Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 Arsenal: The Fail Parade Continues

Directly after the match, I mused to The Modern Gooner's By the Numbers man John: "I haven't decided if the match report is going to be angry or thermonuclear angry". You know what, though? I'm not. I'm just bloody not. As painful as it is to say, we well and truly deserved to get stuffed at the hands of our nearest and fiercest rivals, and only the individual brilliance of our goalkeeper kept the scoreline in the realm of respectability.

It was a bit of a patchwork lineup given the absences in the squad - Alex Song continued in central defence alongside Per Mertesacker, flanked by the usual fullback suspects. Aaron Ramsey and Mikel Arteta were joined by Francis Coquelin, while the front three were Robin van Persie, Gervinho and Theo Walcott. How strange that the one man I worried about the most in that collection turned out to be our Man of the Match, while some of the more experienced and established personnel were the ones to be found wanting.

Right from the opening whistle, the Arsenal set the tone by generously gifting their opponents possession at every available opportunity. Spurs looked a bit off themselves in the early moments of the match, but quickly settled into a rhythm and began to take control of proceedings. Wojciech Szczesny was called into action as early as the 7th minute thanks to a moment of brain-dead idiocy from Song. He had plenty of time to make a decision, but his lazy pass was easily picked out by Rafael van der Vaart, who found the run of Scott Parker. Parker's finish wasn't that great, but were it not for Szczesny, it wouldn't have needed to be. Many keepers would panic in that situation and dive at the shooter's feet too soon, giving them time to loop it over or go around. Instead, the young Pole stayed upright until the last second, and then got down brilliantly to take away the the five-hole (to use the ice hockey parlance). It was a brilliant save, but also a worrying indicator of things to come.

Song's giveaway was bad, but the worst perpetrator on the day was Ramsey. His short passing was woeful, and Gareth Bale's interception of one led to another chance that was thankfully spurned by the home side when van der Vaart skied it over the bar. Not too long after, their Dutchman was in on a 2-v-1 with the loathsome Emmanuel Adebayor, but they contrived to send it straight to Szczesny.

With all of these chances wasted from Tottenham, it would have been a dagger to the heart if we had opened the scoring. It isn't beyond reason to assume that we probably would have gone on to win the game in that scenario, given the fact that even in victory Spurs were not that great. RVP led the charge, rampaging down the left wing. His cutback to Gervinho was perfect, and with as much time and space as he had, a top level player absolutely must score from there in any circumstance short of a wonder-save from the opposing keeper. Brad Friedel's intervention was not required though, as the Ivorian risibly fired the shot high and wide. It was an absolutely shocking miss, given the circumstances.

Once again, this squad failed to show the great mental strength that the manager continually (and irritatingly) claims that they have.

Unsurprisingly, the home side were up 1-0 with the next chance that they had. The margin for error is so small in this league, there is a massive difference between 1-0 and 0-1, especially with how fragile this lot are. Adebayor was given time and space to chip a high pass in to van der Vaart (who was left completely alone by Bacary Sagna, who failed to track back), who controlled with his shoulder area and toe-poked a shot past Szczesny and into the far corner. A couple of things here: 1. Szczesny's angle might possibly have been better, though I would stop far short of saying the goal was his fault, and 2. It looked to me like it was a case of intentional real time, I thought he had controlled with his upper shoulder and part of his bicep, and the replays didn't exactly change my mind. However, Mike Dean was refereeing this after all, and apparently his assistant on that side was exactly as crap as the man in the middle. So, 1-0 to Spurs in controversial circumstances, but you can't say it was undeserved based on the run of play.

Now, there are those saying van der Vaart should have been sent off for running into the crowd to celebrate, since he was on a yellow already...or that he should have walked for the handball. I disagree with both assertions, for different reasons. The handball one makes more sense in the letter of the law, but I don't think it was an egregious attempt to cheat on the part of van der Vaart. Yes, it's Spurs...and yes, van der Vaart is kind of a douche. But, putting that aside, how furious would you be if it were the Dutchman in the red shirt who got sent off for something like this? Personally, I'd be absolutely apoplectic, and rightfully so.

