By Tony Attwood
8 April 2001
This was one of those games where all the talk in the press before the game about the class of their new manager seeping into the Tottenham side was shown up for what it was. A lot of twaddle about Hoddle.
It was also a game where even the press, who normally had no interest in the plight of the fans, wondered why Arsenal v Tottenham had to be played in Manchester. True, Wembley was shut for rebuilding, but even so…
It had been a season of all change at Tottenham. Daniel Levy had taken over from Alan Sugar as chairman in February, and started as he meant to go on by sacking George Graham (for breach of contract) as manager on 16 March bringing in Glenn Hoddle in his stead.
In the league Tottenham were mediocre at best, while Arsenal were again challenging for the championship, although finally forced into second by Man U.
Tottenham’s last league game had been a 2-0 away defeat to Arsenal, and indeed they had only won three of the last nine league matches in the build up to this game. But the cup was all they had to play for, and they really did want to impress their new boss, not to mention their chairman.
But they failed. True it was only 2-1 to Arsenal but Arsenal looked throughout as if they could pick up the game further at any time – if there was any need which there wasn’t.
The match was played with nine league games left, and the chance of overtaking Man U in the league looked slim, but even so Arsenal were determined not to over-extend themselves when it wasn’t necessary.
And they had just played a Champions League match against Valencia, which clearly had drained them, but with Campbell, Tottenham’s most solid and dependable player only just making the squad after injury, their chances were greatly diminished.
However with Arsenal knocking the ball around a little too easily from the start Tottenham did take a shock lead through Doherty’s header – totally against the run of play.
But then, not standing for any nonsense up stepped Patrick Vieira took advantage of Campbell going off the pitch for treatment to his ankle to make it 1-1 with a classic header. There was also a classic muddle as Tottenham were left for what seemed an age before Ledley King came on to replace the captain.
The second half was a constant assault on the Tottenham goal, and life was made harder for Tottenham when Ferdinand suffered a hamstring problem and was replaced by Leonhardsen.
Wiltord and Pires started toying with the Tottenham defence, peppering the goal with shots, know that eventually the keeper would stop having one of those perfect keeper days. And finally it happened as Vieira passed out to Wiltord on the right, and he delivered the perfect cross for Robert Pires (who had earlier missed a sitter on 22 minutes) to tap in the winner on 72 minutes.
But in the move Pires himself suffered a hamstring injury and was replaced by Ljungberg.
Tottenham ended the season in the lower part of the table, and perhaps their overall plight at the time is best expressed in their top scorers in the league for the season: Ferdinand 10, Rebrov 9, Carr 3, Korsten 3, Leonhardsen 3.
Arsenal: Seaman, Silvinho, Adams, Keown, Dixon, Vieira, Parlour, Lauren, Pires, Wiltord, Henry.
Subs: Ljungberg, Manninger, Luzhny, Kanu, Cole.