Spurs vs Arsenal – Favourites come away with the bragging rights

Published: October 3, 2011

Spurs (2) vs Arsenal (1)

IT'S weird going into a Derby as favourites - it hasn't been this way for so many years, and it wasn't actually very enjoyable in the build up. Brag too much before hand and there is the sense it will come back to bite you on the bum.

But with three good wins on the bounce and Arsenal clearly not firing on all cylinders, there has never been a better opportunity for Spurs to win the first set of seasonal bragging rights, and it was one they took happily.

For young Kyle Walker, it was a performance that said: forget all your recent troubles with the right back spot, Harry, I've arrived.

He spent last year on loan at Villa, and it did him the world of good. Today (yesterday) he was strong at the back, dazzled with his powerful running, and hit Tottenham's spectacular winner as the match meandered a little into a flabby second period.

His was perhaps not the name we expected to make the morning headlines. It's not as if a derby needs an extra sprinkling of spice, but Emmanuel Adebayor added a zing. The former Gooner wasn't exactly popular for upping to Manchester City, and made things even worse with that infamous celebration. Then to sign for Spurs and start scoring... well, the displeasure was clear by the nature of the hugely offensive song he was serenaded with from the away end.

The roar of approval and disapproval that greeted Adebayor's name as the teams lined up just underlined the expectation attached to this divisive figure. Bookie Paddy Power were offering all stakes back if Adebayor scored: it was just written in the football cosmos that he'd be at the centre of something - not just the pre-match banter between the two sets of rival fans.

And it was clear immediately that he was well up for giving his former employers a bloody nose. On six, we saw the first example of his determination to live up to the hype. He collected the ball on the cusp of the Spurs half, and his burst unsettled the Arsenal defence and he nearly smuggled his way into the danger area. It caused a ruffle in the Arsenal back four. Unable to clear their lines, Scott Parker then found himself through on goal and it took a big block from Wojciech Szczesny to keep things level.

But despite Ade's huff and puff, it was pretty even in the opening 20, with both sides probing but neither getting too much sight of one another's goal. And as with derbies, the tempo meant simple things were made to look a little complicated, and there were some niggly challenges being handed out.

Rafael van der Vaart tore into Kieran Gibbs on 26, earning a deserved yellow: it was late and nasty. Then Gervinho was tee'd up in a you-can't-miss position by Robin Van Persie. He promptly did. Van Der Vaart had a free kick in a good position, but he uncharacteristically failed to clear the wall, and then even Luka Modric got the contagion and spun a simple pass out of play. It underlined the scrappiness of the first half hour.

With Spurs trying to hit Adebayor early, his marker Alex Song saw plenty of the action, and it was about evens in terms of balls won between the pair.

Then, as it settled into a war of attrition, came the predicted Adebayor contribution, and it lead to an opening from nowhere. On 41, Adebayor had been bundled over by an unseemly jumble of three Arsenal players, and a quickly taken free kick saw him canter into space on the right hand side. His clipped cross for van der Vaart saw the Dutchman skilfully chest it down, and thump the ball home.

The second half started with Aaron Ramsey making things even on 50 after Tottenham failed to clear their lines: it seemed against the play, as moments earlier Gareth Bale had fired narrowly over. 

But the equaliser neither gave Arsenal the filip to kick on, nor Spurs a wake up call. Neither team found the nous needed to get their pretty passing game going. Yet the swap of van der Vaart for Sandro on 70 turned things.

Sandro's positional sense gave his teammates that extra yard and after a little spell of pressure, Kykle Walker's glory moment came. On 72, Spurs had cranked things up a little and a spun ball to the right found Walker lurking around 25 yards out. His powerful drive left Szczesny with no chance.

Bale could and should have made it three on 74 when he ghosted round the back but placed his volley narrowly wide, and then the Welsh winger set Defoe up with seven minutes remaining that brought a sprawling save from Szczesny. Arsenal looked disjointed from here on in, and Defoe, Bale and then Modric all had sights of goal without taking advantage.

Finally, it was interesting watching Arsene Wenger's body language as the game progressed. The furrowed brow looks more lined than in previous years, and his demeanour obvious by the folded arms, then hands on hips, then folded back again... He held his head tilted back, as if his team were putting an unpleasant smell up his nose. It was as if he was saying: I've told them how to do it, told them how simple this game is, and if they don't have the intelligence to follow a clear set of instructions, what am I supposed to do?

It was almost a resigned pose, not the animated manager of previous derbies, not the figure who throws bottles on the floor or prompted Martin Jol to square over a perceived slight. Instead, it was up to Pat Rice to point frantically at spaces and berate errors. He only really came alive after Spurs took the lead for the second time, and then only briefly. Yet something seemed to happen at the end, a sly word was said by Wenger in the direction of Clive Allen and the pair eyeballed each other before Wenger stomped off down the tunnel. Perhaps it was this sticky autmnal heatwave, perhaps it was the sloppy performance by his team of passers, or perhaps it was just too much to see yet another one of his former favourites lined up in the opposing teams colours – and playing a central role in a derby defeat.

The bragging rights are Spurs, for now.
Team Sheet:
Friedel, Bale, Kaboul, Parker, Adebayor, van der Vaart, Modric, Defoe, King, Walker, Assou-Ekotto

Cudicini, Pavlyuchenko, Dos Santos, Bassong, Corluka, Livermore, Sandro