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Sticking it to Spurs

BY ABHISHEK IYER / @NicksPinkBoots

A small asterisk to start off this chronicle- I’m a global Gooner, if you can call it that. I don’t have the good fortune to make my way down Finsbury Park every alternate weekend, shove a few beers down my gullet and spend ninety minutes shouting myself hoarse at referees, gawking at chicken balti prices and breaking bread with Gunnersaurus Rex in the after-party. I want to, but I can’t.

Being, as I am, the red-and-white cat among the pigeons, you would imagine that North London derbies don’t make me chomp at the bit quite as much as they would do a local lad. And perhaps they don’t, and never will do. But I can say with some conviction that I don’t like Tottenham Hotspur.

I don’t like their cocksure players, their snivelling managers or their fans who drop their pants with much abandon and wiggle at the thought of being better than Arsenal at something. Tottenham are like your annoying younger brother with Herpes, and even in my relatively brief time following Arsenal, we’ve managed to put this syphilis-infected sibling into a satisfying headlock umpteen times.

Our 3-1 win at White Hart Lane in the 2007-08 season still remains one of the best derby matches I’ve seen, for the splendour of the goals, the time at which they were scored and the sugary goodness of three points that they brought forth. I don’t remember it like it was yesterday or any such rot, it was four years ago and my memory is suitably hazy. Most of all, I remember it being amazingly open and end-to-end right from the off. It was like a table-fan set in my face at full blast, like some witch-doctor had charmed the game to run at a speed similar to Adebayor when confronted with diction textbooks.  

I remember a Gareth Bale free-kick (times were simpler then; he was just an 18 year-old football player who looked like the fourth cousin of something I saw in the City Zoo, not Pan-Galactic Player of the Universe) catching Almunia off-guard at his near post and creeping in to give Spurs the lead. Martin Jol was grinning a stupid grin, plague and pestilence prevailed all round. I quickly settled down though, secure in the fact that Arsenal, for all their faults, didn’t lose North London derbies.

I remember Alex Hleb, in equal parts frustrating and exhilarating, jinking his way through players on the right wing, tackles melting around the Belarusian temptress like water. With the defence parted like the seas before Moses, he played it to a marauding Diaby (in equal parts frustrating and frustrating) who rattled the crossbar from eight yards.

I remember our defence being beaten by long ball after long ball (was it because someone got sent off from our side? The cranium refuses to yield any more information). One such punt forward found Dimitar Berbatov, Tottenham’s moody rockstar and caviar forward, who rounded Almunia and decided to see if he could round off the rest of the Arsenal team before shooting. Kolo Toure took objection and thundered in with a tackle that was the definition of ‘last-ditch’, preventing a two-goal deficit and making sure we didn’t need to score too many to win.

The goals we did score came after much cajoling and barn-door missing. I remember Bacary Sagna of newly-found golden mane, motoring down the right flank and squaring it for Adebayor who blazed over when it seemed obvious that he would at least force the rotund Robinson in goal to flap about a bit. A few minutes later though, all Robinson could do was flap as Adebayor rose like a dreadlocked salmon to head home Cesc’s dead-ball. Parity restored, I nonchalantly shrugged the shoulders. It wasn’t like it was unexpected.

The ping-pong nature of the game persisted, Berbatov having a shot chested off the line by Clichy before heading the rebound over. Thrust quickly turned to counter-thrust as van Persie (who had a quiet game, and ended up not scoring. I told you times were different) carried the ball forward, passed it to Rosicky, who laid it off to Cesc Fabregas, Spanish conductor of our orchestra with a brain then unsullied by Barcelona. In the form of his career, 25 yards out with no player closing him down; it was worth a shot, surely?

It was.

And then came the moment that I remember vividly to this day. Jenas intercepted a pass in midfield and hit a pin-point lofted ball into the path of Darren Bent (Not Thierry Henry. Darren Bent). With just the keeper to beat, Bent hilariously scuffed his shot and it wobbled piteously wide. The commentator went ‘Oh my goodness gracious me!’, Bent raised his hands to the heavens in supplication, ribs were cracked with laughter in the Nicks’ household and I knew the match was won.

Adebayor did this and made sure.

The result didn’t matter in the larger scheme of things. We tragically cocked it up after February, there was an exodus, Adebayor and Fabregas turned out to be gas-giants, and the face of the current team is as far removed from the 2007 avatar as can be. But it’s heartening to go back to a time, not too far in the past, when North London derbies were charmed for Arsenal. Even today, when breaking-point is reached in an electronics lecture or a mother’s scolding drags on and on, I drift off and think of Fabregas lashing the ball past the corpulent mass of Robinson in goal, wheeling away and clutching at the crest in delight, with a background baritone of ‘DYNAMITE. ABSOLUTE DYNAMITE.’

I must say, it passes the time rather well.              

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Reader Comments (4)

Nice one Abhi..... The Cesc goal and Ade goal is still there in my memory too with good clarity along with the Bale goal (though not much of the first Arsenal goal). This has been one of the best Arsenal matches in the recent times. Good to remember it again. :) - Another Global Gooner

January 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNVP

Thanks mate!

January 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNickspinkboots

What an excellent piece of writing! What a match it was!

January 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMoiz

It was the season after Henry left, and the scum were deluding themselves into thinking they'll finally finish above us, we'll crash and burn, drop out of the top4 ..etc.
It was on this day when their dreams were shattered. I remember also going top of the league after that game.

February 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterThierry's Gloves
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