The Seismic Rending of Victory in the North London Derby

Released from the stifling burden of his defensive responsibilities, Kyle Walker moves purposefully onto a loose ball. He’s spent a good while with his back to the wall, unable to shake free of the relentless pressure coming his way as our north London rivals dominate. Walker’s known primarily for his pace but he’s a fine footballer too, so it’s a touch then head down, eyes on the ball, it flies low and on target.

Walker has phenomenal potential but still has a lot to learn – his pace can’t solve every defensive conundrum. The thing is, this young man is tough beyond his years, battle hardened as a teenager in the Championship and now he has his opportunity, he’s absolutely determined to seize it. His eyes are cold and focussed. Ready. As the ball hits the net, the deafening sound of a seismic shift, a  cracking, groaning roar as plates collide to reshape our world in a terrible rending. Rising from the dust, a fresh landscape, new typography to bury the old amongst layers of dinosaur eras. North London is ours.

When I first began to understand fully the significance and drama of the derby, the records of the two clubs over the years showed almost precise symmetry. In the thirty or so years since then, one team has forged ahead. It’s bad enough but on top of that they not only pinched our precious prize of being the only team to win the double, they did it on our ground, then repeated that feat, as well as playing some of the best football the Premier League has ever seen.

Their dominance was symbolised not by these frightening statistics but in the derbies. We just could not get near them. Every time, something happened. Controversial decisions, red cards, we score four but they get five, how can that happen? But most of the time, the fact is they swept us aside, at the Lane with dazzling counter-attacking football and a defensive line that left us like toddlers banging our fists on the floor in blind frustration. I still feel the pain.

Now the balance has finally shifted. Three wins and a draw in the last four tells part of the tale. The key is, we have rebuilt our team gradually whereas they have failed to do the same. Now it’s they who are struggling to keep up. Our blend of youth and experience represents the way forward. And then there’s the intangible but real sensation that in a tight game like this one, it’s going to swing our way. We absorbed considerable pressure in the second half especially and had a few scrapes but did not concede another. In the past, we’ve had to play at our absolute best even to be in with a shout. Yesterday we won despite quiet performances from Modric and Adebayor. Then there’s that swerving, challenging shot that no one, and let’s be honest that includes the fans as well as the keeper, thought was going in until it crossed the line and there was no turning back.

Unlike the crash bang wallop of other city derbies, this was another in the growing tradition of excellent matches, shaped by a fascinating tactical battle between one manager who lives and breathes tactics and another who likes to deny their importance. As with many aspects of Redknapp’s public persona, things aren’t what they seem and ultimately the changes he introduced in the second half proved decisive.

Harry’s instinct to attack plus our opponent’s weakness in defence encouraged a 4-4-2. Wenger countered with five in midfield, tried and trusted by him as well as covering up for his side’s imperfections. After a bright start when we had good chances, their three in centre midfield first stifled our advances then after a period of stalemate, pushed us onto the back foot. Defoe was forced deeper and deeper. To his credit he worked hard all afternoon to good effect but it wasn’t where he wanted to be.

Despite this, we had gone one up, wonderful control from Van der Vaart – no irony, there, not handball – followed by a shot across the keeper. Although the marking could have been better, Rafa made that chance by his movement, popping up unexpectedly on the left. He has the freedom to do so because of the movement behind him, Parker running the show and shifting across to cover if he or others go forward. Adebayor didn’t shine, and missed a cracking chance in the second half, but on the theme of movement, he takes defenders with him to make space for others. A special mention for Defoe in the build-up to the goal. Instead of knocking the ball off, back to goal he turned and took the initiative. That was the crucial moment. Suddenly it created danger and committed their defenders. Three passes later, the ball was in the back of the net.

Second half, the three dominated and enabled them to exploit our vulnerable left. Parker and Modric couldn’t get the ball, never mind get us going, and we fell apart for the equaliser. Too much room for the cross, acres of space at the near post to score.

Redknapp turned the tide by bringing on Sandro, a brave decision to take off your goalscorer and and dangerman, but the correct one. Chances came and went but with this new Spurs there’s another one coming along. Luka should have done better with his but he was uncharacteristically off his admittedly stellar standards. However, he and Bale had done enough to unbalanced the defence that throughout we had been able to move around. Sucked left, there was space on the right as the ball ran loose to Walker.

When the going gets tough, Scott Parker gets going. He took over and despite a couple of knocks, he was not prepared to let this hard-won lead slip. It was as if he’s been playing in the derbies for ten years rather than making his debut. He knew what it meant. Outstanding. With Sandro straight into the action and Bale raiding down the left, we could have scored again but at least it meant for most of the time we had the ball and kept it far, far away from our goal. Kaboul and King protected it well, with Van Persie anonymous. Kaboul was beaten too easily twice in the first half by RVP, once conceding a free kick. However, he didn’t repeat those errors and was commanding in the last 20 minutes, when he needed to be. King’s return is a masterstroke by Harry. He doesn’t seem stretched in the slightest. Odd though to see our rivals cross the ball so often, rather than pass it around, a sure sign that their powers are on the wane. K and K headed it all away.

We won, yet by the end I was exhausted. Relief at the final whistle, but as I calmed down, I realised that despite my anxiety, we were totally on top after we scored. Now there’s only joy, which will last a long while. This is going to be a good week.

