Sunday, 24 April 2011

It's all but over now. Spurs match report + Bolton preview

Spurs 3 Arsenal 3

It's a point I've made over and over again in the time I've been writing this blog, but I think it's worth pointing out this week: you don't win the League by beating your closest rivals. Yes, it helps. But when the success of your League challenge is predicated on beating Liverpool, Spurs and Man United in successive games, then something has gone wrong earlier in the season.

If we'd taken six points from our two games this week - and you can make a reasonable case that we could and should have done - then we would be in the title race, but that doesn't mask the fact that it was poor results both at the beginning of the season, and in the last couple of months that have cost us. Our competing for the League was more the result of everyone else being crap, than some brilliant performances from us.

In fact, I have very little issue with the draw at White Hart Lane. Yes, we concede too many goals to mediocre Spurs midfield players by asking them to have a shot, but in reality - much though it hates me to say it - Spurs have improved. We don't expect to win at Anfield, Old Trafford or Stamford Bridge every season, and so to, we shouldn't expect to always win at the Lane.

But what was so galling about this performance was it had everything we'd been lacking over the previous couple of months: some verve, some elan, and more than anything else, some real determination. We played without the handbrake, and took the game to our opponents for once. For me, that we drew that game was moot.

Yes, we lost a lead again, but the idea that we 'threw it away', is simply nonsense. Spurs scored a goal from outside the box, and Szczesny was guilty of nothing except perhaps naivety when he gave the penalty away. It's easily forgotten, too, that we did score a perfectly good goal to restore a two-goal advantage when the score was 3-2, which was ruled out by the linesman.

And, lest we forget, we could have won the game right at the very end. This was a performance full of spirit and determination, for once I have no argument with the manager.

That's why I disagree with the popular opinion that Arsenal lack mental strength and bottle. I agree wholeheartedly with Patrick Barclay's argument in Friday's Times that what Arsenal are, is naive, not bottlers.

It was Spurs who probably needed a result more than Arsenal on Wednesday. The League was - but for a very lucky sequence of results - already gone. And yet, we went along and dictated the game, silenced their fans. A team which lacks mental strength couldn't have gone along and played like that after the farcical end to proceedings just a few days earlier.

A team which lacks mental strength would have buckled at 3-3 - but instead Wojciech made a string of excellent saves. That's character for you, particularly after he had given away a penalty which levelled the scores up. I was at the Lane, and I could see Cesc geeing the team up - they did not give up.

I just don't buy that we lack mental strength - if that's so, why were we favourites to go through in the Nou Camp, having once again equalised having trailed to Barcelona, before Robin's sending off? How could we come from behind to beat the best team in the world? How could we have the best away record in the Premier League, then?

It's obviously a disappointing end to the season, but we have to keep on fighting - not least because second would at least be an improvement on last season.

I personally think that this is a pretty good team; one might question why four ostensibly good defenders were made to look so ordinary in the second half on Wednesday, but the flip side of that is we only conceded one goal - they can't be that bad.

Bolton today is a good chance to stop the rot. After a 5-0 defeat last weekend, they'll also be hurting, but we should have no sympathy for them - they are Bolton, and I'm predicting a 2-0 away win.

Keep the faith.


Mystic Megson said...

I predict 2-1 to Bolton

Adam said...

Ho ho

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