Rafa Benitez was recently on TV comparing playing Arsenal to sleeping with a short duvet. If you pull it up your feet are uncovered. If you cover your feet, your head is exposed.
Personally, I’ll cover my feet and allow myself to breathe – problem solved. But you know what he meant. Concentrate on attack and you leave yourself exposed at the back. Try to shut them out and you won’t have any firepower yourself. One way or another, you’ll spread yourself thin. At the moment, we are wrestling sleeplessly with a duvet of our own devising. For months our defence has remained strong enough to just about cope with impotent strikers. As soon as our frontmen finally pull up the sheet, our defence… goes to sleep.
The game was preceded by a tribute to former Spur and former Wolf (?) Dean Richards who has sadly passed away at a horribly young age. He always seemed a whole-hearted player, Richards, and he was for a while a fans’ favourite. If memory serves me right his Spurs career and the esteem in which he was held by the crowd faded as our hope turned to frustration during the Hoddle era. He wasn’t helped by a remarkable price tag which came about after much drawn-out wrangling with Rupert Lowe (already peeved to have lost Hoddle).
I was at his debut, where he scored against Man Utd. At half time I sent a text to a friend saying “I don’t care if we lose 5-3 [and yes, I did say 5], that was the best half of football I’ve ever seen from Tottenham”. We lost 5-3.
Dean Richards was probably a hero at some other clubs – he was the type of honest, committed player who would be – but at Tottenham he perhaps unfairly became a bit of a symbol of a difficult, disappointing era. A footballer’s life is made of such ups and downs, and they are put in perspective when tragedy strikes. Hopefully the events before the game will be of some small consolation to his family.
But football goes on, and whilst a 0-0 might have been a fitting tribute to a defender, perhaps a rollicking good game is better still.
The neutral will be happy. Mind you, how happy can a neutral really be? Theirs is a life lived without passion, on the sofa, or the Clapham omnibus, or wherever it is they hang out, with their neutral pals. Do they even exist? I’ve never managed to watch a game of football and genuinely not care who wins. Even if I haven’t made my mind up at kick off, I’ll have it worked out within a few minutes. Point is, it was a humdinger. Frankly though, it stressed me out after a very relaxed weekend away in the new forest with lady Oog.
We don’t like to make it easy for ourselves against Wolves. And we didn’t today. Early on we looked comfortable but as the game wore on the men from Molinieoueuxx were quicker to the fifty fifties. I don’t think it was due to a lack of application. We knew we had to battle, and battle we did. It’s just that when it comes to battling Wolves are in their element. I genuinely mean it as a compliment to Sandro that I didn’t really notice him too much. He’s starting to look like a classy defensive midfielder, someone who breaks up play and keeps the ball rolling with efficiency. If he isn’t already he soon will be first choice ahead of Wilson.
After a ten minute flurry of pressure from Wolves we lost the opener. A weakly defended cross from the right and a free header for Doyle. At times we looked as if we struggled with the sun in our eyes and that it may be a case of Blackpool revisited, but you know how it is. You wait ages for a bus, and then two Jermain Defoe goals turn up one after the other.
We may yet see this game as the one where either Pav or Defoe – hopefully both – set off on a real wave of form that the whole team were able to ride. I liked Defoe’s celebrations. A bit cocky, a bit relieved, a bit aware that he owed us one. Or lots. A bit like a mental block might just have been firmly unblocked.
But in the short term, today was infuriating. And yet it should have been so much worse. I do not like the rules about red cards for goalscoring opportunities, but Halsey got it badly wrong. It was another soft penalty but a correct one. A red card would also have been soft but correct. The penalty was dispatched and you felt that the second half would bring another gloomy onslaught.
Instead it started brightly. Lilywhitely. A lucky break to Pavlyuchenko and for the second game in a row a deflected effort went in for the relaxed Russian. Once again we were at a stage where the game was being stretched and it could have worked in our favour. Lennon and – joy of joys – Bale came on. Our tactic was to soak up pressure and hit them on the break. A good tactic too, but it didn’t quite work.
You always knew there was another goal in this game and in fact there were two. Luckily for us, a Gomes howler was wrongly adjudged a foul by Halsey and from there we should have held on. Defoe hit the post on 84 and it could so nearly have been game over. Instead, we were pegged back once more.
I have to take issue with hauling Modric off with 5 minutes to go. If this was done with Milan in mind, what good does it do? You don’t take the engine out of a racecar on its last lap, not when the race is still to be won. By all means rest important players, but take them off earlier. And don’t take off the guy who gives our team its identity. Can I pinpoint this as the moment where the game was won and lost (or, I suppose, where it wasn’t)? No, but it reduced our chances of hitting them on the break and of keeping possession. Ultimately it may have cost us what would have been a ridiculously valuable two extra points.
It feels like it’s slipping away from us but with Chelsea playing City and some winnable home games coming up for us, we can still make up ground. If we can win the games we should win, it looks like it could yet come down to the two away games in our mini-league. Eek.
It’s going to be a bit of a stretch. We may yet come up short, but we can still do it. I know we have what it takes. We had it last year. Where have we put that longer blanket?