Reserves report: Arsenal 4 Spurs 0

Last updated : 09 September 2003 By Bernard Azulay

How wonderful to be able to stroll into Barnet's friendly little ground for gornischt (nothing - for those who don't recognize this yiddish expression) and watch one of football's greatest ever players from the sort of proximity where there's no mistaking the capacity of his marvelous footballing brain and the dexterity of a player with Dennis Bergkamp's graceful touch.

You'll have to forgive me because I neither have the memory, nor the ability to provide anything like the comprehensive reports Brian is capable of. I am also terrible at estimating numbers, but I imagine there must have been at least a couple of thousand who choose to watch some cracking footie instead of a couple of episodes of Corrie, so hopefully one of these will do the honours with a more detailed report and in the meantime you'll have to make do with my somewhat unenlightening observations

Line-up: Stackie
Justin Hoyte Keown Pascal Clichy (kind of reminds me of Corrie with a first name like Gael!!)
Razor Edu Kanu Jerome Thomas
Dennis Jeremie Aliadière

Subs: Craig Holloway, Stathis Tavlaridis (for Keown at HT), Paulinho, John Halls, Stephen Bradley

As for the enemy they hardly had a recognizable name to rub together, apart from Stephane Dalmat who was making his debut in a Spurs shirt on loan from Inter. The Frenchman immediately blended in with his team mates, all doing their best David Blaine impersonations by being virtually invisible (Blain would have made a bigger impression playing in his perspex box!)

The only other player in a white shirt who I've heard of was the South African lad they brought over after he impressed playing against them for Orlando Pirates I believe (or at least I think that's who Mabizela is?). You would have thought that even Hoddle wouldn't be so dense as to be dazzled by a player capable of dancing round his motley collection of mercenaries!

Not wanting to disappoint anyone, by the time I turned up nearly '5 mins in, we were already '-0 up. Although according to the amiable elderly couple standing beside me the goal was pretty much a replica of Jeremie Aliadiere's second, which he was kind enough to wait until sixty seconds after I arrived before slotting home. If I am not mistaken it was a perfect through ball from the Bergmeister and a well timed run which put Jeremie clean through on goal. With his confidence apparently running sky high Aliadière duly dispatched his second with the aplomb of a player who must be pretty close to earning his place in the first team squad?

Edu took away any hope the few hundred Spurs faithful had of a successful first outing for their French debutante and perhaps a possible saviour for their already depressing season (talk about déjà vû!), as he tonked home the third just before the break. I blame 'early alzheimers' but with my bad memory the build up is now just a blur I'm afraid. I seem to recall that it was another bout of slick passing which left the poor Spurs defence bamboozled once more and the only memory I have is of the Brazilian making a run into the area from the corner of the box, burying the ball quite impressively, even though it might have been harder for him to have missed than score.

The other images that stand out from an immensely enjoyable first-half are Dennis doing what he does best, making himself elusive in the hole between what was labelled as the enemies laughable defence and their midfield, picking holes in their hapless back line with the sort of perceptive passes which must make it such an incredible privilege to be playing with him as a strike partner.

Ray Parlour, strong and forceful in a midfield where even though Shirley might not be blessed with an abundance of natural ability, he managed to stand out with an apparent chasm between this particular Premiership player and reserve team football. Watching Razor from close quarters it is that much more evident that while he won't go down in history as the most gifted of the Arsenal's midfielders, in recent seasons he is certainly showing signs of benefitting from all the world class tricks of the trade of those around him in our squad.

At this level, where the glaringly obvious inability's of the opposition was almost an insult to some of ours, I was struck by several superficially insignificant instances that served as proof of quite what a savvy player Parlour has become, where the Wenger effect has perhaps inspired Ray to make the very most of what he is capable of, so that any possible limitations are only evident in the minds of some of the ever present party-poopers who might be watching. I'm talking about the little things, like the strength Parlour showed in shielding the ball, where his opponent would have more chance of getting around the Arc De Triomphe at rush hour than getting anywhere near the ball. 'Men against boys' was the mantra that came to mind when Ray was making the play. And in case I am not doing this man's skill sufficient justice, I seem to recall a sizzling twenty-five yard shot which would surely have dipped under the bar if it had been hit from a couple of yards further.

Kanu also had a couple of long range attempts from the edge of (or just inside) the area at getting on the scoresheet. Sadly both skimmed the net. The annoying thing about at least one of these was that young Jeremie was standing almost on the penalty spot, waiting with far more deference than is due for Nwankwo to put him clean through for the goal that would have given Aliadière a deserved hat-trick.

