Maybe this is how it has to happen. Maybe you have to plumb the depths before you can scale the mountain. Maybe this was our game-changing moment, just as the Red Sox coming back from 3 games down against their biggest rivals in 2004 changed everything.
All I know was that at half time, I was ready to throw in the towel – two nil down, bloody typical Tottenham. We hadn’t played particularly badly, just individual mistakes had cost us. Assou-Ekotto not following through all the way to the ball going out of play allowed Nasri to open the scoring. Then a break away from Arsenal resulted in their second, when a still winded Alan Hutton (who’d been taken out by Clichy when Spurs were pushing forward) failed to close his man down and Chamakh was given an easy chance to double the home team’s lead. Allowing Arsenal to take a 2-0 lead was one thing, that the second came from Chamakh, a man who looked like he had no confidence with the ball at his feet and appeared to be wearing a full on Snuggie under his shirt, left me completely despondent.
But then, everything changed. It all started with Defoe coming on at half time. Spurs have really missed his pace and direct style of play while he’s been out injured, and his presence gave them a whole new outlet for attacks. The first goal was a result of that directness, the short Defoe winning a headed flick on to guide the path to the brilliant Van der Vaart, who deftly set up Bale who finished nicely. The equaliser came after a free kick on the edge of the box was handled by Fabregas in the wall who, despite his claims to the contrary, had raised his arm well above his head to block the shot, giving away a penalty which Van der Vaart converted. After that, it looked like Spurs might throw it away again as they sat back too far allowing Arsenal to attack. All through this game, Fabregas was given far too much time and space in the middle of the pitch, and time and again it looked like he would punish Spurs. Gomes did well to turn a shot from him around the post, and then Tottenham again got away with leaving players unmarked as Koscielny headed over from 5 yards out. Inevitably, it was Van der Vaart who again set up the winner, his free kick perfectly measured to Kaboul, who headed into the far corner.
And that was it, Spurs finally won at Arsenal, and away at one of the “Big 4” of Liverpool, Man Utd, Chelsea and Arsenal. 17 years and 68 league games away from the Lane against those opponents without a win, numbers I’d heard far too many times in recent days, all banished with a come-from-behind win. Hopefully, this will push us on to better league form and we can get back into the Champions’ League place. Maybe next time we go to Stamford Bridge, Anfield, Old Trafford or the Emirates, we’ll have more confidence and look to attack from the outset. But whatever happens after this, I’ll enjoy today. I’ll enjoy the win over our arch nemesis.
Is that the Pacific Ocean I can see…?