With my ear blocked through infection and dosed up on antibiotics I made the trip up to London regardless last night. After some dodgy rear end skittishness from the car on the way up (a sure sign of potential rear puncture) I found that I was running at 6.5psi by the time I arrived at my mum and sister's. Should be 32psi! Good start.
We headed in on the underground and as we got closer to N5 the driver announced that Kings Cross was closed. Not a problem. Then Holloway Road. Oh. And then he came up with an absolutely classic line. Apologising profusely for the closures and the lack of information he was able to provide he said - "The next station, unfortunately, will be Arsenal". Top man! No idea whether he understood the connotations given last night's encounter, but I had to laugh at the expense of the Gooners sat around me!
With all the closures it was inevitable that kick-off would be delayed so we milled around with the other Spurs fans starting the songs early. It was around about this time that we found out Sam Allardyce had left Newcastle, but far more importantly that Cerny was going to start in place of Robbo. I had mixed feelings. When Cerny played his once-in-a-while games last season he always looked very competent. But when he got a bit of a run earlier this season he fell short, not least on his kicking. No matter, I still felt we could win it.
The Emirates was far from full, leading to a chorus of "Shall we fill your ground for you?" chants from the ranks of Spurs fans. No response. So we quickly followed up with "Just like the Library". Still no response. I've been to The Emirates once before, and I can confirm that the atmosphere is rubbish. No different to the Library then!
When we got underway the game settled into what I thought was a fairly predictable rhythm. Arsenal looking very good in possession, always providing options for passes, Spurs a bit more cut'n'thrust. Sadly, whoever the Arsehole put out, they look very assured on the ball. For the first twenty minutes, and probably for the majority of the first half, I would have to concede that they knocked the ball around superbly. So many time they shifted it quickly from side to side and front to back, always with two options for the man in possession to play the ball to. Impressive stuff. But they were lacking any cutting edge.
Aside from the superb save that Cerny made early in the half where we got caught out on the wing to allow a cross to be put in far too easily, they didn't really threaten. The pattern on the wings was repeated quite a lot, with much of the Arsehole attacking being made down their right, trying to open up Lee. They succeeded a fair few times, and I wondered exactly what sort of formation we were playing. Standing in Row 4 does not give you enough perspective to really work things out! Too often it looked as though Lee was being drawn much too narrow in the centre with King and Dawson playing too far apart at centre-half.
I read today that Ramos has had the back four chained together in a line a set distance apart from each other in an effort to get them working more as a unit. Maybe last night we saw the first appearance of this because they did appear to work as a unit, but it clearly needs honing based on the experience in the first half.
So, I've said a lot about the Arsehole and some of our deficiencies. Now onto the good stuff! And there was plenty of good stuff. Every time we came forward we looked threatening. Whether we used the wings or played it through the middle there was an anticipation that something could come of it.
The pace was set early on by King running almost the length of the field with the ball, only to push it marginally too far ahead of himself as he approached the box. He really needed to take a punt and smash it two strides earlier, but fair play, he didn't panic, ran into the box and kept possession. That move didn't come to anything, and sadly neither did many of the others we constructed in the first half.
Lennon got into a great position yards from the touchline in the Arsenal box, but opted for a flicked chip with this right instead of a smash with his left. Malbranque missed - badly - sidefooting wide when he really should have hit the target. Then Berbatov (I think) managed to get a superb cross in from the right. As it headed for the far post I urged Malbranque to put everything he had into it, and he did. Amazingly, he connected, but alas the ball went wide.
We did take the lead though. And deservedly. We seem to be making a real habit now of getting the ball to one of the two strikers in an advanced position, just inside the opposition box to slide the ball across. This time it was Keane running onto a ball to beat the offside trap, ably supported by Jenas striding through the middle unmarked to sidefoot, first time, past Fabianski as Keane squared for him. One-nil! Come on! The Spurs fans went nuts. There are few feelings as good as seeing Spurs take the lead at Arsenal. In fact for that brief moment in time, I can't really think of anything that beats it. Maybe an injury time winner? But we haven't seen one of those for a while!
The celebration was so frenetic that a mobile phone ended up falling in front of my sister. She asked around whether it belonged to anybody but nobody responded. Bizarrely it belonged to the bloke stood right next to me but he didn't claim it till half-time!