It was as though Kanu was attempting to serve notice to the other 35,000 Gooners who might glance at the reserves match report in next Saturday's programme, to remind all those not present on the night to support our 'b'rassic lint' club "Sorry folks, yes you are still spunking up 42 grands worth of Gooner greenbacks every week for me to sit on my languid backside and though you might question where's my footballing ambition in the twilight of my illustrious career, I certainly ain't barmy enough to bugger off until I get a better offer!"

Not only are my memories of event after the break far too foggy (certainly for a healthy mind!) but I hear the devastating sound of the dawn chorus outside, signalling yet another night's worth of much needed ZZZZZZs missed whilst I sit here spouting off at a bleedin' machine (is it any wonder my mind's missus calls this laptop my crack pipe!). What's more I undoubtedly have the capability to churn out several hundred more words about my ninety minutes - more like 75 in my case - at Underhill whilst doing my best to disguise the fact that I am patently incapable of actually informing you of anything whatsoever with regard to footballing facts.

Yet I know that if I don't hit the send button before I hit the sack, this mail will make its way into the graveyard of my drafts folder, with all those other missives which were started with the best possible intentions of informing you poor less informed listees who aren't as lucky as me to have the outlet for their Arsenal addiction on their doorstep. Then in a couple of days when I finally get around to thinking about finishing it, it will be so dated and others will have done the honour already so it will just sit there waiting for the day when the 100,000 (mainly Arsenal) e-mails slow down my machine so much that I am finally forced to have a clear out.

Most of the second half action was down t'other end of the pitch anyway as Spurs forays forward were very few and far between (they might have had a corner and I think Stackie was forced to actually make the one save!), where without my binoculars I am no good to man or beast. I didn't notice who was captain in the first-half and when this thought occurred to me after the break (only after I noticed an armband on the Spurs left back as at long last he at least made some effort to buoy his brothers up with a bold appearance in the Arsenal half, only to be given the heave-ho by a competent Justin Hoyte) there was no evidence of a captain's armband on an Arsenal shirt. So I can only presume it was being worn by Keown who obviously realized that there was going to be no traumatic threat offered to his clean sheet OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) by these tiny Totts and therefore took his leave at half-time to let his Grecian understudy mind the shop, confident that Tavlarides wasn't about to let thieving scum hands into his till.

I do recall the sight of a bald pate weaving his way through the majority of the White Hart Lane hopefuls (hopeless more like!), as Pascal came close to capping an imperious evening with an outrageous effort which would have been as hard to forget as the fact of whether I was there or not when Johnny Jensen scored (no I don't have the t-shirt Andy but I did manage to make it, at some cost I might add because I had to pay a small fortune for someone to cover for me at the Royal Festival Hall and on the off chance anyone cares, I wasn't supposed to be there singing, or dancing but schlepping scenery).

Apart from Pascal's fairly passable Henry impersonation, the most memorable moment after the break was the return of one half of the elderly couple who had been leaning on the rail beside us. She had disappeared during the break to go and sit with her grandson behind the goal, where he could be closer to the action. She brought a smile to all our faces when she came back after several minutes. She might be old and in need of somewhere to rest her weary bones but she couldn't bear it any longer because she was surrounded by Spurs fans!

Oh and the other point I have neglected to mention was that it was young Jerome Thomas who finally sent Glen Hoddle packing, skulking out of Underhill as inconspicuously as possible, with a decidedly sour puss (and no I'm not referring to who I guess must be Spurs' match fixing goal keeping coach Hans Segers), not stopping for a second to acknowledge any of his supporters (I was about to say admirers but Glenda no longer has many of these, even amongst the Spurs faithful!)

I am about as good at recognizing faces as I am at remembering football facts. Consequently I didn't have a clue who was wearing the other "de rigeur" Boss style soccer suit that slipped past us some minutes before the final whistle, I assume to avoid the traffic. Unless there is some relation to our reserve goalie, don't be surprised if Jerome Thomas returns on loan to join Matthew Rose at QPR because apparently this was Rangers boss Ian Holloway.

But before I'm struck by the first rays of dawn and turn into a bat, I better get to my bed while I'm awake long enough to last the few feet journey from the living room

I'll therefore bid you all adieu

PS. I forgot to mention that the Spurs no. 9 started venting his frustrations towards the final whistle. It was the only evidence of the sort of aggro one might expect from even a reserve derby encounter.

For some childish reason Slabber's very silly sounding moniker made me smile!