Tottenham turn the corner over Arsenal

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    It has been seventeen long years and 68 matches since Tottenham Hotspur recorded an away win against one of the Premiership’s traditional “big four”.

    That win came against Arsenal back in 1993 at the old Highbury ground, thanks to a brace from John Hendry and a further strike from Teddy Sheringham.

    Eight managers have since been and gone in the Spurs hot-seat since Osvaldo Ardiles achieved that feat. Step-up
    Harry Redknapp – whose presence at the club has well and truly ended an era of mediocrity at White Hart Lane underlined by a stunning comeback overnight, recovering from two goals down to win 3-2 against the old enemy.

    At half time though, it looked like a familiar story would unfold in North London as Arsenal raced to a two goal lead thanks to Samir Nasri and Marouane Chamakh. Spurs looked bereft of ideas with Roman Pavlyuchenko cutting a forlorn figure up front and could have been further behind had it not been for the heroics of their captain William Gallas.

    Gallas had been amongst the pre-game hype having formerly played for Gunners and been involved in a publicised rift with Nasri from their days in the France setup. The Frenchman has always had his best performances in the biggest games however, and this was no exception as his determination and desire to win ultimately set him aside as the most outstanding player on the day.

    For years Spurs have been living in the shadow of their more successful rival, though victory at White Hart Lane last season and a 4-4 draw at the Emirates in recent years have somewhat closed the gap. A gulf in class was visible for 45 minutes before a remarkable second half shift in momentum.

    Jermain Defoe was introduced, and soon after he nodded on for Rafael Van Der Vaart to feed Gareth Bale who coolly finished. Van Der Vaart has added a touch of class to the Tottenham midfield since signing from Real Madrid, in a bargain eight million pound move, and could well prove to be the final piece to their jigsaw.

    It was his free kick that was then inexplicably handballed by Cesc Fabregas in the box, to which he converted the penalty himself. He then supplied the free-kick for Younes Kaboul to guide in the winner with five minutes to spare. A hand in all three goals for the Dutchman in a game he didn’t particularly play well in, has emphasised just how important he has become to his side in such a small period of time.

    But this game was about the result and not the performance, and while the fans will cherish such a result for years you really do feel that there could be better things to come from this team. That second 45 could well prove to be a turning point for both teams this season in what is shaping up as one of the closest title races in years. They are only four points behind Arsenal now and six behind leaders Chelsea who also slipped at Birmingham. In essence though, it’s their inconsistencies against sides like Wigan and Wolves that Spurs need to patch up on.

    For Arsenal it was a case of an opportunity wasted to show just how far they have come this season. Top spot was on offer for Arsene Wenger’s men with victory, but instead they were consigned to a third home loss of the season.

    Once again their inability to defend set-pieces was highlighted as Kaboul nodded home without any pressure from the Gunners defence. That weakness coupled with their incapacity to kill of teams continuously comes back to trouble Wenger. It makes one wonder whether they can genuinely be considered a serious title challenger with such deficiencies. For the moment they continue to be a “nearly” team on the cusp of great things, but the demand for a trophy is surely growing by the day at Arsenal having not tasted silverware for five years.

    Just how much of an impact this result has on both sides remains to be seen. Back to back league wins over their London rivals, in addition to Champions League football, suggests that perhaps the gulf in class between these sides isn’t as great as what people may believe.