Return of the King

On Wednesday night a top international footballer returned from a long spell on the sidelines and slotted back into his team as if he had never been away.

The understanding he has with his team-mates was there for all to see, and his mere presence galvanised his side as soon as he stepped onto the turf.

No, I am not talking about Robin van Persie. The player in question is none other than Ledley King.

The Tottenham Hotspur captain looked assured throughout his team’s victory over Arsenal, and it was only when he understandably began to tire that their opponents found a route back into the game.

What’s more, Michael Dawson, who looked shaky at times during Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final defeat, grew in stature alongside King.

Injuries have restricted King to just 15 league appearances this season

The centre-back’s return after two months out could not come at a better time, with Fabio Capello soon to announce his provisional 30-man squad for the World Cup.

And if King can continue like this there is no chance of him missing out on a seat on the plane to South Africa.

As for the game itself, it marked the end to Arsenal’s title challenge, and their display at White Hart Lane emphasised why they will not be lifting the Premier League trophy this season.

As has been the case throughout the campaign, Arsene Wenger’s side have struggled to convert possession into clear-cut chances, often panicking around the edge of the penalty area.

Indeed it took an impressive cameo from their attacking talisman Robin van Persie to instil a sense of belief going forward, and Wenger’s men had more clear-cut chances in the final 20 minutes than in the 70 preceding van Persie’s introduction.

The lack of decisive movement in the attacking third was summed up by Tomas Rosicky’s burst shortly before half-time, where he tried to do it all himself and ended up firing wildly off-target with the outside of his right foot.

More dynamism from Nicklas Bendtner and more direct bursts from midfield were needed, and this has been the case for much of the season.

With Chelsea and Manchester United dropping more points than might have been expected, you get the feeling Arsenal will see this season as a chance missed.

Tomas Rosicky has failed to rediscover his form in recent weeks

But in a season when they have been without van Persie, Cesc Fabregas and William Gallas for months at a time, it is easy to make a case for a full-strength Arsenal side being in a position to lift the title.

Certainly they have cause to be optimistic next season, as do Tottenham. But Harry Redknapp’s team have a more immediate task-at-hand: beating Manchester City to the fourth Champions League place.

If they can continue producing displays like the one on Wednesday the spot is well within their capabilities, but it remains to be seen whether upcoming matches against Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City will take their toll.

For all the talk of the title race being over, I believe this weekend’s timetable is as exciting as ever, with the Manchester derby and Chelsea’s trip to White Hart Lane likely to be emphatic of the rise of the two sides in contention for fourth place.

While this season has come too soon for Spurs and Manchester City to threaten the dominance of the top three, both sides will be eager to lay down a marker for the season ahead.

This weekend could therefore end up being crucial not just for this campaign, but for many years to come.



  1. Okat, I’ll take issue with this reverence for King. You sort of make a bit of an issue for your own point by saying that Van Persie pissed all over the Spurs back four the second he came on and but for Gomes Arsenal might well have won. And England will face much better strikers at the World Cup than Van Persie. It would also be vague suicide to take a player with a requiring knee problem to a game intensive tournament. Yes he’s good and were it not for the knee probably a better bet than Upson, Lescott, Cahill, Dawson, etc. but taking him is too much of a risk.

    • Fair point about the knee problem, but I think it’s more than manageable if someone like Phil Jagielka is in the squad as cover for the right-back and centre-back positions. And having watched Matty Upson almost every week this season I can safely say a half-fit King is a better option than a fully-fit Upson.

      As for the over-reliance on Gomes towards the end of the game, I believe that is purely a product both of King tiring towards the end of his first game back, and of Spurs lacking a defensive shield in the form of Wilson Palacios. By the end they were dropping deeper and deeper but with no real purpose for doing so, save for having bodies in the general proximity of the ball. The ineffectiveness of Huddlestone and Modric meant the centre-backs were forced to carry out the role of defender and defensive midfielder, which understandably sapped their energy and gave Arsenal more clear-cut chances.

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