We knew they would be up for it because most teams raise their game against the Champions especially so as we’ve been rubbing their noses in the dirt for quite a while now. I expected a match where anything went and the most important question would be whether superior skill would count for more than the desperate need they had to beat us at least once in a blue moon.
Arsenal were without Seaman, Keown, Parlour, Lauren, Kanu and Edu while van Bronckhorst was probably not quite 100% yet. The burning question of Taylor or Shaaban was answered in favour of the Shaaban, it was just a shame they couldn’t spell his name correctly on the big screens. Another burning question was whether Igors would get selected ahead of Sol? Yeah - Right! Our back four comprised Luzhny, Campbell, Cygan and Cole, the midfield was a formidable Wiltord, Vieira, Gilberto and Ljungberg, the front two were Bergkamp and Henry. Which left a quite impressive bench of Taylor, Toure, Pires, Jeffers and van Bronckhorst.
It had been a wet week in London but Saturday afternoon the sky was full of darting clouds and a few blue patches on what was a cool but otherwise fine day. The ref was Mike Riley who’d screwed up a few top games of late but hopefully not this one. The tosser won the toss (Sherringham) and chose to kick towards the Clock End in the first half. That was his last useful contribution to the match. Arsenal kicked off in front of a rather noisy crowd, everyone was up for this one.
We started in top gear and the Scum defence looked a bit dizzy early doors as we pressed forwards from every which way. ‘ We love you Arsenal we do’ Gilberto had a shot saved low by Keller. A Scum free kick was taken by Redcrapp but was saved by Shaaban. Pat almost put Sylv in. Cole to Wiltord who slammed home but the flag was up for offside, it must have been very close, if at all. Vieira to Bergkamp to Wiltord but the ball goes out. Dennis finds Freddie but the shot’s saved, Thierry’s shot was also saved following a big power play by Arsenal.
An evil jump into the airborne Bergkamp’s back by Richards was an obvious yellow more deserving of a red but Riley was his pathetic self and just gave the free kick. Dennis was hurt bad and struggled from this point on; it’d say badly bruised ribs at least. ‘ ‘Hey, hey-ey Y*ddos I wanna know were your captains gone’. Pat was far too good for Carr. Rumours that Carr arrived early to the ground for talks remain unconfirmed. Redcrapp dived because he’s not worthy of being on the same pitch as Pat. Richards hoofed clear, this current long ball playing Tiny Totts team play less football now than when GG was in charge. Still Glenda says they’re wonderful so obviously they must be. Keane was keen to hit the deck if anyone came anywhere near him.
There is a big flag hanging from the North bank upper it says in huge letters ‘1961 – oh dear’ Top marks to whoever produced that I loved it! Big long ball pumped up by the Tiny Totts. Davies tries to pull Pat’s shirt off his back – free kick. Oleg sees off Etherington. The big throw is a main tactical move from the Scum, unfortunately for them they forgot that you have to be in our half for it to be at all effective, and they rarely were. Just under 13 minutes after the start Henry picked up a ball deep in the Arsenal half on the right side of the pitch. He starts to move forward with it, he had space so he gathered pace as he crossed the halfway line. Tel moved inside a player onto his left, threw in bit of a soft shoe shuffle as he carried it forward, beat a couple of players still moving left towards their box then unleashed a fabulous left footed shot which bent slightly and whistled past Keller just inside the post. 13 minutes and four seconds gone and we have a contender for goal of the month. One of the best I’ve seen against the Scum since that one at the Lane by Brady – it’s 1-0 to the Arsenal we can relax as our superior play has been converted into a worthy lead. Watch Henry’s face on the replays – he loved that one, and so he should. Top man.
We had been on top but from this moment on there was only one team playing at Highbury. The Tiny Totts continue with the big hoof out, Redcrapp (was it Jamie or was it Harry?) hit loads of short square balls or passed back to the keeper. The whistle had already stopped play and then Keane kicked the ball at Campbell, if Riley had ever read the rules he’d know that technically that could be a red card offence. Riley knows nothing. Vieira tackles Freund, perfect superior play – Totts free kick! ‘Vieira whoo oo’. Big ball in from the free kick, which Sol cleared. Pat had a power shot from the left-hand side that Keller saved. Carr passed back to the keeper. Carr goes on a decent enough run but ended it by disappearing up his own arse. Gilberto almost broke through. Davies to Sherringham who headed wide, too gleeful derision from the Gooners.
Dennis holding his ribs and still almost totally out of the game, Bob warms up.
Gilberto in hard on Sherringham. Davies gets a yellow card, he’s been niggley all match and it looked like one foul too many. Freddie unloads the ratty Davies. Freddie finds Thierry well. Dennis had a shot that seemed to take a bobble just before he struck. Bob replaced Dennis with nineteen minutes left of the half. Davies is in late from behind on Pat and gets his second yellow. He’s off. Lots of lip from the Scum team directed at Riley but he fails to book any of the mouthy moaners. ‘Oh Teddy, Teddy you went to Totnumb Hotspur and you’re still a ….’ ‘Only one team in London’. Good move down the right by Arsenal but it was if we’re trying to hit too many passes. ‘Double, Double, Double, Sol Campbell has won the Double’. Etherington beats Oleg but his cross went into the Clock End.
Long free kick from Spurs just pumped to the far post, no guile, no imagination and no hope. A Henry cross – Keller collects. Richards blocks a Henry run and nothing was given. Teddy tries to pull Cygan over but fails.
