Tottenham fought back from 3-1 down to draw with Arsenal in a feisty and entertaining derby at White Hart Lane
Good evening one and all: I've got some team news for you to get us started.
Tottenham: Gomes; Corluka, Gallas, Dawson, Assou-Ekotto; Huddlestone, Modric, Bale; Van der Vaart, Pavlyuchenko, Crouch.
Subs: Cudicini, Kaboul, Lennon, Defoe, Bassong, Sandro, Pienaar.
Arsenal: Szczesny; Sagna, Djourou, Koscielny, Clichy; Song; Fabregas, Diaby; Walcott, Van Persie, Nasri.
Subs: Lehmann, Ramsey, Squillaci, Wilshere, Arshavin, Gibbs, Bendtner.
Referee: Martin Atkinson (Wakey, birthplace of your correspondent)
Brief preamble: The demands of 24/7 news coverage and the way my trade loves a story with a "line" to pursue and sometimes stick to with relentless stamina has made the last few days all about Arsenal and specifically whether they have lost their aris, lack experience to make a breakthrough and are spiralling towards a crisis. I've even seen an Arsenal fan say the following this morning: "The Gunners are a club whose fans expect them to win." Fair enough, I suppose but try telling that to anyone with memories of supporting the club from 1953-1970 or 1979-1987. Yes, they have enjoyed phenomenal success from 1997-98 to making the Champions League final in 2006 but does this season's form really make a case for replacing Arsène Wenger? It's part of the short-memory syndrome that does my head in, like this official internet poll that ranks Arsenal's 50 greatest players and puts, for example, Sylvain Wiltord above Alex James, Kanu 17 places higher than Frank McLintock and Paul Davis not even on the list while Steve Williams is. Let's have some perspective, please. OK this isn't Arsenal's greatest season but it is a good one in the scheme of things and may be even better if they can cut Manchester United's lead to four points tonight. As for Spurs – this has been their best season since 1991, the team have played some sumptuous football at times, have midfield players who, at their best, are full of attacking verve and have a decent chance of making the top four again. So, what's not to like about tonight's match? Pressure? Bah!
In the Sky box: And having a 20th anniversary party are Teddy Sheringham (an old Millwall mate of mine always referred to him as "Ted the Shed") and Alan Smith. The Wilshere absence is the talking point. He's exhausted they reckon. Tottenham are "steel and flair", I'm told, on Harry Redknapp's 100th Tottenham match. What do Spurs fans think of those navy shoulder flashes? A bit old hat, I know, but I think I prefer them in plain shirts.
The poll of polls: Ross Fraser writes: "Having just polled myself my all-time favourite all-time poll was the BBC's 'Musician of the Millennium' poll a few years back. First was Mozart, far enough I suppose. Second … Robbie Williams. Eat your heart out Ludwig!" And Justin Horton has a question he'd like your help with: "Talking of Arsenal and long memories - I was watching YouTube footage of their 1971 FA Cup semi against Stoke (the first game, with Arsenal's late penalty equaliser) and both teams appeared to be wearing their away strips. Why was this? Liverpool and Everton, in the other semi, both wore their normal strips." Any answers?
1 min: Tottenham kick off and Corluka gets the ball in the right-back position and chips it forward for Crouch but Arsenal nod it way and keep the ball in midfield until Song gives it away after five passes and Spurs switch to Corluka again and he hits a dangerous cross but too far ahead of Bale. Then Modric smacks a shot feet wide.
3 min: Diaby and Fabregas pass it around and make space for Clichy on the left to run into but his chip forward is forced out. Alan Lodge loves the Spurs kit: "Best we've had in years, since the old Adidas/Holsten days. It certainly beats the wee-stained effort from last season and the Andy Reid-unfriendly chest-hugging efforts we got with Kappa. They made us look like a bunch of crap ballerinas rather than a football team!"
