The way I see it – Tottenham v Arsenal

Last updated : 24 January 2007 By Jason Hogan

Anyone who has read my articles over the last few years will know that I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve when it comes to us playing ManUre. I did actually do a preview to Sunday's game but I had to take Friday off work and my article was on a floppy disk as work.

I assure you all that I said most of the same things I always say when we play ManUre. When we play them it is, pound for pound, the biggest game we play EVERY season in my opinion and for us it's always a game that should be relished and never feared.

It doesn't really matter where both clubs are in the league. And, even if you bear in mind that the PRF are the current reigning champions, it doesn't matter what the current status quo happens to be in the Premiership either. Playing that lot from Old Trafford is still THE fixture Arsenal play over the course of the season.

As much as I detest them, United, historically, are one of only two clubs that have achieved things in the game that the Arsenal arguably still aspire to. And, I'm sure there are one or two Gooners out there, particularly those from London and the Home Counties (lets face it there are hardly any Northerners that actually support ManUre) that get stick from their idiotic United supporting mates about "what's what" in football.

Of course, it's not just the things that they have done on the pitch and the trophies they have won (often at our direct expense down the years) that fuels what is an almost rabid desire to see us beat them every time we play them.

Throughout their salad days in the nineties, it was often not so much the players United had that made them so successful, it was the ceaseless, constant hype ABOUT the players they had which often won them many a football match almost before a ball had been kicked.

In the build up to Sunday's game it was almost like old times. All you heard about throughout last week and almost right up to kick off on the day was United this, Fergie that, Rooney this, Larsson that and lengthy debates as to who, out of Ronaldo, Giggs and Scholes was going to be the Footballer of the Year. As an Arsenal fan, it was highly nauseating stuff to see and that's putting it mildly.

So, by the time the game started, I was absolutely wired. Knowing that I had my serious game face on, my missus made herself scarce. As it happens, my missus, God bless her, has two nicknames for me. One of them is Taz (after the Tasmanian Devil cartoon character of course). I won't tell you the other one.

Anyway, in the 17 years we've been together I still don't know why she calls me that but when Henry crashed a rare header home to win us the game at the death, I let out a roar that was so loud, my missus thought a demented beast had genuinely taken my place in the living room for real!!!

I don't know about you, my fellow Gooners, but after the game, and for those who are old enough to remember the old Ready Brek adverts, I was like the kid walking to school in the depths of winter with this red glow around his body.

Last Saturday week, at Ewood Park, we pulled off what was for me, the sweetest victory we had gained all season pound for pound. Because on the day, we confounded every single lazy derogatory stereotype the press and the media had foisted on us over the last two years or so.

What happened at The Grove on Sunday was, in its own way, equally as sweet because just like last week when we beat Blackburn, the win over ManUre was significant on so many levels.

I didn't agree entirely with the widely held notion that United controlled the game throughout and the suggestions in some quarters that they virtually had the game in the bag before Van Persie and Henry got to work.

For me, United had their best spell in the opening ten minutes when they came flying at us. But the longer the game went the more we grew into it. True, Crazy Jens made a couple of cracking saves just before half time but then we also had the best chance of the first half when Henry planted a free header tamely into the arms of Edwin van der Sar.

When United scored the opening goal, it quite literally took me by surprise. Credit to Patrice Evra though; he made an inspired lung bursting run of a good 60 yards, got himself to the bye-line and whipped in a cross that Rooney was on hand to finish off. I was gutted. I literally hadn't seen it coming.

But about ten minutes after Rooney scored I got this feeling, for no particular reason, that we would get ourselves back into the game before the end. I even remember taken a sudden and deliberate deep breath and puffing my chest out almost in acknowledgement of the sudden cosy feeling that came over me.

The Arsenal were beginning to play a far more direct game than usual at this stage but it was helping to push ManUre back. And, even as the clock was running down I just knew that we would get a chance. Thanks of course to the initial persistence of Fabregas and Rosicky and ultimately to Robin van Persie's desire to get in where it literally hurt, we indeed got the equalising goal.

