Redknapp revolution: Lennon crowns glorious revival
Arsenal 4 Tottenham 4
Published 30/10/2008 | 03:52
Six days in the job, four points, one miracle. The Harry Redknapp revolution at Tottenham Hotspur is already the most entertaining relegation fight in living memory and we are not in November yet. Aaron Lennon's 94th-minute equaliser last night capped an extraordinary comeback for Spurs who, at 4-2 down with two minutes of normal time left, looked like they were dead and buried.
Half the Spurs contingent in the Emirates had left by the time Lennon scored and frankly who could blame them? They had seen this tale before too many times to hang around to watch another butchering. It is too early to say that Redknapp has turned the corner, there are still plenty of problems with this team, but judging from Jermaine Jenas' goal to bring the score back to 4-3 and then the thrilling finale, you could at least say that there is life in the old dog yet.
Nicking a point at the Emirates does not change everything, Spurs are still bottom of the Premier League this morning and even Redknapp seemed at a bit of a loss to explain how it all happened. Spurs had problems all over the place even after David Bentley scored a brilliant opener to give them the lead. They were hopeless at set-pieces, conceding two headers in their own area to Mika?l Silvestre and William Gallas and gifting another, through Alan Hutton's awful backpass for Robin van Persie's goal.
But what a game and what a finish. "I feel like superman," said Bentley, "I could fly home." The former Arsenal man spent the start of the match in rapture after his goal and most of the second half clutching the Spurs crest on his shirt in response to being barracked by the home fans. He ended it jigging up and down in front of the away end.
Spurs are still two points from 19th place but they do now have some hope. "Amazing, wasn't it?" said Redknapp. "We pulled an amazing result out of the bag in the end."
The new Spurs manager went running down the touchline when Lennon's goal went in. "I thought I was David Pleat running up the touchline when we scored," he said. "I don't usually do that. I don't have a suit or shoes that colour either. I said to them I'd work on their confidence. Everything in life comes down to confidence. We'll keep going. It's going to be a long season, but there was a great atmosphere in that dressing room."
In contrast, the Arsenal dressing room was, judging by Arsène Wenger's mood, a very gloomy place to be. The Arsenal manager said that it was his job not to let "resentment" fester among his players which suggested there had been some finger-pointing in the changing rooms. But mostly Wenger was in denial; in denial of the fact that even though his team had the balance of play they have no divine right to win matches when they do not have the gumption to see out games.
Grumpy and unwilling to extend much credit to Spurs, Wenger said that his side should have gone for the kill at 4-2 up. "I am angry," he said. "We have to look at ourselves and improve. The players are very down. We were two levels above Tottenham and they were there for the taking. It was damaging. The only down side is we didn't win. That was down a little bit to a lack of maturity. I would like to keep the positives because I believe we were really outstanding. We were too cautious rather than scoring five or six. We made some mistakes defensively."
That was an understatement. Manuel Almunia dropped a shot to give Darren Bent the chance to make it 3-2 with the rebound. Then after Van Persie scored again to take the score to 4-2, the otherwise excellent Ga?l Clichy fell over to present the ball to Jenas who did very well to run on and score. Arsenal had dominated the end of the first half and most of the second half but their fragility is part of the same old story which Wenger seems unwilling to accept.
Pressed on whether it is the youth of his players or the old problem about the lack of a defensive midfielder he gave the kind of answer that sounded like it had been scripted by Steve McClaren: "The lack of maturity isn't necessarily linked to experience." Later, Wenger said: "The maturity problem will improve with intelligence. They will learn from their mistakes."
Wenger said that, "at 4-2, Spurs had given up". Except they had not. The introduction of substitutes Bent and Lennon from the bench looks inspired with hindsight. Wenger took off Theo Walcott, Van Persie and Samir Nasri and Arsenal had the feel of a team winding down. Was he at fault? "Maybe," Wenger replied. "But if they'd scored two goals and I hadn't made those changes, maybe people would say we had been too bold. I'll take responsibility."
Back to the start. Tottenham began brightly, the excellent Luka Modric overshadowing Fabregas. The Croatian had a role in Bentley's goal, winning the ball before Jenas touched it on to the right winger. Bentley took one touch with the inside of his right boot to keep it in the air and then, with the same foot, struck a volleyed lob over Almunia from nearly 40 yards.
It was a show-stopping goal, but Arsenal came back with a vengeance. Fabregas won a corner after Bentley claimed he had been fouled and, from the Spaniard's cross, goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes was all over the place again. Silvestre headed in from close range after Hutton lost him in the box.
Spurs were a shambles for Arsenal's second goal, which came after a debatable free-kick was given against Tom Huddlestone for a foul on Van Persie. The Dutchman struck the free-kick and Gallas headed in for 2-1. For the third, Van Persie cut Spurs in half with a throughball to Nasri. He lobbed Gomes and Adebayor forced it over the line.
One minute after Bent scored the second for 3-2 after Almunia's mistake from Huddlestone's shot, it looked academic. Hutton's dreadful back pass let in Adebayor who crossed to Van Persie to score for 4-2. Then, in the 88th minute Jenas scored before Lennon got the equaliser after Modric's shot had hit the post. Pity those Spurs fans who were already on the Holloway Road by then.
Goals: Bentley (13) 0-1; Silvestre (37) 1-1; Gallas (46) 2-1; Adebayor (64) 3-1; Bent (67) 3-2; Van Persie (68) 4-2, Jenas (89) 4-3, Lennon (90) 4-4.
Arsenal (4-4-2): Almunia; Sagna, Silvestre, Gallas, Clichy; Walcott (Ebou?, 75), Fabregas, Denilson, Nasri (Song, 88); Adebayor, Van Persie (Diaby, 81). Substitutes not used: Tour?, Vela, Fabianski (gk), Bendtner.
Tottenham (4-4-1-1): Gomes; Hutton (Gunter, 79), Corluka, Woodgate, Assou-Ekotto; Bentley, Huddlestone, Jenas, Bale (Lennon, 55); Modric; Pavlyuchenko (Bent, 65). Substitutes not used: Sanchez (gk), Zokora, O'Hara, Campbell.
Referee: M Atkinson (West Yorkshire).
Booked: Arsenal Diaby; Tottenham Assou-Ekotto, Bentley, Huddlestone, Jenas.
Man of the match: Modric.