Just call him Martin Gol. After scoring six times in 11 Premiership games under Jacques Santini, Tottenham have responded to their newly promoted head coach by equalling that in two matches and reviving the club's former traditions as the great entertainers.
Unfortunately both games have been lost at home to London rivals, last week's 3-2 defeat by Charlton being followed by yesterday's implausibly dramatic spectacle, a wonderful throwback to derby days of lore when Jimmy Greaves and Bobby Smith would trade goals with Joe Baker and George Eastham.
It was a game to enthral spectators with its eventual attacking ebb and flow, and drive managers and coaches to despair with its lax defending. Sol Campbell's absence through injury on the ground where he is regarded as a Judas may have reduced the levels of animosity by a notch or two, but his return - anticipated in a couple of weeks - cannot come quickly enough for Arsenal, who have not kept a clean sheet for 10 games.
Outmuscled and outplayed in a comparatively quiet opening half an hour yesterday, they equalised Nourredine Naybet's goal at a crucial moment just before half-time and came out to take a 3-1 lead by the time an hour had been played. From then until the final whistle, the lead oscillated between one and two goals as nine different scorers put their name on the sheet, courtesy of some woeful defensive work. By the time Frédéric Kanouté, a substitute, knocked in the ninth, with two minutes remaining, Jol merely shook his head in disbelief. Wenger may well have done the same, but was able to enjoy the last laugh - or relieved smile - as Simon Davies's low drive at the end of added time slid wide of a post, allowing Arsenal to celebrate a Premiership victory again after following defeat at Old Trafford with successive draws against relegation contenders Southampton and Crystal Palace.
Jol had quickly dispensed with the idea of three strikers, sending Robbie Keane and Jermain Defoe up the middle where they belong, while insisting they received proper service on the ground, not aimless long balls in the air. Behind them, Michael Brown was vigorous - almost too much so for his own good - Michael Carrick brought a touch of composure on his Premiership debut and Reto Ziegler, the young Swiss, added a threat down the left-hand side.
With a raucous crowd behind them Spurs hurtled into the champions, who seemed initially uncertain whether to keep things tight or opt for their more effective offensive game. All the early chances, such as they were, fell to the home side, Defoe crossing for Pedro Mendes to volley at Jens Lehmann and then scampering along the byline, forcing the goalkeeper to parry his cross-shot.
Arsenal had not created anything more than one dangerous low cross by Fredrik Ljungberg, their best player, when they fell behind in the 36th minute. Vulnerable all afternoon from set-pieces - just as they had been in conceding two headed goals to Southampton - they not only failed to deal with Carrick's floated free-kick but left Naybet unmarked at the far post to chest down and score. The Moroccan was booked for leaving the pitch in wild celebration, but there would be much more to come.
Patrick Vieira almost headed an own goal from Ziegler's free-kick before the moment, just before half-time, that Wenger rightly regarded as the turning point. After Pascal Cygan had headed too high with the visitors' first decent opportunity, Thierry Henry, hitherto quiet and often caught offside, managed to stay level with the final defender as Lauren crossed, fooling Ledley King with a sublime piece of control before beating Lehmann.
The home side looked deflated walking down the tunnel, and had even greater reason to within 15 minutes of the restart. First, King somehow got in the way of Paul Robinson's throw and Noé Pamarot brought down Ljungberg, Lauren converting the penalty; then Patrick Vieira, increasingly dominant, burst through the middle to complete the transformation of a 1-0 deficit into a 3-1 lead.
Spurs would not lie down, and when Defoe, watched by Sven Goran Eriksson, scored the goal of the game with a beautifully placed shot curled into the top corner, his side were given new hope. At the half-time whistle he had smashed the ball away in disgust at Arsenal's equaliser. Now there would be more cause to curse the defence as the experienced Naybet lost possession, allowing Francesc Fabregas to put Ljungberg in to score: 2-4.
Arsenal continued to look equally uncertain at the back, allowing King to head in another Carrick free-kick: 3-4. Eight full minutes then passed without a goal, until Robert Pires continued his persecution of the neighbours by scoring against them for the seventh time in nine games, easily deceiving Pamarot after taking Henry's pass: 3-5.
Jol, meanwhile, had sent on Kanouté, who met a cross from Ziegler to keep the home fires burning hopefully. The lanky defender Anthony Gardner joined him in attack as any thoughts of pure football were forgotten for the final frantic minutes, during which King could not keep his glancing header on target and Davies, latching on to Pires's poor clearance, fired wide. "We love you Tottenham" chanted the proudly defiant home crowd before finally catching their breath. So do the rest of us when the entertainment is of this quality.
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- Thierry Henry
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