing.

  8. kriz, I would agree with you but our midfield is too amazing. Who would we leave out, out of Flamini, Fabregas, Rosicky and Hleb?