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SPORTS
03 Oct 2011
PARKER LIFTS SPURS AS RIVALS ARSENAL STRUGGLE

Harry Redknapp persuaded Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy to sacrifice his strict laws on simple football economics to give him the gift he wanted all summer by gambling on signing Scott Parker.

While Redknapp admits his pre-season was spoiled by the saga of Chelsea's interest in Luka Modric, he also spent time successfully convincing Levy that Parker was the man who could glue the parts of this gifted Spurs side together and return them to the Champions League.

Redknapp revealed it was not an easy task - but the early signs are that Levy, a tough negotiator and shrewd financial manager, may end up thanking his manager for getting him to take the punt on Parker.

In among the poison pouring from sections of both sets of supporters at White Hart Lane, a thrilling football match broke out and Parker's influence and midfield presence as Spurs beat Arsenal 2-1 was immense.

Redknapp explained how he had to work overtime to get Levy to sanction a deal to bring the 30-year-old, who was on a lucrative contract at West Ham United, to Spurs in a £5m deal.

"It wasn't an easy one for me to sign him," said Redknapp. "It wasn't an easy one for the football club but he was always the one I wanted from day one. It wasn't easy from the chairman's point of view to sign him - it was his age and length of contract. I understood the chairman's point of view but I always knew if we could get him he would do a fantastic job for us.

"I couldn't argue too much with the chairman's point of view either. If you look at the maths it was a difficult one because this was a four-year deal with no return at the end. But I said 'look - if he can take us forward and give us the chance to be up there then surely it's worth a gamble' and he backed me with that in the end."

There was a sub-plot when Redknapp was asked had he expected more competition for Parker because the elephant in the room at that moment was Arsenal, whose performance in defeat at White Hart Lane suggested the steel and application he provides would have been perfect for Arsene Wenger's side.

Parker was the workhorse of this Spurs team, tackling, covering and occasionally getting forward. He kept his side going when they suffered in the first half and revelled when Redknapp beefed up his midfield by introducing Sandro in the second half.

He certainly outshone Arsenal's £10m deadline day signing Mikel Arteta, who was neat and tidy in possession but only operated on the fringes of a high-tempo encounter. It should be said that Arteta was not alone in that particular flaw.

This was a double bonus for Spurs. They have signed a player who fits their needs perfectly - and may just be showing their fiercest rivals what they could have had if Wenger had been willing to take the same chance on Parker.

Parker has seemingly been linked with Spurs for an age, certainly from his emergence at Charlton. And now he has arrived with the appearance of a player determined to make up for lost time.

He missed the boat during his brief spell at Chelsea and flourished only occasionally at Newcastle United before becoming a hero in relegation at West Ham United. There have been doubts about his class at the highest level, but he has finally convinced Fabio Capello of his worth to England and now he has the perfect stage to provide a final flourish to his career.

Wenger had no particular cause to celebrate his 15th anniversary at Arsenal. His team showed patches of promise but familiar failings let them down.

Per Mertesacker still looks uncertain in the Premier League, ponderous in a defensive combination with Bacary Sagna for Rafael Van der Vaart's opening goal for Spurs - although Arsenal insisted a hand was involved in its creation.

Aaron Ramsey's equaliser early in the second half was what Arsenal merited at that stage, but their confidence is so fragile they seemed more intent on keeping what they had rather than going for the win, allowing Spurs to gain momentum.

This resulted in Kyle Walker's late winner from distance which Wojciech Szczesny, a top-class goalkeeper in the making, should have saved.

This morning, Wenger must accept what may be an unpalatable truth that Spurs are currently a stronger team and a stronger squad than Arsenal and Parker is part of that painful equation for a manager who has been used to domination in north London.

The pre-season predictions had these two sides battling it out for fourth place and a slot in the Champions League. On this evidence Spurs are ahead on all counts.

This was not a freak result. Spurs have recorded three wins and a draw in their last four league meetings with Arsenal. The balance has shifted and will take some redressing with Arsenal's squad in its current circumstances.

Sadly, there was an ugly side to the entertainment and this simply cannot be ignored. The behaviour of a section of both sets of fans brought shame to Spurs and Arsenal.

Arsenal fans were guilty of desperately tasteless chanting in the direction of their former striker Emmanuel Adebayor, loudly referencing the attack by gunmen on the Togo national team's coach in Angola last January.

Redknapp's description of the incidents as "disgusting" found no dissenters - but Spurs' fans were equally guilty with their despicable chanting in Wenger's direction.

This has been an unwelcome thread running throughout this season, highlighted also by incidents involving Leeds United and Manchester United at the recent Carling Cup tie.

It usually leads to a "they started it" defence or insistence that it is merely a tit-for-tat retaliation. The brutal truth is that it is a scar on football and all chants of this nature, by
any supporters, are worthy of the strongest condemnation.

Poor old Wenger's frustration even continued after the final whistle when he was involved in a faintly farcical spat with Spurs coach Clive Allen over his apparent refusal to shake his hand.

Sympathy surely has to be with Wenger when he correctly pointed out that he had shaken hands with Redknapp and his assistant Kevin Bond, asking: "How many people do I have to shake hands with? Is this a prescription?"

Wenger has been correctly criticised for not shaking hands with fellow managers before, but here he had a point. It would take quite some time to go through the formalities and satisfy the cast of thousands that passes as a manager's retinue these days and Allen is very much a peripheral figure.

As this sideshow was unfolding behind him, Parker made his way off high-fiving Spurs fans as he made his way down the tunnel. It may have taken Redknapp some time to get him to Spurs - but he is in the form that suggests the wait will be worthwhile.


Source: bbc.co.uk

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