GOAL!! Tottenham 0-1 Arsenal (Walcott) Lovely finish. In the short period so far Fabregas has been causing problems stationed ahead of Diaby and Song and he threaded a fine pass through to Walcott who stayed onside as the Spurs defence rushed out and drew the keeper one-on-one and slotted the ball past him from 15 yards.
GOAL!! Tottenham 1-1 Arsenal (Van der Vaart) Hell's teeth. The Stoke v Bolton game was difficult enough to follow for me and now this. Again the offside trap was sprung and Van der Vaart raced through into space after a perceptive ball from person unknown to me precisely at this time and he blasted his shot into the corner 82 seconds after Arsenal had gone ahead.
8 min: "Looks like Arsenal thought they were in the last minute of the game giving that goal away," quips Mark Judd. Bale piling forward up the left as I type and Fabregas held him up while reinforcements came but he moved inside to Van der Vaart who played a great pass out to Corluka wide on the right who curled his cross in from the touchline but it bananad out for a goalkick.
11 min: Van Persie just had a shot well-saved by Gomes after Nasri did a magnificent pirouette on the ball to trick Corluka and play him in. Then it's straight up the other end.
GOAL!! Tottenham 1-2 Arsenal (Nasri) I'm going to be pooped after this. Diaby on the right of the box, or moving towards it, and threaded a pass to Nasri running on to the ball slightly to the right of the D. He belts it across goal towards the bottom right corner and Gomes can't get down quick enough. Apologies for paucity of emails published. I haven't had time yet!
15 min: Caught my breath but this is being played at breakneck pace. Tottenham concede a corner when Walcott whips a cross in from the right and Corluka nods behind. Headed out and Clichy shoots into the pack and Spurs can't quite clear their lines, only knocking iot to Van Persie who shoots badly and balloons it over and well wide.
18 min: Gallas barrels up the right and gets booed by the Arsenal fans as he approaches the corner. Sorry, there is no auto-referesh button. I know it's a pain but there's nowt I can do. Marko suggests this: "Since auto-refresh isn't working, readers using Firefox might like to install the ReloadEveryextension - if they haven't already, natch. Basically it gives you a right click sub-menu from which you can tell any given tab to reload itself at set intervals... I have no connection with it except that I use it for the Guardian football live." Thanks, Marko.
20min: Van der Vaart shoots from 25 yards, slicing the ball as he cut across it to hit with the outside of his boot and it goes over.
22min: Here's an answer for Justin from Robin Hazlehurst: "I'd imagine the answer to the question about shirts in 1971 is fairly straightforward. Arsenal and Stoke's normal colours clash, so they couldn't wear them, but if it was an FA cup semi, then it would be on a neutral ground with no home team, so it would be unfair for one to wear the home kit - so both change. Basic fairness. Liverpool and Everton don't clash in their home kits, so no need to change. This was the days when teams only had two kits of course, so less choices of colour, and the players probably had to take their shirts home for their Mums to wash after matches." Huddlestone, usually such a good passer over long distances, miscues his second attempt at freeing Bale on the left and the ball runs out for a throw again.
24min: Bale loops in a cross but Szcezsney plucks it out of the air. The autorefresh, says Alan Streenstrup, does work on Firefox. Diaby goes into a challenge with Modric and though it didn't look that bad, the Spurs crowd bellow their disapproval. No booking, though. Norman Baker names that tune in one (ask your grandad): "Sky Sports choice of tune to dramatise the North London derby is a muzak version of Smells Like Teen Spirit played on violin. And people say modern football is rubbish.... Give me Graham Roberts and Paul Davis kicking lumps out of each other."
26min: Crouch heads across the six-yard box when Assou-Ekotto clips in a good cross from the left to the right of the Arsenal penalty area but it's just inches off Pavlyuchenko's nose and Szczesny catches.
29min: Those of you threatening to quit for Sachin's Copa del Rey match because, hark at him, he has got an autorefresh button. See you.
