It's enough to make you twitch uncontrollably
I love being proved wrong by Arsenal. I really thought we were going to lose yesterday, and at 2-0 down it was going to be a case of how many we would lose by. Then, for some reason, the players realised what the game meant, what the shirt meant, and how privileged they are to play for Arsenal Football Club. It truly was a momentous afternoon and beyond anything we could have expected in the circumstances. For anyone who believed that Spurs have gone past Arsenal in a big way (I, for one, had only recently started to think they were a better side than us) it was a day to be shown the error of your ways.
The usual frailties were there to be seen. Their first goal simply showed how bad we can be at this defending lark. I just don't know where the defence was. Having said that, the finish was about as lucky as they come. When Van Persie had a shot deflected the wrong side of the post a little later I felt it wasn't going to be our day again. After they scored we summed up our play for most of the season as we got plenty of the ball but didn't do much with it. When we weren't giving it away we were going sideways across midfield and not threatening their defence. Then came, for me, the turning point of the game. There can be no doubt that Gareth Bale dived (as he had earlier in the game - and so had Walker and Assou-Ekotto). Bale is rapidly becoming a more proficient master of the dark arts of cheating than Rooney and Gerrard. His usual move is to writhe around holding his ankle before getting up and sprinting away once the opponent has been booked. Yesterday his behaviour was as sinister as it gets. You could tell from the reaction of the Arsenal players that it wasn't a penalty. The remonstrating with the referee was not the usual false protestation you see when a penalty is given. Mike Dean knew he had got it wrong, and that is why he didn't show a card to Szczesny - once he'd awarded the penalty then the Pole had to be sent-off. I notice that the press is not full of calls for Bale to be banned for his diving, but then he is British after all. I remember a very similar incident with Robbie Fowler diving over Seaman at Highbury in 1997. As it was, the injustice of the decision sparked the Arsenal players in to life.
Theo Walcott had been absolutely abysmal up to that point but it was his delightful flick, from which Van Persie hit the post, that ultimately led to our first goal. I have to say I thought the header from Bacary Sagna was sensational. We had put a couple of crosses in and stood and watched as their defenders cleared under no pressure. Sagna, on this occasion, decided to attack the ball and in doing so got in front of Bale to score brilliantly. His determined, rather than celebratory, reaction to the goal was a sign that he wanted to right some wrongs. The goal reminded me very much of one that Lee Dixon got up at Newcastle many years ago. It was now game on.
With tails now up Arsenal moved in to unstoppable mode. Suddenly we were closing down everything when they had the ball and moving it with pace when we had it. Mikel Arteta, for the first time in his Arsenal career, started to move the ball forward. Rosicky's movement with, and without, the ball was something Spurs couldn't handle. Benayoun buzzed all over Walker who suddenly looked lost on Tottenham's right, and Kieran Gibbs wasted no time in doubling up on him. Then there was Robin Van Persie. His goal was like a mirror image of Dennis Bergkamp. The control, turn and finish was amazing and it sent those of us in attendance mad. You had the sense that things were getting a bit twitchy on the Tottenham bench. I imagine Harry was quickly on the phone to his dog to get a half-time teamtalk typed up for him.
Shortly after we equalised Kieran Gibbs passed up an opporunity to make it 3-2 by trying to pass instead of shooting after beating a couple of defenders. However, this came after Adebayor got away with a blatant elbow on Thomas Vermaelen. The linesman saw it, and flagged for it. Mike Dean played the advantage for Arsenal, but didn't go back to his assistant to find out why he had flagged. Following our first game of the season the media ensured that Alex Song got banned for a stamp on Joey Barton which was missed by the referee. I want to see Arsenal making sure the media follow up on Adebayor. Why should we always be the ones to suffer from video replays?
The display in the second-half showed just how well Arsenal can play when the players apply themselves properly. In many ways it merely serves to underline the frustration with this group. Spurs simply had no answers to the pace and quality of Arsenal. Tomas Rosicky was rolling back the years and produced probably his best ever display for the Club. He thoroughly deserved his goal, and what a goal it was. The move itself was fantastic, but the finish was outstanding. Little Mozart celebrated with all the enthusiasm of a man who hadn't scored a league goal in two years.
After that it was the Theo show. As regulars will know I am not the biggest fan of Theo Walcott, but I love to give credit where it is due. His pace came to the fore as he made a barn-storming run to get on the end of Van Persie's through-ball. It was ironic that his inability to control the football provided the angle for his delightful finish to make it 4-2. Some of his finishing of late has been poor, but this was Walcott at his very best, the dinked chip was perfection and the crowd went crazy. Theo's reaction, captured brilliantly in slow-motion by Match Of The Day, was one of relief and delight all rolled in to one. The fact that it was about to get even better was quite incredible. Alex Song (more on him below) played yet another of his brilliant passes behind the defence and Theo was in again. This time the touch was first-class, and the finish equally as good as his earlier one. The atmosphere in the ground was as raucous and loud as it has been at any time (the Fabregas goal against Tottenham, Henry versus Manchester United and Leeds, and Arshavin against Barcelona are the only other moments that compare, in the new stadium). When you see Walcott making these kinds of runs in behind, and finishing so well, you have to wonder why he doesn't play like that all the time.
I believe that Robin Van Persie was made man-of-the-match on Sky. That was fairly predictable, but entirely wrong as far as I was concerned. Not only was Rosicky absolutely outstanding but, for me and many others I know, Alex Song was the main man yesterday. There can be few more improved footballers than Song in the Premier League. He has carried Arsenal's midfield for most of this season and yesterday he bestrode the pitch like Patrick Vieira in his prime. The way he was physically dominating Tottenham's players (especially in the second-half), mopping up in front of his defence, and then striding forward with pace, power, and an eye for a pass really was reminiscent of the great PV4. Along with Van Persie, Sagna and Koscielny he is among my very favourite players in this current squad.
I was disappointed with Arsenal's team selection before the game yesterday, but you can't argue that Arsene Wenger wasn't absolutely right yesterday. Again, credit where it's due, Arsene played a blinder with this one. Redknapp, meanwhile, got it seriously wrong. Tottenham still struggle with "Darren Anderton syndrome" by which I mean they are determined to play their best players against Arsenal regardless of fitness. The decision to put Ledley King out there yesterday seriously backfired. King is a first-rate player, but he couldn't even walk for most of the game, never mind run. Good luck with England Harry.
I am still smiling as I write this. It was the sort of result that sets you up for the entire week. The thing that makes it all the sweeter is that their muppet fans really thought they had seen the back of Arsenal. To then get hammered, and make no mistake this was a real thrashing, must make them sick as dogs. They remain obsessed with Arsenal. The game at our place remains their cup final every season (I prefer my cup finals to involve a trophy for the winner). If you want an illustration of their vitriol towards us, and their sheer jealousy of our success, then read the comments after my previous blog post on Saturday evening. You may also like to know that Saturday's post didn't make it in to the top 40 stories on Arsenal's NewsNow feed, but was in the top 10 on Tottenham's feed. How sad they are.
I'm not sure when the next post will be. We have silly internationals to endure this midweek, and I am at work throughout that time. I'll try and write something on Thursday, I think, when we can start to build towards another big game on Saturday. Until then. just keep smiling at them - it really winds them up.