EPL 2006: Day 11 (Tottenham 1 – Arsenal 1)

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Football
October 30th, 2005 • 11:22 am

It was a game of two halves. In the first half, the Gunners were appallingly bad, there was a much higher level of commitment on the Spurs side, and they took the lead on a set piece, raising fears, once again, that Arsenal simply does not know how to defend such situations.

The second half was completely different. Arsène Wenger introduced Robert Pires on the flank, and put Fabregas back where he belongs, i.e. in the center of the midfield, alongside Gilberto Silva. The Spurs were obviously unable to sustain the level of pressure that they had exerted in the first half, and the Gunners had the upper hand throughout the half. They deservedly got one goal back, even though they were helped by an error of the keeper. And they really should have had a second and bagged the three points. They were the better team by far. Even Ljungberg’s injury didn’t really affect them.

Could this be, as Arsène Wenger hopes, a game that revives the Gunners’ season? Only time will tell, of course. There were indeed encouraging signs in the second half, including the fact that the Gunners were able to get back into the game even without Thierry Henry. His role as captain is still far from an obvious thing, and I think this game demonstrated that the Gunners can indeed cope without him, both as a striker and as a captain.

On the other hand, even in the second half, the Gunners still weren’t as effective as they need to be. Reyes is still looking for the goal scoring form that we need from him. Bergkamp only has flashes of brilliance. And the first half also demonstrated that our defense can too easily be broken. Clichy is impressive when going forward, but defensively he’s still too easily left exposed. Lauren seems to become less and less effective with time. The defending of set pieces is still obviously a problem, with King left totally unmarked when he scored. Lehmann had a couple of good saves, but wasn’t entirely blameless on the goal either. And Sol Campbell was obviously perturbed by the constant abuse from Tottenham fans. Here again, the second half was better, but I am not how much of it can also be attributed to the Tottenham players losing steam more than anything else.

Still, the Gunners definitely proved that they can cope even without Vieira and Henry. Tottenham manager Martin Jol had to eat his own words, and the “pundits” were once again proven wrong. (They were anticipating a Spurs victory for the first time in many years.)

Elsewhere, Manchester United were roundly and deservedly beaten 4-1 by Middlesborough (which makes our own defeat 2-1 on that ground somewhat less embarrassing), and Charlton suffered their first home defeat against Bolton, which means that Chelsea are now being chased by… Wigan. Who would have thought?

The fixtures calendar is rather kind to the Gunners for November. They only need one more point to ensure qualification for the next round of the Champions’ League, and they start with a home game against Sparta Praha, beaten 0-2 in Prague two weeks ago, and then go to Switzerland to play lowly Thun. On the domestic front, it’s Sunderland at home first, then away at Wigan, and home to Blackburn Rovers. I applaud Wigan for what they have achieved so far, but I’ll still be expecting the Gunners to outclass them.

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