Updated: May 10
Too much talk about “the best team since 1961”, too much crowing about how only one Arsenal player would get in the Spurs team, too much guff about the tables turning. Tottenham’s performance in today’s North London Derby was as poor as anything witnessed during the years when we used to turn up hoping for a lucky break and a fluked win but knowing even that was beyond us. You might want to say that was a “much-needed reality check”. I’d prefer to call it a golden opportunity missed. After Stevenage and today’s sorry excuse for a performance, I’m going to stick my neck out and say the boys of 61 are under no threat. Nor are the boys of 81 or 91.
I’ve given praise aplenty this season for some of the best football I’ve seen in years at Spurs – football played the right way too. So I think it’s only fair to be able to say the following without being accused of being quick to criticise. From team selection, to tactics, to performance, application, fight, guile and simple technique, today’s performance stank.
I wasn’t as over-confident going into the game as a lot of Spurs fans were. Arsenal, particularly in defence, have looked poor and Spurs have been very, very good going forward. But this derby is always different and I thought it would be tight. We should have won, I’d have taken a draw. A loss was not on the agenda. I didn’t expect the capitulation and humiliation of today.
We’ve wasted a golden opportunity to really put some distance between us and them, and to close up on the top two. Defeat today for Arsenal would have plunged them further into turmoil, and really raised concerns about them qualifying for the Champions League next season. Instead, we’ve given them a great fillip.
We’ve also pretty much kissed goodbye to that outside chance of a title challenge. This defeat hurt much more than the useless-ref inspired reverse at Stoke or the epic game at Man City – another defeat that owes a large amount to poor refereeing. This was worse because there are no excuses. There are no redeeming features.
While some, although fewer than we are led to believe by the press corps, are quick to point the finger at Redknapp when things go wrong, there’s an equal tendency to see any criticism of our Arry as unjustified. Today, he got his tactics wrong and, unless the players totally ignored him when they came on, his substitutions too. That doesn’t mean I think he’s useless, or that he should go. Just that he should recognise he got it wrong and learn from it. No doubt the Arry can do no wrong lobby – as misguided as their opposite numbers – will be quick to say this means I know nothing about football. I may not know much, but I know Sandro’s not a winger, and I know Lennon is and he’s more effective on the pitch than on the bench. I also know that conceding a man in midfield means we won’t run the game and that it will be harder to get and keep the ball.
But while Redknapp had a shocker, so did too many players. Only Scott Parker deserves any praise – how we’ll miss him against Manchester United. Remember what happened when the blue half of Mancland came to White Hart Lane? No Parker in midfield because we’d once again given the rest of the league a three-game start by not getting our transfer business done early and we were overrun.
The only fragment of enjoyment in the whole experience was laughing at their clueless fans who waited until the 91st minute at 5-2 before voicing their support for a manager many had been calling for the head of. With backing like that, I’m sure Arsene feels reassured.
But now blog-post catharsis has been achieved, it’s time to put it all behind us. Learn from the mistakes would be nice, so let’s not forget. But we have to move on. Just one request to all at Spurs – next Sunday, would you mind awfully actually turning up? Or at least, not leaving early if you do.