Defeat is always hard to stomach. Despite having had enough practice over the last 40 years or so of watching Spurs, I have never quite become used to it. There’s nothing for it except to allow time to pass. Some people get angry, some just get over it, but I remain morose for however long it takes.
But there are defeats and defeats. If we are beaten by a better team, well, there are always things that we could have done better or learning points for the training ground but in the end we have to get over it. What makes my blood boil is capitulation. When all our talent, skill and experience is thrown out of the window. When players are apparently incapable of a moment’s thought about their game. We give them everything, our heart and soul, but in the end our fate is in their hands. When they leave us exposed to ridicule from braying gloryhunters in red and royal blue.
Against the old enemy, it seems we can come up with ever more creative ways to lose. I remember a good few years ago sitting right at the back of the Paxton with a precious ticket watching them take us apart. It was near the beginning of the Wenger era. At the finish, the mood around me was surprisingly philosophical, beaten by a better team on the day, therefore in some measure we could deal with it. But since then, we have games when we are on top but are then destroyed by breakaways, cup semi-finals, we watch them win the league on our ground, we score four but concede five. Now we have the 11 second goal. Utterly pathetic, like watching the primary school team give the ball to the big boy who’s better than everyone and runs straight through.
What on earth goes through their heads at moments like those? Nothing much, probably. Meanwhile, through mine runs an endless replay of desperate missed tackles and bewildered expressions, of half an hour of mindless hoofed balls high into the sky, a loop tape of failure.
We started well enough, with a limited but achievable aim of containment. Just as we began to believe, this solidity was exposed by the first goal as a façade, as flimsy as the Halloween decorations that the gales are blowing away down my road as I type. Our defending was infinitely more terrifying than any of them, however. Ledley, my lovely, magnificent, loyal Ledley, did not have a good game, but he does not deserve Shearer’s smug unthinking dismissal from the comfort of the MOTD sofa. Defending is a team exercise. For the first and third goals, our right-sided central defender had to come across to the left in the absence of Bassong and BAE, drawn out of position by Arsenal’s elementary forays down the wing. Our midfield did not have the wit or willingness to drop back to cover throughout the entire game, when for much of the time we played with three in the middle. The enemy did so little. A couple of quick near post crosses was enough to take us apart.
If marks out of ten had been my task this week, then Robbie Keane may have achieved the unique feat of a minus score. Contributing little on the pitch, his pre-match comments that we have a better squad of players provided more than enough plus points for our opponents, putting Robbie firmly in the red. So to speak. Harry was helpful too – ‘Arsenal won’t win the league’. He may be right but not the right time to say so, HR. The cock up starts early at Spurs. For the outfield players, the best I can come up with is, ‘JJ kept going’…..
Any fleeting belief in a newly created resilience or ability to play badly and win was dead and buried after this one. Next weekend, start again, but until then can somebody turn off that bloody tape.