Friday 31 October ~
Aaron Lennon's late equaliser on Wednesday night has given one half of north London renewed optimism, to the extent that they've even decided to build a new 60,000 capacity ground adjacent to their current one. If the football's anywhere near as exciting as Wednesday's game the stadium, whose name will be sold to the highest bidder, will be packed out. Just as the problems at Spurs appear to be getting solved, unrest starts to creep in at the other major club in the area. Considering that William Gallas is a figure of authority in the team, is it any surprise?
Not everyone's choice of captain in the first place, Gallas is now as infamous as Nicolas Anelka for his sulking, and has declared himself unavailable for Saturday's game at the team now known as Rory Delap's Stoke. Gallas's decision follows a dressing room post mortem after the 4-4 draw with Spurs that apparently left young Gael Clichy “in tears” and others under threat for their places in the team, including the captain as well as Mikael Silvestre and Emmanuel Adebayor. But does the real reason Arsenal came unstuck come back to the manager himself?
Arsène Wenger's substitutions on Wednesday have been widely criticised, with his removal of the team's most potent goal threats, Robin van Persie and Theo Walcott, causing them to drop too deep and invite pressure from their opponents. More generally, Wenger's policy of placing his trust in up-and-coming young players appears to be unravelling. Until recently Arsenal teams were well balanced with several experienced players alongside the raw talent. Now with 21-year-old Cesc Fabregas being the key figure, the younger members have no one to look up to apart from Silvestre, who seems set to be dropped, and the tempestuous Gallas, a far from ideal role model.
The Britannia Stadium offers members of the Gunners squad the chance to redeem themselves after this week’s debacle and, notwithstanding the fact all is not well within the squad, it would be no surprise were they to bounce straight back from this setback. Spurs, on the other hand, will surely take whatever they can get against a Liverpool side who are yet to lose having mixed good displays with some fortunate wins. With Harry Redknapp being extolled across the back pages – in the Daily Mail today he is described as “the good geography teacher who takes you out on a field trip before letting you have a half as long as your home work is in on time” – high expectations are seeping back at the stadium that is still called White Hart Lane, for now. Jamie Hinks