King errors ensure the Arsenal reign continues

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The Independent Football

Robbie Keane's pre-match suggestion that Tottenham are "on a par" with Arsenal these days was made to look pretty silly in the end. A more appropriate golfing analogy might be that the Premier League should consider introducing some kind of handicapping system to this fixture, so one-sided have these north London derbies become. Or perhaps Tottenham should take a mulligan and start again.

Arsenal stretched their dominance over their near neighbours to 20 League encounters since Spurs' last victory, and in doing so they burst the Tottenham bubble. After a 1-0 home defeat by Stoke last weekend, Tottenham's season has suffered a disastrous eight days.

Tottenham's manager, Harry Redknapp, however, insisted the scoreline reflected nothing about the relative strengths of the rivals. "There is no gap between the clubs," he said. "Two mistakes turned the game upside down. We weren't out of our depth. They weren't ripping us apart. At the time the crowd were having a moan every time there was a misplaced pass.

"Three or four of their players were scared to make a pass because the fans were jumping all over them. As a manager that's what you want to see. We were doing fine. Our goal- keeper hadn't had a save to make. But then we went into half-time 2-0 down and it changed everything."

The basis of Redknapp's argument is that they had held their own for the first 42 minutes, despite fielding a side without Jermain Defoe, Aaron Lennon and Luka Modric. "They are three of my best players," the Tottenham manager said. "They are players that can make a difference and any side miss players like that. You take Cesc Fabregas and Robin Van Persie out of their side and you would see a different team."

Tottenham's cause was undone by two dreadful mistakes by Ledley King, so often the mainstay of the Tottenham defence. King, an outsider for Capello's 23-man squad for South Africa next summer due to his fitness problems, was found wanting twice in the space of a minute to let Arsenal take a two-goal advantage.

First King was caught flat-footed as he let Van Persie nip ahead of him at the near post for the opening goal. Then he missed both the ball and Fabregas with an ungainly attempt at a tackle seconds after the restart that allowed the Arsenal captain to poke the ball between his legs before scoring. "That was scandalous really," Redknapp said.

To complete a miserable hat-trick for King, he was also guilty of failing to deal with another low cross in the 60th minute that allowed Van Persie to score his second.

King was one of five England hopefuls on duty for Tottenham at The Emirates, and he was not alone in failing to impress.

David Bentley made a rare first team appearance, restored to the Tottenham starting side in place of the injured Lennon at the club where he started his career, but he was woeful, showing little of the undoubted talent that earned him nine England caps not so long ago. His best moment, a free-kick that forced Manuel Almunia into a one-handed save, was also the closest Spurs came to scoring.

Up front, Peter Crouch was left isolated for much of the match and made little impact, while in midfield the English duo of Tom Huddlestone and Jermain Jenas were far too casual in possession.

A miserable afternoon for Redknapp was compounded by a clash with a fan standing behind the dugout. Tottenham's assistant manager, Joe Jordan, and Redknapp complained to stewards and to fourth official Stuart Attwell about one abusive Arsenal supporter who was told to calm down.

Redknapp said: "It was just one guy. He was swearing and there were little kids standing there. I don't understand why people do that. I just asked if he could behave himself and act like a proper human being."