The Run of Play is a blog about
the wonder and terror of soccer.
We left the window open during a match in October 2007 and a strange wind blew into the room.
Now we walk the forgotten byways of football with a lonely tread, searching for the beautiful, the bewildering, the haunting, and the absurd.
Eboué’s decision to kick out at Luka Modrić from a semi-supine position in the 38th minute, inordinately harebrained though it may have been, nevertheless served an instrumental purpose by acting as a kind of flange joining together two distinct games that between them illustrated virtually every known form of exciting but ineffective football.
Before the red card, we saw:
1. The derby jamble. Players running as fast as they can and kicking the ball as if they’d caught it over-tinting the windows of their Bentleys, but without incorporating that energy-intensive commitment intp any larger frame of strategy or purpose.
2. The absent-father-figure strike. Players brilliantly create space and win the ball in dangerous positions only to blast it bewilderingly wide of the goal, as if they’d hit it without any form of guidance. Roman Pavlyuchenko generally follows this up by putting his hands to the sides of his head, as if to confirm that he still doesn’t have Princess Leia hair, as he didn’t the last time he checked.
3. The significant bobble. Players repeatedly create storms of confusion in the box, the ball consistently takes random suggestive drops in front of an open goal, moments of panic rear up before the opposition fans, but somehow this never really leads to a shot, much less to a goal. Arsenal have a way of making this kind of area-pinball look languid and deliberate, as if they meant it all along. It still seems to conjure up the phrase “the inevitably ensuing corner,” of course.
After Eboué’s senseless, recently-rerailed-career-re-derailing red card, we were treated to:
4. The citadel of numbers. Players respond to gaining a man advantage by playing harder—Aaron Lennon racing across the full width of the pitch to regain possession after he’d given it away—without also pressing the attack more aggressively. Adel Taraabt’s late piece of danger with Modrić aside, Tottenham seemed to look at Eboué’s sending-off mostly as a chance to prove their right-thinking sturdiness.
5. The Bendtner fizzle. Players react to being a man down by producing some surprisingly flamboyant counter-attacks, but the ability to maraud down three-quarters of the pitch does them no good as the attack stubs itself out in front of goal.
And that, with gilt capitals and a pointy castle on a mountain, was the story of the game. It was fun to watch. Wilson Palacios looks almost unbelievably promising for Spurs, and Adel Taraabt is exactly the kind of player who needs a repeated vowel in his name. I was also happy to see a couple of instances of the Patented Van Persie Roundhouse, even if they were largely abortive and aimed at thin air.
On the other side, Adebayor’s injury, jeered by the debonair Spurs fans, looks hamstringy and nagging, which is awful roulette for an Arsenal team that’s now five points out of fourth place and seven behind Aston Villa. I wouldn’t want to vouch for Eboué’s future at this point. Arshavin, of course, is hovering over all this like the ghost of no one knows what.
by Brian Phillips · February 8, 2009