30min: No, don't go. It's something to do with match tags and watchamacallits. Van der Vaart's corner is beaten away but Modric gets the ball as it drops on the right of the Arsenal box and absolutely larrups a shot that Szczesny bats away.
32min: As Cillin Mac Donnchadha says: "What's everybody complaining about I grew up 'watching' matches on teletext, hitting F5 every now and again is hardly a return of the dark ages. Quit yer moaning." I used to ring up Clubcall, until I got sacked. Spurs building a bit of momentum but Arsenal look very dangerous on the break.
34min: Pavlyuchenko shows a fine bit of skill to push Djourou on to the back foot and makes a storming run inside to shoot but the latter wasn't anything as good as his approach play. "What about those of us threatening to quit the Guardian for a much better MBM site with auto-refresh and higher quality reporting?" asks Niranjan. Each to his own.
36min: "After watching Diaby fail to shoot then, it made we wonder, can any arsenal fans genuinely remember the last time they scored from at least 25 yards from goal? I'm struggling here..." Ray Parlour, I think, Adam Allaway. Song spins a pass up the left over halfway but Gallas heads it back. Then Fabregas hand balls. It has finally slowed down a little.
GOAL!! Tottenham 1-3 Arsenal (Van Persie)Sagna and Fabregas almost pull off a one-two on the right of the Spurs box but Bale intercepts and knocks it out for a throw, from which Sagna plays in Walcott right by the goalline and hits a cross to the back stick. GAllas is in two mionds about heading or chesting and Van persie steals in to head, Gomes leaps and knocks it straight back to him. He snaffles the rebound and scores.
42 min: There's been a short break for Bale to receive treatment after he was poleaxed by Szczesny (fairly) who raced out to get to the ball before him and knocked him flying.
GOAL!! Tottenham 2-3 Arsenal (Huddlestone) My poor fingers. Beautiful half-volley from Huddlestone sails into the goal after the throw that came after Bale's treatment finished.
42 min: If you want five goals, come to me. Tottenham had a corner seconds after scoring but Arsenal dealt with it. I should have stressed that Szczesny got to the ball before Bale and then clouted him with the force of his dive. Modric has a penalty appeal after dummying Djourou and cutting inside him and into the box. Djourou's arm does connect with the Croat's throat so it could have been a penalty. I'd have to see it again. Butch Wilkins "has seen them given"
45 min + 3 Walcott again almost gets the bounce of the ball to beat Dawson when it's played over the top for him to run on to but Dawson does well to flick it back to Gomes. Clichy is then booked for a lunge. Dawson takes the free kick long into the box and Crouch heads down but inaccurately and the keeper easily picks it up.
Half-time I need to go and find a bag of ice for my hands. And neck three pints to calm my heart. I'll be back in 10 minutes. Sandile Sajunda-Xaso suggests: "Denilson last season had a cracker against Everton in the 6-2 opening day demolition." SO there you go. Matthew Bathurst has a thought and a pop: "The Special One would not be happy with the defense being played by either club. Think he is following this MBM on his IPhone while he coaches Real today? His assistant coach could refresh for him." Dr Alimantado, the prince of pseudonyms, asks: "Did Butch Wilkins just advise Gallas to 'cut out those sautés?' Bit harsh, he's just big boned." Very good, doc. Roderick Stewart asks: "I've always wondered, do MBMers have a fancy interface to add graphics and stuff, or just an old copy of HTML for Dummies? I suspect the latter, otherwise you'd have pre-set shortcuts for 'end-to-end', 'hundred miles an hour' and 'ticky-tacky'." If only, Roderick, I could get one for "clips a fine pass", the "autorefresh button is not working" and "$£%*@(# hell Leeds". By the way I've been accused of being "Spurs Pravda" and "Molly Bloom" tonight. I like your style.
46 min: Kaboul on for Corluka and Lennon on for Bale.