There were other chances too in the first half. Berbatov forced a good save from long range and Jenas hit one low and hard, but we went in a goal up. No getting carried away though. Always in my mind - the fact that we'd led two-nil at the same stage last season. But I couldn't really see the same happening this time.
Wenger made two subs at the start of the second half. Eduardo (who's been in prolific form) and Sagna introduced. We stuck with the same eleven.
The second half was a very, very different game to the first. We started it well, winning a corner early on. That's what we needed to do. Don't sit back when you come out, get stuck in again. Way too often we've failed to do that.
In reality though, the second half was much more stifled. There weren't nearly as many chances created and the Arsehole struggled to string together the kind of passing they'd managed in the first forty-five minutes. The chances that were there, again, fell to us. Nothing as clear cut as in the first half, but it was good to see us creating and managing to pretty comfortably hold our own.
A lot of that must go down to the way in which Jenas and O'Hara played. Jenas has been a player transformed since Ramos took over. While his passing can still leave a lot to be desired, he is doing what I'd like to see him do - shutting down and running from the middle to add to the general running he always does. O'Hara's second half performance was much better than his first. Too often in the first half he gave the ball away cheaply, but he'll learn.
Lennon began to look a bit jaded as the half wore on. Too often he was much further infield than I'd want. Chimbonda was left to make progress up the wing alone with no real support. When we made the substitution I fully expected Lennon would be withdrawn, but we threw on Boateng for Malbranque. He didn't really get into the game. He only had fifteen minutes or so to do it, but he couldn't really get his foot on the ball.
Throughout the second half the Arsehole had began to exploit the right wing even more than they had in the first half. Sagna was far more willing to push forward and with Boateng on the pitch it looked like he felt even more willing to do it.
Still the chances wouldn't come for the Arsehole. King kept the boys at the back well organised and made one terrific tackle late on when the Arsehole broke down the right quickly. He covered a lot of ground and timed the tackle brilliantly. That's just one of the reasons its so fantastic to see Ledley back in the side!
The Arsehole goal, when it did come, came with a huge slice of luck. A ball through the middle - not something they'd really profited from so far - allowed Walcott (who had been otherwise ineffective) to run through. Somehow it ended up in the back of the net. My first reaction was Walcott had somehow flicked it up into his own face. Or something very much like it. Well, actually, my first reaction was one of disappointment, but you catch my drift! My next reaction was to wonder whether he may have handled it. Having seen the replays it looks like what actually happened was that Lee beat Walcott to the ball, but we got no luck with the way it bounced into his face - after it hit his bloody hand!
At 1-1 I was satisfied. We needed to hold strong and take that scoreline back to The Lane. Defoe was thrown on for the last ten minutes or so. The right decision I thought. Give him enough time to pick the ball up on the edge of the Arsehole box and see what he can conjure up. Sadly, the chance, when it did fall to him, was sent high over the bar. He should've done better. Having said earlier in the week that I think Defoe looks superbly sharp when thrown on as a sub, he couldn't quite do it. I thought a toe poke would've been better than a sidefoot, but give him the chance again and he'll probably bury it.
It finished 1-1 then. A thoroughly satisfying Spurs performance. While I won't quibble that the Gooners played the better passing football in the first half, we undoubtedly created the best, and most, chances in the game. We could easily be going back to The Lane ahead by one or two. But let's not get too downhearted. There's plenty to play for and the Goons will probably have to score twice at The Lane to stand a chance of beating us. I think we can go into that game confident that (assuming we don't pick up any injuries in the three games we play until then), we can progress.
Getting out of the ground was a nightmare. Took bloody ages, but its worth talking about because of some more worthy observations. There were loads of Spurs fans there last night, as you'd expect. We weren't shy to say it either. Pretty much all the way to Finsbury Park station the Spurs chants were going up. One comedy moment was when a Gooner was walking alongside me on his mobile to somebody. His words were something along the lines of "Mate, there's Yid Army everywhere and they're not afraid to say it either. I'm glad the police are around tonight."
Ha ha ha ha ha! Muppet. If he thinks that's something he should try travelling to places like Ninian Park. Those are the ground where you really earn your stripes.
As for the shandy drinking Gooners, see you at The Lane week after next. Hopefully, we'll finally put that long and tortured run without a win well and truly to bed!
Come on you Spurs!