Basic errors may cost Gunners the title

Published Nov. 22, 2010 10:11 a.m. ET

Ask any manager and player what the most dangerous score-line in football is and they’ll probably tell you it’s a two-goal lead.

In theory you should be on your way to being out-of-sight but the reality is that one goal by your opponent and all of a sudden it’s twitchy-bum-time and they’re thinking that they’re right back in it.

Oh to be a fly-on-the-wall as Arsene Wenger and Harry Redknapp gave their respective half-time team talks during the 147th North London league derby. Unfortunately, there are no cameras allowed in the dressing rooms, but rest assured Tottenham obviously felt ‘right back in it’ when Gareth Bale halved the deficit five minutes after the break at the Emirates on Saturday.

And after singing his praises last week, it was sweet that he didn’t let me down with a goal of sumptuous quality despite not being at his best.

Arsenal were certainly at their best for the majority of the first-half and must be wondering how they’ve contrived to lose a match that had three points written all over it.

Once again it’s the same old story for Wenger, as failure to put chances away and slack defending allowed their most hated foe to snatch a highly unlikely victory.

Breaking it down, Bale’s goal was brilliant, but the ball should never have got to him in the first place while Cesc Fabregas needs to have his brains tested. Raising an arm in a defending wall inside the penalty area is completely suicidal and it left referee, Phil Dowd with the easiest decision of the day.


To then compound those errors by allowing Younes Kaboul, my personal man-of-the-match, to head in a winner with just five minutes remaining, borders on the completely irresponsible. But maddeningly for Arsenal, that seems to be their ‘MO’ these days.

From looking like title contenders with a hardened professional edge, they’ve reverted back to ‘the kids’ that Wenger says are still developing. After watching Samir Nasri show petulance in refusing to shake hands with ex-teammate, William Gallas, I’m beginning to wonder if they’ll ever grow up.

One thing I am sure of is that if they keep losing on home turf, the Premier League crown has more chance of going to Seven Sisters than making its first appearance at Ashburton Grove. This defeat marks their third home loss of the league campaign and fourth overall.

Numbers don’t lie and Wenger was quick to use them as a crutch saying: "If you look at the statistics and numbers it is very difficult to understand how we lost this game."

Basic errors are why you lost this one, Arsene, and in all fairness it was basic errors that put Tottenham behind the eight ball in the first place.

Spurs didn’t play that well but that shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone, given their horrendous away record at members of the Big Four (Man United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal). It was 68 matches and counting coming into the Emirates without a win, but streaks are made to end at some point. The fact that it ended away to Arsenal made it all the sweeter.

It is still too early to consider Spurs as title contenders, despite Redknapp throwing their name into the hat. My feeling is that there is still a consistency question that lingers around them. For the big matches against the big clubs, no problem, but it’s against the lesser lights that questions arise.

We’ve seen over the last six seasons the dominance of Man United and Chelsea. It is because even when they’re not playing well, they still get all three points against the likes of Wigan, West Ham, West Brom. When Tottenham learns to grind out results in these matches they will start mounting a serious challenge.

At the moment the swashbuckling, you-score-three-we’ll-score-four attitude is winning lots of friends but trophies are the ultimate marker of success. However, if character is a magical ingredient in winning those trophies, Spurs are on the way.

As the great Spur, Danny Blanchflower, who knew more than a little bit about character once said: "Football is about glory, it is doing things in style and with a flourish, about going out and beating the lot, not waiting for them to die of boredom."

They’ll be no boredom watching Tottenham Hotspur this year. Whether they’re two up or two down, it will be interesting.

Nick Webster is a senior writer for covering the Barclay's Premier League and the English national team.