Riley doing his best as the Scum’s 11man but it’s not enough. Another hoofed ball by the pathetic Totts - some coach that Glenda! Keane pulls back Freddie but no yellow card. Pires takes the free kick quite wide left he whips it in and it beats everyone, going just past the far post. Wiltord away down the right from Bob’s ball but the spin of the ball beats him. ’41 years’ – top chant that one. Cole did well down the left. Henry had a reasonable shot saved low by Keller. Sherringham offside – jeers. Pat nutmegs the hapless Sherringham – wild applause. Half time arrived and we deserved a bigger lead, much bigger.
Totts kick off with Poyet on for Etherington. Shaaban out of his area to clear. Watch our new goalie’s kicking carefully, he is two footed, comfortable on both and can almost chip the ball forty yards to feet, very impressive. Sol has a wild blast which is high wide and handsome. ‘Sols a Gooner’. Sherringham late on Pat. Poyet hits Pat badly and gets a deserved yellow, which some refs might have seen as a red. Pat’s in agony and needs treatment before limping off. He stays down as the Scum followers sing a pathetically vile song about Vieira. Pat limps back on after prolonged treatment - to thunderous applause, naturally. Cole blocked off by Carr and the free kick goes the Totts way as the crowd go ballistic. Keane chops down Freddie (I think) just in front of the dugouts, it looked a red card job from the other side of the pitch, but of course wasn’t, not so much as a yellow.
The very hopeless Redcrapp is dispossessed by Freddie in his own half, on to Thierry who does a bit of piss-taking before setting up Freddie with a return ball to make it 2-0. ‘We love you Freddie’.
Arsenal are well on top and cruising. Freddie down injured as the Scum are still putting it about. ‘Champions’ followed by ‘We love you Freddie’ really loud. ‘Go home, you might as well go home’ with thirty-three minutes remaining. ‘Are you Totnumb in disguise’. Oleg caught offside. Pat puts in a big tackle on Sherringham, which of course we all enjoy. Keane is playing so deep he gets a turn of passing it back to the keeper as the Totts do little more than protect their goal-difference, which could well count for a lot in their coming relegation battle.
Richards of all people found himself one on one against Shaaban but put it wide. ‘You’re not very good’. Arsenal were by now playing keep ball while trying to draw the Totts out and then hitting them hard. It nearly worked following an umpteen pass move which ended when Bob chipped the keeper beautifully, but it landed on the roof of the net. ‘Super, super Rob’. The moon was out over the East stand as we continued to run them ragged. Ok so Spurs had ten men, but they were pathetic. Trev told me the radio was reporting 78% possession to Arsenal after the break. Just think what we’re like with ten men! A series of piss-taking one-touch passes ended with Henry in their box, good to watch though.
Sherringham being caught offside was followed by Sherringham being replaced by Iversen. He was cheered off by the Gooners who all love him dearly. Sicknote replaced Redcrapp at the same time. Sherringham sat down as the East Stand erupted into a chorus of ‘Teddy, Teddy what’s the score?’
‘We can see you sneaking out’ Henry hurt. Iversen climbs all over Cygan who’s had virtually nothing to do. ‘We won the League in Manchester’ Pires spots a great diagonal run by Freddie. Arsenal continued to play keep ball at the back, and in the middle and up front. Jeffers on for the injured Henry. Wiltord to Pires but his shot was blocked. We’re walking all over them as the Spurs end began to look very depleted. Vieira was replaced by Gio and Pat gave the captains armband to Bob with the message that he’s to give it to Sol. Bob trots across and the crowd roar their approval. Nice one Pat! ‘Sol’s a captain der, der, der dut’ another top chant.
Spurs offside not given, they got a free kick instead, just outside our box. Sicknote’s shot from the free kick was saved by Rami. Carr stops Pires on a break. The Totts win a corner and as they go across to take it the ‘1961 oh dear’ banner is unfurled as the North Bank break into the ’41 years’ chant. Keller slices into touch yet again as Arsenal charge forward yet again. If this had been a boxing match the ref would have stopped the fight ages ago. Gio takes a corner as Sol is urged forward by Arsenal fans everywhere.
Wiltord can’t quite find Jeffers who’s made a good run. There is wave upon wave of attacks as our team move into piss-take mode. Every attack now sees Arsenal players queuing on the edge of the box. Oleg to Bob in the box who hits over on the turn but he’d controlled with a rather sneaky handball. Sol cleared a rare Tott attack. Carr blasts wide. Gio had a shot deflected for a corner. Pires took the corner and Pascal headed wide at the near post in what looked like a training ground move. Toying with them really is the only way to describe what was happening. Cygan saw off Iversen. Wiltord won another corner from a shot but Jeffers and Gilberto were on for the cross. Three minutes added agony for Totnumb. Oleg conned the ref into a free kick while up against Sicknote. ‘Double, Double, Double Sol Campbell has won the double, while the Scum at the Lane have won feck-all again Sol Campbell has won the Double’. Slaughter over, but what a lovely afternoon it was.
Tiny Tott fans, or those few that were left, once again traipsed away from Highbury in a thoroughly depressed state, still it should at least be getting easier for them. After all they’ve had plenty of practice in being the also-rans against the mighty Arsenal. Long may it continue. At least they’ll be able to concentrate on avoiding relegation now that they’ve got their biggest game of the season over with. For us it was just three more points and back to the top of the League again.