Spurs Review of the Year 2009 Part II: Gunners held before Woody wins it at Hull
PUBLISHED: 15:52 23 December 2009 | UPDATED: 16:39 07 September 2010
FEBRUARY SPURS started February with a fantastic chance to end their 10-year hoodoo against Arsenal. Tottenham had failed to beat their north London rivals in the previous 18 league meetings, but the Gunners arrived at White Hart Lane with a threadbare t
SPURS started February with a fantastic chance to end their 10-year hoodoo against Arsenal.
Tottenham had failed to beat their north London rivals in the previous 18 league meetings, but the Gunners arrived at White Hart Lane with a threadbare team.
Arsene Wenger was missing Theo Walcott, Cesc Fabregas, Eduardo and Tomas Rosicky through injury, while Abou Diaby was suspended.
Arsenal's midfield therefore comprised of Alex Song, Emmanuel Eboue, Samir Nasri and Denilson, a quartet which - on paper - arguably looked weaker than Spurs' foursome: Luka Modric, Jermaine Jenas, Wilson Palacios and Aaron Lennon.
The scales of fortune tipped even more favourably in the Lilywhites' direction when one of Arsenal's remaining senior players, Emmanuel Adebayor, limped off with a hamstring injury in the 38th minute. And, moments later, Eboue was dismissed for a second bookable defence.
That gave Harry Redknapp's side 53 minutes to exploit a severely weakened and outnumbered Arsenal unit, in front of their own fans in N17.
However, it was not to be. Robbie Keane wasted one of Spurs' better chances, leaping ahead of Roman Pavlyuchenko to head over the bar with the goal gaping.
Tottenham fans were off their seats in injury time as Modric ran clean through on goal, but the Croatian's effort was saved by Manuel Almunia and the Gunners escaped the Lane with a point.
With an eventful transfer window behind him, Redknapp was asked to reflect on the fact that Tottenham had spent more than any other Premier League in January.
Desperate to avoid relegation at any cost, chairman Daniel Levy had sanctioned the spending of £38million, having already shelled out £65m in the summer.
"I wish we could have had a quiet window," insisted Redknapp, a renowned master of the transfer market. "If things were going great, as a manager you wouldn't have to do anything in the window.
"For sure, it's the most I've ever spent, but I didn't really lose any sleep over it. There was surgery that needed doing. Without a doubt I'm sure we I can build a team that will be pushing to get into the top four, but we've got to make sure we stay in this year obviously."
With their Premier League status still very much in the balance, Spurs switched their attention briefly to the unwanted distraction of the Uefa Cup, and a two-legged tie with Shakhtar Donetsk.
Keen to keep his star players fresh and avoid injuries in the freezing conditions of the Ukraine, Redknapp opted for a second-string side.
Tom Huddlestone started in central defence, while Chris Gunter, Giovani Dos Santos and Fraizer Campbell were given rare starts.
Youngster Dean Parrett also started his first game for the Lilywhites and he was replaced in the 89th minute by John Bostock, who had become Tottenham's youngest ever player in the 4-0 win over Dynamo Zagreb earlier in the competition.
Spurs' reserves lost 2-0 and Redknapp's team selection was criticised by many Spurs fans, particularly when European involvement in 2009/10 season looked very unlikely.
Spurs' first team continued to battle the drop with a crucial 2-1 win away at Hull City on the Monday night.
Aaron Lennon put the visitors ahead in the 17th minute but Hull equalised through Michael Turner 10 minutes later.
Spurs' new signing Carlo Cudicini had already looked worryingly uncomfortable in the air and when he flapped at a corner City were level.
The scores remained unchanged until the 85th minute, when Jonathan Woodgate headed home the winner on his 50th appearance - 364 days after he headed the winning goal in the Carling Cup Final against Chelsea.
Before the match in Hull, Redknapp had stated that Spurs needed to win five of their remaining 13 games to avoid relegation.
Tottenham already had one from one, but the boss had clearly been concerned by Cucicini and, having started the previous four league games, he did not appear again that season.
Heurelho Gomes started the following Uefa Cup game in midweek. Spurs needed to overturn a two-goal deficit at the Lane to progress, but Redknapp again opted to field a weakened side.
This time Gunter and Giovani were joined in the starting line-up by Gilberto, Jamie O'Hara, Gareth Bale and Under-18 youth team striker John Obika.
Giovani gave Spurs the lead on the night in the 55th minute but, on a strange night in N17, Tottenham showed very little interest in making Shakhtar sweat.
The home faithful were listless throughout and, having picked a youthful bench of virtual unknowns, Redknapp introduced Parrett and Bostock in the closing stages.
There was to be no comeback as Fernandinho equalised in the 86th minute, sending Donetsk through 3-1 on aggregate.
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