It’s frankly unlikely that in other circumstances I’d be able to have a chat with Salman Rushdie. However, a combination of Twitter and the comradeship of being a fan brought us together last evening. A few messages exchanged, he’s been a Spurs fan for 50 years and watched the match in Los Angeles, where he reports the sun grew even brighter on the final whistle. Let’s enjoy the sun and enjoy the win together.





9 thoughts on “The Seismic Rending of Victory in the North London Derby

  1. Thanks Alan, Sandro’s impact after coming on was instructive. He needs to start in St James’ park in what will be a tough game.

    Regards, D


  2. I can say in all honesty I never enjoyed the match at all. The result?, Yes of course as i did the goals. But I found it frustrating first and foremost, irritating and more importantly- a missed opportunity. Our line-up from the outset gave the team a lop-sided feel, and during the first 45 I couldn’t settle because I felt we were off the pace, disjointed and allowing Arsenal too much respect. Then, Sods Law, I thought, the catalyst of my misgivings scores just before half-time, and although I’m now happier, it was more relief than excitement. Second 45, I’m thinking to myself ‘you’ve got to take him (VDV) off, Harry, Surely if I can see it, you must?, but as the teams emerge, no changes. Arsenal equalise and the decades of ‘I’ve seen this so many times’ come flooding back, and now my BP is at boiling point. We score a wonder goal and dominate once Sandro is on and VDV is off. he did see it, perhaps earlier, but that’s the problem with management and as Napoleon said “Give me a lucky General anyday”. Watchig it later on MOTD, I sat back and enjoyed it immensly, ah, the power of hindsight


  3. I don’t want to be a churl, as Spurs won, and I’m thrilled, but the set up of the side was asking for it and Gervinho and perhaps Walcott on a couple of occasions should have given it to us in that first half. If Harry deserves praise for going 3 in central midfield late on, he needs to be concerned about how often he cedes a one half of football to Arsenal. We got away with it last April and again yesterday.

    Far too much space for Arsenal to attack our right full back and they ran rings around us at times. We made much harder work of beating them than should have been the case imo.

    Once we went to 3 in central midfield and 2-1 up we played well and looked a much stronger outfit to them. Perhaps it is a calculated risk from Harry to play 2 vs 3 in midfield and keep the match winning talents of VDV in the side somewhere, so the plaudits are his. Me, I’m a little concerned.

    Parker had a very good game. I dare say not like for like, but yesterday he seemed to give us an element of what Terry Yorath gave us in 79-81 ish. King is super, another classy pipe and slippers performance.


  4. Essex, exactly how i felt, i was even walking around the living room pointing out to my bored wife (on facebook) how the midfiled was getting over run screaming at Harry to bring on Sandro. cant watch these games on TV, cant wait to get my Season ticket back next year……..anyway an already excellent weekend was gloriously capped, and i opened one of my special bottles of Reserve wine i was saving whilst watching a rerun.


    • Ah, mine was a few bottles of ice cold Tiger’s during the highlights later, but as I said, I really wanted us to bury ’em, and really think it was an opportunity missed, but that’s out of the way now, onwards and upwards and provided we don’t allow a “Billy Big Potatoes” attitude to cause us problems against the ‘lesser’ teams, we’re looking pretty damned good


  5. I thoroughly loved it – how many times have we been in an ‘seemingly’ dominating position – yet throw it all away …. Enjoyed the view from the front row in the North Stand…. Bliss…. Have a great fortnight fellow Spurs people …. ENJOY


  6. I thought Harry got it spot on myself and the players rose to what is still a challenge to beat them and seal our credentials as current top dogs in north London.

    Can we hold on to that crown? Can we extend it to top dogs in all of London? Can we even extend it to top dogs of the Premier League?

    It is an interesting question I think. The club has certainly prioritised the EPL so far and used the league cup and Europa group games accordingly. The players have responded since the new signings arrived averaging 3 points per game so far. With a fit squad all season we would have to be among the favourites for 4th at least. We have cover for the first team all over the pitch too.

    I think this is the best chance Spurs have had to make any form of challenge in the Premier League. We can always win a cup whatever the squad situation but us challenging in the league conjures up Bill Nicholson and the Spurs of the sixties. We have the squad to do it and they are playing with spirit and togetherness and brains too.

    If we are going to fall away it is injuries that threaten us more than anything. We can cope with some. Gallas, Sandro, Hudd, Lennon, Niko and others could all step in and we might hardly notice. Only Adebayor is not covered with a player of sufficent quality. We have a lot of choices of players to play off him but nobody that could dream do his job to even half as well. So a lot depends on his fitness for the league games. But if he stays fit and we get some luck I think we can have our best ever EPL season. So keep on collecting the three points guys and please wrap Ade in cotton wool 🙂


  7. Welcome back Alan, a fine appraisal if I might say so… I too was relieved to see Sandro’s sub appearance after our Van Man seemed to lose his way a little. THEIR Van Man has been sighted somewhere East of John O’ Groats I believe! (Totally lost in other words!)


  8. But see it from Arsene’s eyes, or one eye anyway.
    Handball for the first after they controlled the play
    and missed a sitter.
    Then Walker got a lucky strike and we missed two or three chances.
    Could have gone either way and they won the tactical battle,
    especially away from home.

    Then abused as ‘two bob’ by our very own crafty cockney.

    But I can tell I’m not convincing anyone here. As Eisenhower said
    ‘ Give me a lucky General rather than a clever one’.

    But as you rightly say the techtonic plates have shifted.
    Sandro out with calf problems, could be important.


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