James Lawton: Redknapp leaves a calling card for the title
Monday 22 November 2010
There was no better time, in no better season, for Harry Redknapp to make his speech about Spurs having nothing to lose but their chains at the Emirates Stadium.
A few weeks ago, it might have sounded like the last word in dreamy optimism. Not now; not with Chelsea disabled by injury and doubt and riven by fresh examples of Roman Abramovich's failure to understand that, while he was corralling Russia's mineral wealth, his latest coach, Carlo Ancelotti, already knew more about football than he would guess in a thousand years.
Not now, with Manchester United, reinforced by the return of Wayne Rooney, labouring to put nine-man Wigan Athletic to the sword; and not now, with Manchester City struggling to convert the aggressive instincts fanned by team spending of around £350m into consistent winning form – yesterday's more commanding performance at notwithstanding.
There was also, of course, the problem of Arsenal, but that too was scaled down quite dramatically after Redknapp's rallying speech provided the impetus for Tottenham's first victory at Arsenal in 17 years.
Redknapp's thrust was as basic as it was undeniable. If Spurs believed in themselves sufficiently – say as much as they did when they dismantled the European champions Internazionale at White Lane so recently – they might just achieve anything. Maybe he wasn't saying Spurs were already custom-made champions, but then who are in this season of violent flux?
Certainly, it couldn't be said of Arsenal on the evidence of their second-half collapse. Collapse is one way of putting it. Their manager, Arsene Wenger, may have had another term for it, especially in that moment when he angrily threw down a bottle of water, having watched as the goals of Samir Nasri and Marouane Chamakh were wiped away – "surrender" was one word he managed to edit out of his mournful public reaction.
Redknapp's case, especially in current circumstances, is not so fanciful. William Gallas took the anticipated insult from Nasri when the new star of France refused to shake hands with him before the game – along with the wearisome jeers from the home crowd – and played one of the games of his life. Loose cannon he may be but, when securely chained down to his professional responsibilities, there are few better defenders in all of football. Beside him, Younes Kaboul was equally immense as Arsenal's resolve crumbled.
Redknapp has built a team which has decent players in every position, although he won't want to see Heurelho Gomes ever quite as careless as when conceding Nasri's superbly taken goal – and some exceptional performers in key areas of the field. This defeat of Arsenal may just provide the stiffening of resolve and discipline to exploit best the quality of players like Gareth Bale, Rafael van der Vaart and Luka Modric.
No doubt we have to wait a little while to get a proper measure of the significance of the Spurs triumph – and further test the theory that something has gone missing from the game of Cesc Fabregas, maybe simply because of the effects of injury or perhaps because his heart has already boarded a flight back home in Barcelona.
Redknapp has no reason, at least for the moment, to brush up his motivational skills. He said it could happen and so it did. Spurs left a calling card that was engraved with more than a little gold lettering. No one would be wise to ignore it.
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