Monday, February 9, 2009

Tottenham v Arsenal, February 8, Premier League

Harry Redknapp and Spurs should want to shoot themselves for not ending their winless run in the league against the Gunners in this one and Arsene Wenger and the Gunners should accept that not only are they not playing winning football, they are also not playing beautiful football at the moment.

Spurs not winning was really all about not being able to find the net because for most of the game they were clearly superior – both in terms of their display as well as in numbers. They also had a decent dose of luck when Eboue’s goal was not given, though to be fair to them the whistle was heard before the ball went in and one could always argue about the goal being prevented had the ref’s call not been heard.

The Spurs line-up looked a little centre-heavy to me with no natural left-sided player. That job was given to Modric, who while not always providing lots of width, did benefit from this change because it allowed him to get into play more up-field and make contributions where they are really useful. His impact was clear and he had some great moments, especially one where he found SWP on the edge of the box with a perfect ball only for the speedy winger to let the chance go by. On another occasion, Modric found himself clear and had it not been for a heavy first touch, he may have had a good shot on goal. His worst moment though came towards the end when he shot wide in an almost three-against-one situation. Yet, it was encouraging to see him so involved and he is the sort of player who will be a threat anywhere close to the opposition box, so I would be delighted if Harry continues with this ploy.

The real star for Spurs, especially in the first half was Palacios. The number of times he took the ball off Arsenal was amazing and he also had the energy to get forward and even threaten Almunia. It is clear why he came to Harry so heavily recommended and if Steve Bruce can find a replacement as good, then he too will be snapped up in the summer.

Other thoughts for Spurs, Pavyluchenko is tuning out to be a little bit of a waste because I really liked his look in Austria-Switzerland and though I would have expected him to miss many, his strength seemed to be in getting into scoring positions often enough to finally make them count. Right now, he seems to be just missing the odd chances he gets. And very honestly, I would prefer if someone like Bentley or Bale played left, Modric played in the hole behind Keane or Bent. While both the strikers are different, I think both could work with Modric, who could be amazing on the edge of the area.

Then to Arsenal. True to form, Wenger has gone on to complain about the goal that wasn’t given but he would also do well to see why his team is not banging more of them in. Palacios alone was worth twice more than Denilson and Song put together and one wonders why the Red side of London didn’t look at him as a transfer option. Even Clichy and Sagna are increasingly finding it difficult to keep possession and Adebayor has made friends with Drogba and Anelka. Take away Van Persie and to some extent Nasri and there was very little positive for a large part of that Gunner performance.

What about Eboue? I had expected big things from him this season and finding a settled spot, he seemed to be on the road to gradual improvement. Till his ejection for a second stupid yellow card, he looked sensational. He was involved wide right, wide left, centrally, was found defending and attacking and got the goal that wasn’t. But what use in the end? Such stupidity on your best day is laughable and it is evident why he does not endear himself even to his own fans.

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