47 min: Song booked for sliding in on Modric and Spurs have a free kick from thirty yards wide on the left. Headed out by Djourou but Spurs come again and Djourou slides into Modric again. Stay on your feet, Butch doesn't quite say, but that's the gist. Free kick from 25 yards, left of centre. Van der Vaart hits a powerful curling shot, a yard over the junction of post an bar.
49 min: Koscielny plays a decent long pass out to Walcott on the right and he spins in a cross towards the six-yard box and Gallas beats Van Persie to head it out for a corner. Nothing comes of it.
51 min: Sagna makes an error and passes straight to Lennon, guilty of not looking up. Lennon's hugging the left touchline and bombs inside but Diaby races back to help and Arsenal clear.
53 min: "No, no, no Arsene, you're right, we definitely don't need new center backs … the ones we have are really quite good! Incidentally, the calculator and tape dispenser on my work desk could each pull off hat tricks against Arsenal's back line right now." Paul Sugamelli has found despair knocking on his office door. Wilshere is coming on to replace Diaby.
54 min: Gavin writes with some advice for the much criticised Emmanuel: "Wonder if Eboue will give Fabregas the same glare he got on Sunday? What an awful clearance straight to Huddlestone. Maybe he has already decided we don't want to win!" Gallas stayed on his feet and kept his concentration when Fabregas dances past Dawson, having been fed the ball by Kaboul, and the former Arsenal captain nicks the ball off his successor's toe.
55 min: Fine shot and from Van der Vaart wide on the left and Szczesny dives to his right to save. "I believe in science, " writes Petr Fremont. "I don't think Arsenal playing on two-days rest can stay with Tottenham playing with a week off. Arsenal should/will tire late and Tottenham know they can score. Ramsey and maybe Wilshere on if Wenger thinks he can hold the match. IMO he'll never catch it if he has to chase. This is probably Arsenal's best XI, maybe Vermaelen for Koscielny, or a place for Arshavin, but for whom I couldn't say. They need the good Diaby or a fully-fit Ramsey to keep the midfield competitive."
57 min: Van Persie sticks the ball in the Spurs net with a blistering shot that Gomes parried into goal. The whistle had gone, though, as he was inches offside.
59 min: Wilkins and Tyler say it's getting feisty on the pitch, off it, too, as that odious Wenger song is given a brief airing. Spurs fans singing "When the Spurs" dead slow is wonderfully atmospheric. The other song a disgrace.
61min: Getting very bitty now as both sides snap into tackle and use their arms to wrestle during challenges. The ball flies from end-to-end after overhit passes. Thanks, Dylan Drummond, for this. "Teletext – the first proper 'internet' before the modern version took over… although I can check latest scores more accurately on said interweb, there is something nostalgic and traditional about watching the last ten minutes on teletext… ahh, those Eighties style interruptions to Manic Miner, The Smiths and Football Manager to cheer / shed tears as the leetle numbers came back round to update you and your pals on the good news / tragic bad luck." I remember Prestel, Dylan. I'm that old. Szczesny is a little too rash coming out to claim a bouncing cross but his defence helps him out and clears.
63min: Lennon cuts in from the left, running horizontally across the pitch to nudge a pass to Modric but Arsenal step up. Both sides hounding each other when in possession. Can it last?
65min: Walcott wastes a decent chance after nutmegging Dawson but instead of shooting on the run he stops to check to pass to Van Persie instead who is marked and then tries to find Fabregas at the far post, who was offside.
66min: Spurs were quicker out of the traps at the beginning of the half but slowly Arsenal have wrested the initiative back. Nasri has a shooting opportunity but again opts to try to thread a pass between Dawson and Gallas on the edge of the box for Fabregas. It's too tight, though and he doesn't make it.
68min: I have to agree with Raymondo when he says Kaboul is having a bit of a shocker positionally, letting Nasri into the space behind him again and again. I know he's a centre-half …
Penalty for Spurs!!!
