I wasn’t liking Spurs’s chances in this North London Derby. I was expecting a 2-0 loss because it’s at the Emirates and, frankly, because we’re Spurs. Tottenham Hotspur is a team capable of highs and lows. Our highs, like beating Manchester United at Manchester United for the first time in twenty years, exhilirating though they are, are often the result of prolonged underachievement. In other words, we beat them for the first time in twenty years but why the hell did it take twenty years? And our lows are the embodiment of defeat. We go quietly like last week’s loss to West Brom.
The current Spurs side just doesn’t feel like my team right now. I’ve been following Tottenham since 2006, so, I’ll always feel like my team consists of Dimitar Berbatov, Robbie Keane, Tom Huddlestone, Benoi Assou-Ekotto, and Ledley King. The only remaining Spurs player from that era is Aaron Lennon, with Michael Dawson having been traded away earlier this season.
Since the sale of Gareth Bale, Spurs have been in the middle of a self inflicted identity crisis. Paulinho, Nacer Chadli, Eric Lamela, Christian Eriksen, Roberto Saldado, Vlad Chiriches. The only new signings that seem to fit in the current side are Jan Vertonghen and Etienne Capoue.
All of these players are professionals. They all have a pedigree of some kind. Paulinho was a star for Brazil but apparently only long enough to get a fat contract from us and then lose his form. Saldado was a leading scorer in Spain but he simply doesn’t score in England. When Luka Modric and Rafael van der Vaart were on the team, I knew that we would score. Jermain Defoe and even Roman Pavlyuchenko could score. But now I feel no menace in our attacks.
So, I was scared. And we were including Ryan Mason in our starting lineup. What? Yeah, he scored a goal against Nottingham Forest in the League Cup but starting against Arsenal? He’s been on loan 700 times. But Danny Rose’s first start against Arsenal had him scoring the first goal, so, perhaps it was a good luck move.
The first half wasn’t a disaster but it wasn’t great, either. The theme of the day for Spurs was “no final ball”. This could be the theme of the current side. We would get a break away only to lose it in the final third. Nacer Chadli broke away on a run and then misfired with what was either a shot or a cross, I couldn’t tell. Ryan Mason had a clear ball into the box and put in a weak cross with his left foot right to Szczesny with Adebayor storming down the right side.
So, I was amazed at Chadli’s perfect finish in the second half. Arsenal gave the ball away in their own back third. Eriksen tracked it down. It bounced to Lamela and he gave a perfect ball to Chadli who slotted it home.
Two things happened next. First, Chadli got a yellow card for his “shhhhh” gesture to the Arsenal fans. (I’ve always hated that gesture but here I loved it.) Second, I thought to myself “how are we going to fuck this up?” It couldn’t be that simple could it? We’re Spurs, they’re Arsescum and we’re on their home turf. This isn’t over.
And it sure as hell wasn’t. Chadli’s goal had the worst effect possible, it ignited Arsenal. They were pounding us for the rest of the game.
Arsenal’s equalizer had been a long time coming but it was ugly. A failed clearance by Lamela was passed back into the box. Kaboul missed it. Wellbeck whiffed it and Oxlade-Chamberlain drove it home from six yards out.
The rest of the game saw Spurs trying to stop the bleeding. It was fortunate that we got out of there with a draw.
The result was a deserved letdown. It’s not even October yet and our chances for a top four finish already look slim. Maybe Pochettino hasn’t fully made his mark with this team yet. Maybe one of our strikers will find his form. Maybe the team will start to gel. But that’s a lot of maybes. Come on you Spurs. No, seriously, come on.