The derby is the fan’s game. One we look forward to the most, want to win the most, feel the most. Passion lifts the team, players and supporters together. Win and you float home, sail through life for the next few days, weeks maybe. Bragging rights are a misnomer. Win and you don’t need to brag, because inside you know who’s best.
Winning isn’t everything. Giving everything is what we want, expect. Defeat hurts. Too many defeats leave scars that take a long time to heal. But not giving everything is a shame and a sin. Unforgivable.
The derby is our game. Play your best team. Do it for us. Except Spurs didn’t. And that shows what they think about us. Nothing.
The wishes and feelings of Spurs fans meant nothing when Pochettino selected his team for last night’s North London Derby. We carry the scars, the burden sometimes, because that’s how it feels when we keep getting beaten. But we are loyal, we get behind the team, we glory in the wins because when they come, as in the last home derby, they taste nectar sweet.
So you play your best team. I don’t care what Wenger does. Play your best team because it’s the Arsenal. I don’t care for the League Cup, it’s an afterthought, English football’s petrol-station flowers when the game is too busy and doesn’t care enough. But play your best team because it’s the Arsenal. The physical demands on modern footballers mean rotation is essential. Rotate another day, because tonight it’s the Arsenal. Play your best team and you beat the Arsenal.
Pochettino, the club, @SpursOfficial, they all praise the fans, they’re great, fabulous support. Blah blah blah. This team selection shows the contempt with which Spurs fans are treated. Demonstrated what they really think about us. Not the players themselves, all of whom worked hard and tried their best last night, although not all of them were especially good. I think we have a group of pretty genuine footballers who give of their best. To play a weakened team felt like a kick in the teeth.
Pochettino or any manager for that matter, doesn’t have to go home on the train with them, doesn’t work with them, doesn’t go to the pub with them. Reserve teams, League Cup, demands of a long hard season, don’t count for diddly. Stick, bucketloads. Spurs don’t care.
Rotate in a home EL tie versus a side from Azerbaijan. Rotate in the next away EL tie. Not when you play the Arsenal. Don’t change the entire back five and replace it with players who have never played together before. We don’t have the depth or experience in the squad to play anything much less than our best defence, certainly the spine, starting with the magnificent, inspirational Hugo Lloris. Vorm is a decent back-up. Lloris is a leader.
Long-term planning. Make sure we have that breadth and depth because it is a long season but in the window Levy badly let us down. So Dier at 21 and after 7 matches in an unfamiliar position, becomes indispensable. He’s been mighty in the role but we need to know there’s an alternative.
Dier was one of four good centrebacks available at the start of the season. Now he’s needed elsewhere so that leaves us with three and Fazio. He’s got something, hasn’t he, must have, career in Spain, captained Seville to an EL triumph. He’s not shown it here, but leaving that aside, he’s only at Spurs for the money. His move to West Brom fell through over terms so they say, i.e. we pay more than they do. I don’t blame him, Spurs gave him the contract, but he was hardly ready for the derby. He knows he’s past his sell-by date, festering at the back of the ‘goods reduced’ section with the other rotten vegetables. Wrong to play him.
I said all this before Fazio took the field. Fazio did what Fazio does – ok one-to-one in the box, an interpretation of the foulplay law that belongs in 1982, passing with apparent care and consideration straight ot the opposition, time and again. Before he wafted a leg at a cross and deflected it to Flamini who confounded all expectations to volley home the winner.
Before then, Spurs had lifted their game in the second half following a mediocre first period when we conceded after Oxlade Chamberlain was given far too much time to shoot, Vorm could only parry straight to Flamini again. Eriksen and Carroll got us moving again and Chadli finally surfaced although Townsend sunk without trace. Chadli’s cross was deflected in and in an open game (see, they weren’t much cop either), the win was there for the taking. Kane’s thrilling overhead volley was cleared off the line. Then the subs came on but we got bogged down in the middle with no width.
The League Cup is a miserable competition. Like the group stages of the EL it sucks the fun from the game. It’s always an hypocritical slog – it’s a cup, we’re up for it, pay the cash, Sky TV yeah! Yet no one wants it or looks forward to it until you get to the semi-finals. This is what we do in modern football, have competitions nobody gets enthused by, that get in the way, that detract from the heritage of the League and FA Cup, competitions generations of fans made famous and precious. But it’s League Cup football on Sky baby!
One theory last night was that Poch was acting on instructions – success in europe means more and is more lucrative. However, he’s consistent in letting us down. Any cup will do – Leicester in the FA Cup, Fiorentina in the EL last year, now this.
He understands what the derby means for supporters. Fact is, he and the rest of them just don’t care. What hurts most is that this is what they really think of us all the time.