GOAL!! Spurs 3-3 Arsenal (Van der Vaart) Szczesny gave the penalty away, bringing down Lennon who nicked the ball away from his dive and then went sprawling as the keeper took his feet away. Van der Vaart hammered the spot-kick into the bottom right of Arsenal's goal as the goalie dived the other way.
72 min: Spurs almost take the lead when Van der Vaart backheels to the overlapping Kaboul on the right. The full-back cuts his cross back to Modric who mishits his shot and Szczesny saves with his feet. Then up the other end go Arsenal and Fabregas shoots and scorches Gomes hands who parries it way.
75 min: Thanks to Rob Howard for making me smile, but I can't print it. Fabregas shoots from the right towards the bottom left corner and Gomes dives and makes a splendid save. Out for a corner.
76 min: Gomes punches the corner away and Tottenham clear their lines. Crouch penalised a few passages of dull play later for climbing in the box. Pavlyuchenko off, Sandro on for Spurs. Here's Barney Jeffries to put me straight. I used to love going to the Dell, Barney: "Singing When the Spurs (sic) dead slow may be atmospheric, but Saints fans have been doing it for several years. Stealing our song is one thing, but the arrangement too..."
78 min: Szczesny again saves Arsenal with a flying save to knock Crouch's header over. The ball had been driven in from the left by Assou-Ekotto and Crouch should have scored from six-yards.
80 min: Anthony O'Connell reveals more of himself than I would perhaps like to know: "This is as close to football porn that you will ever get, there's got
to be a money shot soon!!" Sheer liquid football, Anthony. Van der Vaart shoots on the turn and Szczesny gets down well to save, though the shot was too straight. Arsenal subs: Bendtner and Arshavin on for Walcott and Nasri.
82 min: Tottenham free kick when Van Persie fouls Sandro when challenging for a header. It's chipped up the left to Modric who threads a neat pass to Sandro who shoots low with his left and Szczesny saves at the near post. Spurs are coming on strong.
84 min: Van der Vaart lifts the ball from a central position over the two Arsenal centre-halfs, aiming for Crouch but slightly overhits it and Crouch is forced too wide and can't control it.
86 min: Arsenal free kick in their own half. Hit long to Bendtner wide on the right for him to head into the centre but he can't get the power on it as he's challenged. Then Wilshere hits a left foot cross from a fairly central area to the far post for Van Persie to volley. He connects first time but it catches the heel of his boot and flies off square.
88 min: Gavin is an Arsenal fan, coming to the end of his tether, I think: "The dynamic duo of Arshavin and Bendtner - hasn't worked all year but let's keep trying. Crosses in from Bendtner to Van Persie - great management. Maybe if Arsene spent more time bollicking players and giving them directions rather than talking to the fourth offical all the bloody time." Wilshere gives away a cheap free kick when clipping Assou-Ekotto yto the right of the Spurs box. Mini momentum lost.
90 min: There'll be three added minutes and Gomes finds Crouch with a missile down the middle. he flicks it on to Van der Vaart but Arsenal get back to give away the throw. Koscielny heads the subsequent cross back to his keeper, which gives the Arsenal fans the jitters.
90 min +3: Another excellent pass, this time from Wilshere to Fabregas and his right-foot shot from the right flies past Gomes's right post.
Full time: Tottenham 3-3 Arsenal A fair result, I think. Arsenal were imperious at times from 1-1 to 1-3 but then got caught because Spurs kept coming at them and Arsenal's players again made mistakes – Fabregas's clearance and Szczesny left exposed by Sagna to bring down Lennon. Van Persie was actually onside when he had his goal disallowed so they could still have won it. A very entertaining game, played at great pace, a bit of feistiness and some wonderful, passing football. A treat to be able to cover it. Thanks for all your emails. And yes, I'll have another word about the autorefresh. Good night.