One Team In London

Last updated : 26 April 2005 By Bernard Azulay

Whereas tonight Tottenham will trot out at Highbury intent on ensuring Chelsea take our title from us. Should we fail to secure all three points there will be some slight solace in knowing we've partially pooped the Blues party by preventing their presence at their first title triumph in 50 years. I hold a long standing grudge against the Blues fans which harks back to darker times. Despite their new found popularity amongst football's affluent nouveau fans, it's hard to imagine that the large numbers of National Front supporters who once stood on The Shed have simply evaporated into thin air.

Nevertheless, as amusing as it would be to think of Stamford Bridge's remaining racists sat in front of their TVs, robbed of their moment, I am desperate to see us stuff Spurs. You have to appreciate that long-suffering Lillywhites have had very little to shout about for so many years. As a result their aspirations are so limited that nicking points and the Premiership from the Arsenal tonight might well be the nearest they're likely to come in their entire lifetimes to the feeling of actually winning the title themselves. The consequences of a trying summer's worth of sarcastic teasing via my Spurs mates' text messages doesn't bear thinking about.

Thus I¹m as desperate for success tonight, as I was last Wednesday, after seeing the somewhat presumptuous Championship Winners t-shirts on sale outside Stamford Bridge before the game. Sure it's been a foregone conclusion for some weeks now, but as any footie fan knows, far stranger things have happened and it's hard to imagine that after such a long wait, Blues fans would dare tempt fate by buying the t-shirt before the title is actually in the bag.

With an 11-point advantage I suppose Chelsea could afford their conservative approach, but if I was a Blues fan I'd have been disappointed in their apparent lack of ambition. Much as we finally managed to banish the inferiority complex which used to exist between us and Man Utd, Chelsea might have begun to do away with theirs on Wednesday. The fact that their gobby manager's main objective was to avoid defeat speaks volumes. Abramovich can throw all the roubles in the world at his current plaything but without a league win in over a decade against the Arsenal, there remains only one team in London!

It was a pleasant surprise to see Pires pull apart such a rock solid defence early on. But I thought we might regret not finding the back of the net with such golden opportunities. After that, in Henry's absence, we played like a team whose centre forward had been locked in the lavatory. With Bergkamp playing in 'the hole' and Reyes rarely finding his way in from the wing, it was incredibly frustrating to see us dominate possession, only for every attack to flounder on a dearth of red & white in the penalty area.

Perhaps Arsène didn't dare do anything which might effect the status quo. Personally I couldn't understand why he didn't try rolling the dice with Robin Van Persie (or Alliadière) earlier than the last 10, as to my mind we were crying out for a striker who could threaten Cech. Honours even wasn't enough on Wednesday, nor will it be tonight and with Henry still injured, I can't help but wonder where the goals are going to come from.

If Chelsea are to take our title, it will be great to at least make them earn it. Provided Big Fat Sam's side doesn't roll over at the Reebok, it might be interesting to see the mettle of Mourinho's mob tested on
Saturday. Meanwhile prior to the Chelsea game, I was curious to to read how another respected manager, Alan Curbishley, had named Lauren as right-back in his team of the season. Don't get me wrong, Ralphie's a decent enough player but he's often given us cause to question his defensive nous. Yet it was as if he'd heard my comments as he went on to produce one of his best defensive displays of the season. That was so long as Damien Duff stayed on his feet long enough for Lauren to do the business.

On the radio they were joking about Duff taking judo lessons since damaging his shoulder, learning how to fall safely without suffering further injury. Well Damien certainly proves to have been a good student, as he spent the entire 90 putting theory into practice, apparently having caught the same diving plague which afflicts Joe Cole! I get just as angry when the Arsenal players are the perpetrators of this heinous crime.

Reyes' penchant for turf tasting probably results from a fragile confidence, which has him, convinced a free-kick is the best he can expect. I don't know what Duff's excuse is, when on current form he should be dancing round defenders, displaying the best of his god-given skills, instead of siding with the devious gobshites. It's all the more galling when this sort of dupery occurs directly in front of you, almost close enough to be tempted to stick out a leg and trip him up oneself. In her innocence, Róna enquired as to the reason angry Gooners were left demanding of Duff "Where's your caravan?"

Still at least she got to see all the action over on our wing. Which is more than can be said for much of the rest of the match for a relative shortass like my missus. I assume it's because the seats have been plonked on what was once a standing terrace, but with such a shallow incline Stamford Bridge's South Lower Stand offers about the worst view in the Premiership. It's bad enough near the front when everyone is on their feet for most of the game. But the ceiling above the poor sods in the rear leaves many with a letterbox lottery of a view, spending much of the game guessing where the ball is going to appear. As the chant goes, for 40 of our hard earned quid, Chelsea are indeed "havin' a larf"!

About the only consolation with this pitiful pitch is the proximity to dugout. I wouldn't be surprised if Mourinho spends much of the match standing with his arms folded on the edge of his technical area, pandering to his overblown ego by provoking opposition fans. The Gooners didn't disappoint, blasting the Blues manager with both barrels but my favourite ditty of the evening had to be the spontaneous chant of "You're not Chelsea any more!"

Although if I remove my rose tinted spectacles for one moment, I have to give Mourinho credit for creating a marvelous team ethic at the core of his motley collection of mercenaries. Of the sort that leaves me green with envy when you see the Blues throwing their bodies in front of the ball without a second thought for their own safety.

However I am nonetheless riled to see this pompous git receiving all the plaudits. Excluding bit part players Carvalho, Tiago, Jarosik and their like, Chelsea's championship winning side is basically one which was assembled by the far too charming Ranieri (if I'm not mistaken Robben & Drogba were also by the Italian's design). Moreover as far as I'm concerned, the fact that Arsène has managed to compete with the Blues bottomless pockets (and Man Utd's capacity for mega signings), on his shoestring budget is a much greater achievement. Although Le Prof is far from perfect. I'm led to believe that it was Robinson's poor results in a myriad of physical tests which put our pragmatic manager off and if we end up thwarted by Spurs' keeper tonight, I am sure I won't be alone in wondering "What if?"