Arsenal unravelled by Fox's cunning

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The Independent Online
MATT TENCH

Tottenham Hotspur 2 Arsenal 1

When Ruel Fox joined Tottenham last month, the received wisdom was that Kevin Keegan had pulled off something of a coup. If the former Norwich winger continues to play as inspirationally as in this game, it may be that Gerry Francis has secured an even bigger one.

Fox was deemed surplus to requirements at Newcastle once Keith Gillespie had settled in on the right flank, and at just over pounds 4m Keegan appeared to have improved his team and made a profit. Francis, however, has been a consistently shrewd operator in the transfer market and it already looks money well spent.

Fox was voted man of the match in the last game at White Hart Lane - against Newcastle - and was the central character again in a pulsating Spurs performance. Even during an extraordinary opening period, in which Arsenal assumed almost total control and took the lead, Fox caught the eye, and it was no surprise that he should play a key role in the equaliser.

Spurs broke quickly from an Arsenal corner and Fox was released down the right. He held the ball up just long enough before delivering it to Teddy Sheringham, whose emphatic header at the far post finished a move he helped begin inside his own box.

From there Fox took control. Encouraged by his manager to drop deep, Fox found his hole and set about unravelling the most revered defence in the Premiership. Whether beating Nigel Winterburn on the outside, checking inside, or providing a series of telling crosses, Arsenal were unable to contain "the difference between the two teams," as Bruce Rioch, the Arsenal manager, described him.

Sheringham and Chris Armstrong thrived on the service and although both missed from free headers inside the box, they did combine beautifully for the Tottenham winner soon after half-time: Armstrong taking Shering- ham's return ball, skipping around Steve Bould's challenge and firing a firm shot into the far corner.

If the game was far more entertaining than the average north London derby, it also found both teams adopting the stereotypes of their adversaries: Spurs direct and menacing going forward, resolute at the back; Arsenal full of pleasing patterns, but posing little threat and uncharacteristically vulnerable in their own area.

Arsenal's day was typified by another fitful display from Glenn Helder. Possessing at least as much skill as Fox, he utterly failed to give his strikers the same sort of service, although he does possess the most lethal left foot in the Premiership. Lethal for those sitting 20 rows back behind the goal, that is.

The visitors had made a dazzling opening, with Paul Merson orchestrating a series of passing manoeuvres, one of which led to a brilliant opening goal by Dennis Bergkamp.

Francis, concerned that the visitors were "playing round us", issued a series of instructions from the dug-out. Some were lost in the cacophony, but the alterations were completed at half-time. What they were Francis refused to divulge, but after the interval Merson never exerted the same influence. In more than one way, Arsenal had been outfoxed.

Goals: Bergkamp (14) 0-1; Sheringham (30) 1-1; Armstrong (55) 2-1.

Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Walker; Austin, Mabbutt, Calderwood, Campbell; Fox, Dozzell, Howells, Rosenthal (McMahon, 88); Armstrong, Sheringham. Substitutes not used: Edinburgh, Day (gk).

Arsenal (4-4-2): Seaman; Dixon, Adams, Bould, Winterburn; Merson, Platt, Keown, Helder (Hillier, 71); Bergkamp, Hartson. Substitutes not used: Jensen, Bartram (gk).

Referee: A B Wilkie (Co Durham).

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