I went to bed last night with the Tollington’s finest lager surging through my veins, fragments of repeated chants, “Adebayor, what’s the score?”, echoing in my head and snapshots of an unforgettable day competing for attention? To beat Tottenham at any time feels good, it hadn’t been that long that we don’t remember what it felt like. But to beat them- no, to thrash them, after falling behind to a lucky goal, further behind to a penalty that should never have been given and when everyone expected them to win is just…. well, what can you say about it?
I guess you could say, as James, Asa, Fraser and Simon all agreed, that it was the best ever game at the Emirates. Ok, so it doesn’t quite carry the prestige of beating the European champions, or the Premier League champions come to that, but fuck… Everything about the day was perfect. What was really great was to inflict on the neighbours the kind of damage that they inflicted on us last year- just as we did in 2009, the season after Tottenham’s Lazarus impersonation in that famous 4-4..
My day started as I met James for a Nando’s at Kings Cross. Neither of us were feeling too confident about the match, but a quick pep talk from our server, a guy called Wycliffe had me feeling, “irrationally”, that we were going to win. A text from Asa, that I didn’t pick up till we were on the tube to Arsenal, relayed news of Benayoun and Rosicky’s inclusion. Rosicky? What for? If only we knew…
The Clash’s London Calling was pumping from the stadium PA as we walked down the steps to our seats, James cousin Matt in tow, in the lower tier of the Clock End- entrance music, laughed James. I hoped it wouldn’t be the highlight of my day. I also hoped the video of our 2004 title win, and celebrations, wouldn’t be. The video played, the teams came out and Spurs walked through our defence to score from their first attack, via a deflection off Tommy V’s boot. Fuck. What is it with all these deflected goals at the minute?
We responded well, I thought. Both fans and crowd, RvP missing what for him surely counted as a sitter from close in, before seeing another shot deflected just wide, Vermaelen smashed one wide. Spurs reminded us they were still around when Szczesny saved from Adebayor and Kyle Walker hammered the rebound so close that both myself and Brad Friedel thought it was in. Just over though.
And then Mike Dean intervened. Not content with booking Koscielny for the crime of being tripped by Adebayor, he then awarded Spurs a very generous penalty after Gareth Bale ran into some space dust and was tripped over by it. Well, either that, or he dived. The little monkey twat. Another twat, you know who, took and scored the penalty before treating himself to a little dance. And I think that was the real turning point of the match. Although it did go a little bit quiet for a minute. Thereafter Arsenal, players and crowd, burned with a righteous indignation and it was no real surprise that we quickly reduced arrears. We’d already watched Walcott burst free and clear only to immediately offload the ball to a surrounded van Persie. Minutes later the same players combined for van Persie to strike the base of the post. We’d barely had time to let our disappointment out before Arteta’s cross found Bacary Sagna’s head and the right back pummelled a very popular header past Friedel.
If that was popular what came two minutes later nearly took the roof off the stadium. A header from Assou-Ekotto fell at magic feet of van Persie on the edge of the box. Watching it happen, he seemed to take an age to work the space for a shot, watching it back it took him about a second. However long it took him, the left footed strike was one of those great moments when you know it’s in as soon as it leaves his foot. A truly great goal, perhaps my favourite at the new stadium. In amongst a sea of bodies flying all over the place, I remember looking up to see van Persie sliding to his knees in the corner just to our left.
Half time came at what most would have thought was a bad time for Arsenal- but Harry had seen enough to ask for a fresh pair of smalls for the second half. Ok, maybe not, but he did bring on Sandro and Van Der Vaart for Saha and Kranjcar, which amounts to the same thing I think. Benayoun was quickly into his stride and denied a goal only by Friedel’s fingertips. Tomas Rosicky, on the other hand, wasn’t going to be denied minutes later. A move that began in our half and on the left found Rosicky, he played Sagna into yards of space on the right and carried on running. Sagna crossed the ball to the near post (that old chestnut again, eh Bacary?), into Rosicky’s path and the Czech flicked the ball home past Friedel for a thoroughly deserved goal. His goal celebration, as he tore around the back of the North Bank goal, a beautiful outpouring of emotion.
But we weren’t finished there.
Theo Walcott had endured a terrible first half. I’ll admit it, I was one of those abusing him almost every time he touched the ball, but he deserved it. Sorry, he did. In the second half, things changed for him and quite remarkably. He’d already sent a warning shot just past the far post and then van Persie had the ball in the middle of the pitch. He looked to his right for support, nothing. He waited… and waited and waited. And then, almost as if Theo heard the shout of a bloke behind me, commanding him to move, he started to motor. RvP played him in and his second touch was poor, but his next touch was exquisite as he lifted the ball over the old git in Tottenham’s goal. As the mother of all celebrations erupted around the stadium, the bloke standing in front of us ended up lying in the seat next to us, me, James and Matt hugged as I lifted my arms to the sky, screaming yessssss!
Would that be enough though? We’ve been here before, after all. I think we’d barely calmed down after the 4th when Walcott was in again, played in by the excellent Song, he arrowed a shot across Friedel and into the corner of the goal. Now we knew there would be no comeback from Spurs. As the celebrations became evermore unbridled, the away end began to empty at quite a rate, 2-0 and you fucked it up. In truth, I think the writing was on the wall from the minute Bacary Sagna got us back in the game, a game we should never have been losing to begin with. The afternoon had a momentum all of its own after that-the handbrake, as Arsene would say, was definitely off.
The cherry on top of a rather lovely cake came when Scott Parker, already booked in the first half, rather needlessly totalled Thomas Vermaelen around the halfway line. He knew what was coming and headed for a slightly early bath, before remembering his manners and then pretending to check that the Belgian was ok before he departed the scene. Perhaps, like the Spurs players as a collective, Parker just couldn’t wait to get off. In mitigation, Parker had been run ragged by a team that had been playing take the piss football for twenty minutes- epitomised by van Persie waltzing through about 4 tackles in quick succession on halfway. He’s on a different planet, this guy. As for us, all that was left was Move On Up, reflections on fucked throats, ringing ears, sore heads, a total drain and beer. Lots of marvellous beer. And a hope that Arsenal can maintain the high tempo, both in their pressing and in their attacking football for the rest of our season.
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