Will Tidey - Arsenal took Spurs' feat in Milan and raised it
Published: 17 Feb 2011 - 06:17:42
What was that Sepp Blatter said about the Premier League? First Tottenham go to the San Siro and make AC Milan look like Bolton, then Arsenal come from behind to beat the best club side in the world at the Emirates. English football is in rude health again.
Tottenham's win was hugely impressive, with Harry Redknapp's side winning on points in practically every discipline of the game. They were more competitive, more incisive with their passing and more dynamic going forward.
All over the pitch Spurs suddenly looked like a team of Champions League pedigree. Steven Pienaar, Rafael van der Vaart and Aaron Lennon attacked Milan from midfield just as their manager had asked them to. Meanwhile Wilson Palacios and Sandro played water carriers with a ferocious appetite for the battle in the holding roles.
At the back Matthew Dawson and William Gallas managed to be aggressive and composed in equal measure, while Heurelo Gomes put in the kind of performance that made you wonder if his twin brother was in the shirt during his difficult early days at Tottenham.
Perhaps the performance of most note was not of his players, but of Redknapp himself. His decision to blitz Milan every time they had the ball and attack them in numbers played to Spurs' strengths and left the Italians literally frothing with frustration. Milanimals indeed.
Naturally Tottenham fans dominated the social media sphere in the aftermath. 'Over to you Arsenal,' was a common theme of their comments - with most expecting a perfect week to be rounded off with a Barcelona butchering of their bitter rivals.
But Arsenal proceeded to take Spurs' feat and raise it. Trailing to David Villa's goal with 12 minutes remaining they summoned a brilliant comeback to beat Pep Guardiola's pass masters at the Emirates and make Tottenham's win in Milan feel like the red carpet before the main event.
Arsene Wenger's team proved once and for all they have a backbone. At half-time, with Barcelona dominating the possession and a goal to the good, most expected the Spanish champions to come out for the second half and finish the job.
Not this time. Arsenal kept their composure and when Robin van Persie shot home from a tight angle there was a sense the game was there for the taking. Five minutes later Cesc Fabregas found Samir Nasri, whose superb cutback was curled home by Andrey Arshavin for a goal of quite breathtaking quality.
Arsenal were out-passed, but they weren't outplayed. In the young Jack Wilshere they had the most impressive player on the pitch, and on his lead they drove at Pep Guardiola's side and maintained their focus, despite not having the ball for long periods.
'Our players have shown exceptional strength and togetherness,' said a proud Wenger, before promising to take the fight to Barcelona when battle resumes at the Camp Nou.
All hail north London I say. Over to Chelsea and Manchester United.
- FOOTBALL.CO.UK BLOGGER:Will Tidey
- Will Tidey writes on sport for CNN, Eurosport-Yahoo! and Bleacher Report, amongst others. His first book, 'Life with Sir Alex', an account of Sir Alex Ferguson's 25-year reign at Manchester United, is set for release in October this year. Pre-order it now at http://tinyurl.com/6xzl62b. And follow Will on Twitter here - www.twitter.com/willtidey
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