The other complaint is, frankly, fucking stupid. It's bad enough that sports are becoming as sanitized as they are in many ways - of course, I don't mean that we should go back to the dark ages of hooligan battles, tiny shorts, bubble perms and so on. What I mean is that if you score a goal, you should be able to celebrate it without some Mr. Fussy waving a yellow bit of cardboard at you for expressing joy or taking your shirt off or whatever. I understand that these are directives from FIFA or UEFA or whoever, but it's over-officious chintzy bullshit and I bloody well hate it. That's not to say that something designed to instigate trouble with opposing supporters (such as Adebayor's needless celebrating in front of the Arsenal section when he was with the Arabian Petro-All Stars) should not be punished. But, there's an obvious difference to me between that and legitimately celebrating a goal, which should last time I checked be a happy occasion for the side that scores it. Long story short - let's not take ALL of the joy out of this game, shall we?

With that sidebar done, Arsenal naturally limped into the halftime interval having had little time to hit back. Of course you never want to concede, but goals scored right at the end of a half are killers. Credit where it's due, however, the Gunners came out with much more purpose in the second half, and were level inside of five minutes. Song was given the complete run of the touchline by the Spurs defense, and the Cameroonian took full advantage of it. It was remarkably similar to the RVP/Gervinho chance in the first half, but this time it was Ramsey on the end of it. Oh, and where Gervinho missed, Ramsey absolutely hammered an unstoppable shot right underneath the crossbar and in. The pub went mental, and at that stage I thought we might go on and win it.

At some point, I'm going to have to stop getting sucked in by this lot. They just don't have it this season.

The first warning shots came a few minutes after our equalizer, when more defensive lunacy let Adebayor in alone. You would have put money on him scoring given his record against us and the fact that former Gunners seem to score on us with alarming frequency. Adebayor's finish was actually not bad, low and hard and in a tough location. However, Szczesny was able to get down with lightning spead to get his arm flush to the ground and in front of the shot. Trust me, as a keeper myself I can tell you that this was a world-class save, one that Buffon or Casillas or anyone you care to name would be exceptionally proud of. Oh, and it meant Adebayor finished with nothing on the day, making it that much sweeter.

While the usual inability to follow the basic tenets of defense played its part as usual, you do have to give credit to Harry Redknapp for an inspired substitution. Despite his goal, van der Vaart had a somewhat quiet afternoon otherwise, and was replaced with Sandro. The extra holding midfielder allowed the rest of his colleagues room to push further forward, and Arsenal were unable to cope with the home side from that point on. Even worse, Sagna was grievously injured in a tussle with Benoit Assou-Ekotto, and now he will be out for several months. That left us with the option of either playing Andre Santos out of position, or putting Carl Jenkinson into the deep end once again. Wenger opted for the latter, immediately gifting Bale the entirety of the right side to torment our defense.

Just 7 minutes after Sagna went down, the home lot got the lead that they would not relinquish. The worst part is that as brilliant as Szczesny had been, it was his mistake that gave Spurs all three points. Of course, the defending leading up to it was clown shoes as usual, but the young Pole will definitely look back on this as one he'd like to have back. Luka Modric's shot was blocked well by I believe Mertesacker, and it ballooned out to Kyle Walker. The Tottenham right back had a brilliant game if we're being fair, and obviously was flush with confidence. From 35 yards out or so, he decided to have a lash at goal considering that no one bothered to close him down. It did swerve a little at the end, but Szczesny saw it the whole way. You know, sometimes you just lose the flight of the ball...sometimes you think "I got this", and relax a bit and thus take your eye off of it at the last. Keepers are human, these things happen. Unfortunately, this happened at 1-1 in a North London Derby, but what can you do? Again, if it weren't for Szczesny, Spurs would have been home and dry long before this point.

Actually, they should have been home and dry a few minutes later, in any sense. A long punt upfield led to confusion with Song and Mertesacker. Both thought the other had it, but it turned out that Bale was the one to claim it. He was in alone and had Szczesny beaten, but the shot flashed wide when it would have been easier to score.

Our response was to take off Gervinho for Andrei Arshavin. The Russian's contribution was about what you'd expect.

