10 February 2015

Let's all laugh at Spurs, Volume Infinity.

Well, well, well. Just when it seemed like we'd entered another downward spiral and it would be an ascendant Spurs team that finally seized a fourth-place finish, the long arc of history bends backs towards the right side and hue of London. Barely 80 hours or so after Tottenham found a way to win, they'd already squandered the slender, precious lead that win had built, stumbling to defeat at Anfield whilst we waltzed our way to victory. In the process, we've climbed to fourth (while we wait the results for Man U and Southampton) while Tottenham sink to sixth, with Liverpool just a point below. Not to overlook Leicester, who battled bravely, but there are bigger fish to fry.

From our point of view, we have to feel at once relieved and enraged as we barely emerged from a tough scrape against a stubborn side fielding five defenders and daring us to score. Score we did, though with fine first half goals from Koscielny and Walcott—however, it was not the sizzling response to the North London Derby loss we might have craved, not with us seeing the tantalizing sight of Walcott, Alexis, and Özil together for the first time ever. In a storyline almost as ageless as Arsenal itself, the Foxes rattled us figuratively and literally, daring referee Mike Jones to book someone, anyone, but it was a dare he refused to take.

Both sides had their chances, and, truth be told, we again owe Ospina for making some fine saves to deny shots that our defense should not have conceded. Against a side with more-clinical players, we might have suffered an altogether different result. New signing Andrej Kramarić tested Ospina on several occasions and has to rue the chances missed on a day when his new club might have come away with a well-deserved point. Still, we've escaped, and we've already set the universe, which was unmoored, back in its proper place. I had prepared to remind us all that, the last time we lost at White Hart Lane, we scratched and clawed our way back from a seven-point deficit in ten matches over nearly three months. This time through, we overtook Spurs after just three days. Heck, for those with a keen eye for irony, the last time Spurs beat us at White Hart Lane, these capons laid an egg almost identical to this one: losing 3-2 at Anfield. In both matches, the winning goal came in the 82nd minute. Both matches included a spot-kick goal from Gerrard. Heck, both matches included a goal by the Prem's most-volatile player (Suarez then, Balotelli now).

Whichever way we slice it, the cake is just too ironically delicious to pass up. Yes, there are still 13 matches to be played, and Wednesday might end with both Southampton and Man U above us. However, this three-day sequence offers a welcome reminder that the Prem season is 38 matches long, and the impact of any one match will usually be exaggerated in the short-term. In an ideal world, of course, we would have won at White Hart Lane. Then again, I hope it's not heretical to suggest that losing to Tottenham but finishing above them—again—is not an altogether bad trade. Would you rather experience the alternative—defeating Spurs but seeing them finish above us?

Back to the match itself, we might have some injury-concerns with Alexis, who took a kick to the knee, and Ramsey, who picked up a knock after only 9 minutes of action. Let's hope those niggles don't persist for too long. Elsewhere, Bellerin turned in another less-than-average performance, alternating between getting way too high up the pitch to get back or playing too close to Mertesacker to defend the wing. He's just a kid, and it does make sense to give him time on the pitch against sides like Leicester to help him develop (no offense, Foxes). Coquelin did his best as the only "true" defensive midfielder on the pitch, with the much-more forward-thinking Cazorla and Rosický playing more like wingers than midfielders. While we didn't dominate to the extent that we might have hoped, we did enough to claim three points, and that will have to do for now.

We have an FA Cup-tie against Middlesbrough to prepare for, and a tough win over Leicester, just one position above them at the moment, does just enough to settle our stomachs but sharpen our nerves for that fray.