Can one support two Premiership teams at one time? Most Brits say no, and that’s fair cop. I understand it. But I went to university in North London and developed a taste for Tottenham. More recently, Fulham began stocking its roster with Americans and, I’m sorry, that’s a draw irresistible to U.S. soccer fans. Even today, when there is only one Yank playing for FFC (Eddie Johnson has been loaned out, again), I root for the team from SW6, something I had the opportunity to do just the other day in an FA Cup 5th round match. Very satisfying 4-0 victory. Tottenham gifted the game with perhaps the worst opening 10 minutes in recent memory: 2-nil down, two penalties and a man sent off. But how can one not respect the fact that they went to Milan the next week and play about the best opening 10 minutes imaginable.
The pull of North London is strong these days. With another Champions League week about to begin, I couldn’t leave such a grand week for North London without comment. As inspiring as Tottenham were Tuesday, Feb. 15, in the Champions League vs. AC Milan, Arsenal were more special Wednesday (even if they have poked the Bear bigtime; Barca will be highly motivated to destroy and humiliate, not just win, at the Nou Camp). Breakthrough game for Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere. He was stupendous in a way that challenges us to think of the last Englishman who was that good, at that place on the field, in that sort of critical match, against an opponent so very talented (not just generally but in that part of the field). Gazza?
Do yourself a favor and check out this site, www.zonalmarking.net. Really good in its tactical obsession, yet readable and rarely pedantic. This bit from an Arse-Barcelona match report was maybe most interesting (and relevant to the Prem race):
“Wenger made a further change – [Theo] Walcott off, Nicklas Bendtner on. Whether this had much of an impact upon the subsequent proceedings is debatable, but it is the second time in less than a month that Arsenal have brought on Arshavin and Bendtner in the final 25 minutes, and turned a 0-1 into a 2-1.”
The relative depth of these teams — and if we go further, their reflection of depth standards in the respective league — was interesting. It impressed to see Arshavin come on, then Bendtner to a lesser extent, when compared to what Pep brought on, what he had at his disposal. Villa should simply not have come off; he’d have scored again late, when the game opened up at 1-1. But it seemed as though Wenger was able to bring more to the table.
Stole this, and the “graphic” below, from a Guardian comment (the whole thread was a fascinating North London grudging admirationfest) because it neatly sums up what I’ve been prattling on about all season: Tottenham may be 4th and there MAY be a gap in quality between it and ManU/Arsenal/Chelsea (not convinced of this), but there is no doubt that they have assembled the deepest roster in the top five. They can field two full teams that could be mid-table or up in the Prem — “And that’s without considering Pletikosa, Kyle Walker, King, Woodgate, Bentley, Keane or any of the kids…” They run Palacios and Sandro out there Tuesday night, arguably their 5th and 6th choices in midfield, and they get a result — in Milan. If this team ever gets a hold of a proper, productive striker, the sky’s the limit.
__________Van der Vaart_______________