In fact, the last ten minutes (plus the five we got of injury time) were about what you'd expect - no drive, no urgency, no apparent desire to win the game. As our FOURTH loss of the season in just seven games loomed ever closer, we still played the same glacially-slow tippy-tappy crap that we've all had more than our fill of over the last three or four seasons. Frankly, the Spurs defense was there to be shredded had anyone in red felt any desire to do so. Instead, we ensured that every attack was slow enough so that they could get every defender possible behind the ball. The final whistle went with exactly zero attempts on the Tottenham net - in fact, the only chance during this time fell to Jermain Defoe, who saw his shot repelled by the outstretched dive of Szczesny.

All in all, it was a fantastically gutless effort from a team that is completely unrecognizable from the Arsenal Football Club we all know, no matter how long we've been supporters.

When you get down to it, that comes down to the manager. The longer this goes on, the more amazed I become at the gross negligence of everyone associated with the leadership of this club. The warning signs have been there for years, and have gone unheeded every time. We all know the story - the key players exiting with either sub-standard replacements or none at all, the young kids thrown into the fire long before they're ready, the continued faith placed in absolute dross like Denilson or Manuel Almunia, the maddening post-match comments involving handbrakes and that little bit of sharpness, the mind-bogglingly tone-deaf statements/price increases from the club at the worst possible times, on and on and on and on and on.

You want the truth? Arsene Wenger should have been handed his P45 on his way down the tunnel after the match. Any other club in the world would have sacked any other manager in the world with this track record long before now.

What infuriates me more than anything is that insistence of the media and certain sections of the support on labeling anyone who thinks this way as an ingrate and as someone who just doesn't get what Wenger has done for the sport. How intelligence insulting is that? Yes, the man has won a good amount of trophies (albeit less than he should have over the years with the resources at his disposal), and I unendingly thank him for that. Yes, he managed to convince the world that perhaps Paul Gascoigne had the wrong idea regarding pre-and-post-match training. Again, that was great.

It was also 15 bloody years ago.

Has there ever, EVER been a manager in the history of all football who has traded on past glories more than Wenger? I absolutely agree that many clubs fire managers much too soon, and I agree that Wenger had built up some amount of credit due to past accomplishments. But, how much credit is that, exactly? What would be the tipping point? Do we have to finish below 4th? Do we have to finish out of the UEFA Cup places? Do we have to finish below 10th? Do we have to narrowly avoid relegation? Do we actually have to be relegated?

Wake-up call, people. We are in 15th place with around one-sixth of the season gone. FIFTEENTH. There's still plenty of time to turn it around, but what evidence is there that we will? We now are going to be playing Carl Jenkinson in our starting XI for three months. Three months! This kid is barely ready for the League Cup, he was part of the Trauma at Old Trafford, and now we're expecting him to deal with the rigors of the Premier League as our first choice? Oh, it goes on. We have exactly one man in Robin van Persie that opposing defenses truly have to worry about on a consistent basis. We have his backup in Marouane Chamakh that will never come on before the 80th minute given the nadir of form and confidence he's found, and the next guy in line never comes off the bench, even to the point where we were playing Mertesacker as a center-forward at the end of the game! Why buy him if he's not ready to play?

If you disagree, please by all means tell me how we are any different right now from the Newcastle sides that only stayed in the Premier League thanks to the brilliance of Shay Given and Alan Shearer. We're the same bloody team - comedy defense, no strength in depth, a brilliant goalkeeper and a brilliant center-forward. We are one long-term injury to Szczesny (who is out of the Poland squad with a back injury, by the way) and/or RVP away from, in my view, being honest-to-goodness relegation candidates.

Something needs to change. Right now. The Guardian is reporting today that Carlo Ancelotti badly wants to come back to the Premier League. A club in our position run by grown-ups would have already hired him.

Sorry to be such a Debbie Downer, but I don't see why it isn't warranted.

The Modern Gooner Player Ratings:

Szczesny 8, Gibbs 7, Mertesacker 6, Song 4, Sagna 5 (Jenkinson 6), Gervinho 5 (Arshavin 6), Ramsey 6, Arteta 6, Coquelin 8, Walcott 6 (Benayoun 6), van Persie 6

Man of the Match: Francis Coquelin