Tigers sharpen their claws
Given little or no hope of taking anything away from Arsenal's fortress-like Emirates Stadium, where the Gunners had previously lost just once in 59 matches, newly promoted Hull City rocked the English football firmament with a stunning 2-1 comeback success.
The hosts were brimming with confidence too, after a largely second-string side had fired six goals without reply against second-tier Sheffield United in a midweek Carling Cup tie. But a combination of manager Phil Brown's tactical awareness, dogged defending, clinical finishing and a dash of Brazilian flair steered the Tigers to their second away win of the campaign.
Up next for Geovanni and Co are struggling Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane. Mired at the foot of the table with just two points from six league games so far, Spurs players and their beleaguered coach Juande Ramos will be buoyed by a 1-1 UEFA Cup draw away to Wisla Krakow on Thursday that secured their place in the competition's group stages.
Nevertheless, City supremo Brown still believes now could be the perfect moment to be facing Arsenal's North London rivals. "White Hart Lane is a ground steeped in football tradition, but hopefully we'll catch Tottenham at the right time," said the former Derby County manager. "They're not having the best of times in the league and there might be the opportunity for us to get something from the game."
It remains to be seen whether Brown will stick to the same adventurous selection policy that served him so well at the Emirates, where his side lined up in a 4-3-1-2 formation with former Barcelona and Benfica star Geovanni playing in the hole behind forward pair Marlon King and record-signing Daniel Cousin. "It's horses for courses and tactics vary from game to game," Brown explained. "We decided to go to the Emirates Stadium with a player in behind the front two because of the way the front two performed (in the 2-2 home draw) against Everton."
Meanwhile, ex-Spurs players Anthony Gardner and Nicky Barmby both find themselves in a race against time to prove their fitness ahead of Sunday's encounter. Though unlikely to start the match, Brown admitted that the pair are "desperate to play against their former team". Another Spurs old boy, midfielder Dean Marney, should retain his starting place after a sterling display against Arsenal while left-back Andy Dawson would dearly love to get one over younger brother Michael, the Tottenham central defender.
And while in pre-season many experts had predicted Hull City would "do a Derby" in their first ever top-flight season, in reference to the Rams' record low 11-point haul from the 2007-08 campaign, the Tigers have already matched that tally after just half a dozen games. But for the City manager, all this early success does have a downside: "We're under a different kind of pressure now. We've turned one or two heads and maybe opposition teams will pay us a little bit more respect. That means our job becomes harder."
How much harder could become evident this weekend, when Hull City and their Black-and-Amber Army of travelling supporters descend on the capital once more. With Spurs flailing around the lower reaches of the table like a wounded animal, will the Tigers take the chance to pounce? Or could Sunday be the day Tottenham finally get their league campaign back on track?
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