We may have picked an attacking looking side but it was clear from the start that our intention was to keep a tight, compact shape and not overextend ourselves. After Arsenal kicked off it was a good minute and a half before a Spurs player touched ball. Throughout the game Rose and Naughton rarely crossed the halfway line, the centre backs kept their concentration as they became the focus for much of the play and Pochettino went mad when the front four (Eriksen nominally on the left incidentally with Chadli closest to Adebayor) failed to hassle and chase a defender with time and the ball at his feet.
So we let them have the ball and they probed and prodded and we batted and swatted them away. Oxlade-Chamberlain was the biggest threat by far, Rose struggled to cope with the combination of him and Chambers down his side, but all their & the rest of the home side’s efforts were comfortably dealt with by Hugo.
We found our feet after half an hour or so and by the end of the first half had had some close attempts on goal with Chadli wasting the clearest opportunity when clean through. After ten minutes of the second half he wasn’t quite so wasteful when he was played in by Lamela after Eriksen had dispossessed a dawdling Flamini. The Belgian’s perfect finish caused wallets, travel cards and glasses to fly everywhere in the mosh pit of the away end.
As far as I recall that might have been our last shot on goal of the game as the remainder of the ninety minutes was spent repelling home side pressure. The Library lived up to its name – how can fifty odd thousand people be so quiet? – as for twenty minutes celebrations continued in our corner. Sanchez was on and Rose was still struggling, Chamberlain was finding space pretty much every time they attacked. The home crowd thought they’d equalised when Hugo stopped a header on the line, we thought they’d equalised when we had a perfect view of Chambers sweetly struck volley, it seemed to rise at the last millisecond and lift over the bar. Chamberlain eventually forced home a scrappy goal after Lamela miscued a clearance.
After they’d equalised I thought that tired legs and minds would do for us but Lloris, Kaboul and Vertonghen remained awesome and inspiring to the last and a very unexpected point was ours. I’ve seen Lloris nominated as man of the match and indeed he was excellent once again, making everything look straightforward and dealing brilliantly with the stream of corners we gave away. He must scratch his head when he reads in match reports that other keepers sometimes have ‘little to do’. As evidenced by the fact that he was still on the pitch at the end of the game Ryan Mason had a fine full debut. He was caught by the snap of some of the early challenges but was soon up to speed and moving the ball quickly forwards with both feet – exactly what the manager wants. Kaboul had his best game for years and Vertonghen wasn’t far behind.
Visits to the Corporate Cake Tin are rarely enjoyable but this was one of the better ones. The (very) sad giant flag wavers, the posh seats above us, the comedy banners ( ‘you can’t buy class’) and the tourists everywhere. It’s a horrible place to go.
Promising as this performance was, it’s only applicable to this sort of game of course. Two tough games against Besiktas and Southampton will require different displays, a higher tempo, more commitment from the fullbacks (who are likely to be Naughton and Davies after Rose’s injury) and some evidence from Adebayor that he’s buying into Pochettino’s plan and philosophy with some goals. We’re still clearly a work in progress but this was a very satisfying performance and result to be going on with. COYS.
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