As the game reached injury time, I remember feeling a sense of satisfaction and indeed gratification in the fact that we had at least made sure those bastards had been denied the honour of becoming the first side to beat us at The Grove and that we had salvaged our pride.

But then, Eboue surged down the right, swapped passes with Rosicky, whipped in a great first time cross and Henry did the rest. For a split second I thought Henry was offside but he started to run off in celebration and I'll shamelessly admit that I went berserk.

As I said, beating ManUre was significant on so many levels. For a start, the first thing that crossed my mind when I had calmed down was that I couldn't remember the last time I saw a side come from behind to beat them certainly on the domestic front. Apparently, before Sunday, ManUre had only tasted defeat just once in the last FIVE years having taken the lead and, now that I think about it, I'm pretty sure that the game in question was when ManUre played against the PRF in the League Cup back in 2005 at Old Trafford. Don't quote me on that though.

Still, when you consider that as a statistic, it makes the win all the more special. You don't come from behind to beat a side that have been second to none this season in terms of getting results too often and you don't come from behind to beat a side that are simply not used to surrendering leads to anyone without having qualities that are a little bit over and above the ordinary.

And this, my fellow Gooners, is the very thing that I have been waiting for us to prove. It's not that I'm fazed if people start to believe that we are back in the hunt for the title. And I wouldn't feel any resentment towards anyone that considers our title hopes as being remote either. I said to you all before the season started that we wouldn't win the league this season and in spite of what we have done in recent weeks, my view remains very much the same.

However, over the last 18 months or so there has been this widely held belief amongst people outside of the football club that the Arsenal were heading for terminal decline, teetering on the edge of some hellish, deep and dark abyss just waiting for little more than strong gust of wind to push the club over the edge. Now, THIS is the thing that I deeply resent.

It was the knowledge that people were saying such things even after we had made it to the Champions League final last season that irritated me no end. But, although I didn't think that we would win the league as early as last summer, I also knew that if we did fail to win the league this season wouldn't come down to the fact that there was some genuine gulf in class between us and the likes of ManUre, Liverpool and the PRF. It was simply because I recognised the fact that we had a squad that was not ready to mount a genuine challenge this year. It was just too soon.

However, if the two wins over Liverpool at Anfield, the win at Blackburn and indeed the win over ManUre have taught me anything over and above what I already know, it is that we now have a squad that is not only young and talented but a squad that is beginning to show definite signs of growing in strength, in maturity and belief.

Whether we go on to underline this by gaining some silverware over the next few months only time will tell. But I know one thing and that is after what we have done in recent weeks, I will defy anyone, and I mean anyone, who tries to tell me that Arsenal Football Club is heading for terminal decline.

Now it's time for me to have a quick look forward to our trip up the Seven Sisters Road to play our poorer relations at Shite Hart Lane.

If I was asked to sum up this fixture in two words I think "strange" and "intriguing" are the ones that instantly spring to mind. I think it's a strange fixture in the sense that it will be the kids that will be doing the bidding for us and whilst this is a North London derby, there are much bigger fish for the Arsenal to fry this season.

Nevertheless it's intriguing to see what the Arsenal can do against a Spurs side that have a very solid record on their own patch. I imagine that the supporters of our poorer relations will be as wired for this game as I was when we played ManUre. In fact, I'm pretty sure that they will desperate to see their side at least win this particular battle even if they do not go on to eventually win the war.

Form wise, the Tiny Totts have been decidedly patchy of late having only won two of their last eight games. They were far from impressive against Fulham last time out and it took a hotly disputed Pascal Chimbonda goal to save their blushes against a Fulham side that had been reduced to ten men.

Having been to Anfield and won, going to Shite Hart Lane shouldn't hold any fears for the Arsenal youngsters. Mind you, because it's a derby they will need to be careful not to get caught out by the tempo of the game. They will try to push the tempo up right from the start, so we will have to be careful in the opening exchanges and not give away too many free kicks and set-pieces.

I'm looking forward to the game tonight I really am purely because I genuinely do not have any idea how things are going to turn out. Mind you, I would be lying if I said that I wouldn't enjoy seeing our kids show them up in their back yard. Stranger things have happened. Liverpool can testify to that.