Thursday, May 6, 2010

Spurs Win Fourth(?) Place Play-Off

Mancini's Manchester City, as they showed in the recent game at the Emirates, are too negative to go and win a big game, as they had to lastnight. They need urgency, but from the opposition, so that spaces are opened up for fast breaks, and their quick forwards can exploit that. With Stephen Ireland injured- and even before that, neither in form nor favour- City are bereft of creativity in the centre of the park. Spurs comfortbaly repelled their predictable attacks. Andy Gray remarked fairly early that Tevez was dropping very deep just to get involved- the result of Nigel De Jong and the pointless Gareth Barry lacking the ability to make any kind of telling pass. Maybe I'm being harsh on Barry, because it was with his enforced withdrawal, making way for Patrick the Passenger Vieira, that Spurs decided to make their superiority tell. They battered City for the remainder, and should have scored on a couple of occasions before Crouch finally bundled in the winner.

Harry Redknapp was rewarded for the kind of positivity even managers like Wenger rarely exhibit: in a big game, he put out a 4-4-2, without a recognised "holding" player (Palacios was benched), entrusting the leisurely Huddlestone and the diminutive but wonderful Luka Modric to win the midfield battle. It should not be forgotten that Modric was long linked with Arsenal before he moved to Spurs, and Wenger ratherly sourly stated since that the Croat was too lightweight to play in the Premiership. You'd hope he doesn't really believe that. I'm not sure where Modric would fit into Arsenal's team right now, but he's certainly a better player than Nasri, or it seems Arshavin, or any number of equally lightweight players on our books.

Note also that Spurs are clearly capable of performing with a discipline that has long since deserted their North London neighbours. Entertaining football is well and good, and in fact Spurs have arguably played the best football in England this season, but games like lastnight's are tight and tense, and Arsenal consistently fail in those battles, where in bygone days, they would produce a performance to fit the occasion.

Third place and, vitally, automatic Champions League qualification should still be ours, provided the team wakes from its collective stupor long enough to at least draw against a distracted Fulham side on Sunday. In light of my recent rantings, it's worth pointing out the Sky Sports statistics shown lastnight, with the net spending figures of the big clubs. Arsenal are the only one who have made a profit from transfers in recent years. City have spent a grotesque amount on largely average players who are only good enough for fifth. Spurs are a distant second, having spent heavily to get where they are today. But they have got there.

Perhaps some day the critics will all be made look foolish as Wenger is replaced by another great manager who gets the benefit of his predecessor's frugal nature. We will all marvel at how Arsene Knew all along. Still, I can't help feeling that there have been missed opportunities, because Wenger failed to find a middle ground between stability and maintaining a squad worthy of the name Arsenal. Those figures are a victory for idealism but that victory is hollow without a good team on the pitch. So let's hope that those figures are not an end in themselves, but a means to put us where we are this summer, in a position to spend some fucking money on some fucking proper players.

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