Some nights of football defy you not to enjoy them. Even the most mean-spirited Arsenal fan must surely have felt at least a small stirring of joy in their souls at Spurs performance against Inter Milan. If Spurs can keep this kind of performance up and it is a big if, there will be two teams on North London capable of playing sublime if quite different kinds of football.
Arsenal’s cerebral game of intricacy and vision is often best appreciated by the impartial fan with the mind rather than the heart. For the neutral it is easy to admire but sometimes less easy to love. In contrast, Spurs’ cavalier blitzkreig game sets the pulse racing with its pace and openness and against Inter, it was utterly captivating from start to finish. In many ways, this is the kind of football that makes us fall in the love with the game. While there are many ways to play and win games, this mixture of free-running and open expansive play is the epitome of good-time football.
It is easy to over-react to a couple of good performances but wiser heads than I who have seen more than my 49 years of football are, like me, wondering if we have ever seen a marauding performance the like of Bale’s against Milan. It was that good, that breath-taking; his slow-and-then-go change of pace utterly destructive even in tight corners; his wild, stallion-like length-of-the-pitch sprinting even with two minutes left on the clock couldn’t fail to thrill even the most hardened cynic.
It seems unlikely that Spurs could win the Champions League or even go close because their defence, especially Hutton on the right, seems too porous. However, this is one more reason why they should use attack as the best form of defence. Inter are no mugs. And even into the last ten minutes after they scored who amongst us was sure they wouldn’t get an equalizer? It’s a dangerous game Spurs play, but unlike much Champions League football in the group stages, it’s worth paying good money to see.
Redknapp deserves credit for setting out a side that entertain and thrill. It will end in tears because playing such an open game probably means they need to score three in every game to make sure of victory, but who cares. Better to go out with all guns blazing, than try a more defensive, cautious game that goes against the instincts of the players. By not playing it safe, they have already provided one of the games of the season in the Champions League. Long may it continue.