â€œChuffed but guttedâ€ was how one Spurs fan described his feelings on the train after the game. â€œIâ€™m going to start supporting Leyton Orientâ€ were the words of a very deflated looking gooner. The Spurs fan pretty much summed the evening up. Seemingly down and out at 3-1 you couldnâ€™t help but feel proud with the way the side kept going, fought back and in the end had the best chances to win the game, hence the â€˜guttedâ€™.
Led by a reborn Van der Vaart, a battling Crouch, a tireless Modric and from left back an influential Assou-Ekotto we threw off the disappointment engendered by giving away three soft early goals and by the end Arsenal had their keeper to thank for getting anything out of the game. Both Modric and Sandro couldâ€™ve delivered killer blows but instead Szczesny kept the ball out without knowing much about it. He also tipped over a Crouch header and stopped a scuffed VdV shot.
The opening period was dominated by Nasri, Fabregas and Walcott as we struggled to keep up with the tempo being set. Huddlestone, Pavlyuchenko and Bale in particular spent a lot of time watching the ball zip around in front of them, unable to get involved. By the end though, it was Nasri and Walcott who had been silenced and subbed as we pushed for the winner.
Huddlestone got a second wind in the second half and was much more effective in trying to deliver the ball quickly forward to Van der Vaart, Modric and Crouch.Â Kaboul came on to deliver power and pace (and not a little confidence) down the right and the enforced replacement of Bale was something of a blessing given the pale performance the PFA player of the year in the first half. Last Wednesday his influence on the game much diminished when Sergio Ramos took him out big style. Szczesny gave him the same treatment upending him twice in a couple minutes. Diabyâ€™s early challenge from behind on Modric plus the wild tackling from the same man, Song and Djourou when under pressure at the start of the second half indicated that Arsenal were quite happy to stick the boot in if they thought it would help.
As well as not getting the three points to put us closer to Man City, the fact that we started so slowly compared to the visitors was the main disappointment. We canâ€™t obviously afford to keep going two goals behind in these games. With Huddlestone and Bale still coming back from injury and Van der Vaart nominally on the right, one look at the team sheets, which showed Arsenal with five across the middle, was enough to suspect that we were going to be in trouble in midfield. In the end we countered it by adding a bit of steel and power and going more route one than weâ€™d really like to have seen. Crouch did cause problems all evening though and you do have to go with what youâ€™ve got. As well as the big man we had in Van der Vaart and Modric the class, technique, spirit and leadership required to battle back and show the â€˜mental strengthâ€™ that Wenger mistakenly rambles on about when referring to his own side. In the second half when they needed their players to stand up and try and wrestle back the initiative they all went missing.
It was a terrific match and one of the games of the season. The crowd were superb. Our players started slowly, battling with their own tactical set up as well as the opposition and in the end, oh so nearly came out on top. As the man said, â€œchuffed but guttedâ€.
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