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I won't gloat over White Hart Lane pain.

THERE is a story about me taking a cab from Tottenham on their account when I had been to the club to hold talks with Alan Sugar about a transfer to White Hart Lane from Monaco.

The story goes that the taxi took me straight down the road to Highbury, where I signed for Arsenal after talks with Arsene Wenger.

Let me say, for the record, that it is all true, but that it gives me no pleasure to see Tottenham struggling after two disappointing results. I know there is a great rivalry between the two sets of supporters, but I was not born with that sense of antagonism.

Instead of regarding them as the `enemy' I see only a squad of good players with a big problem of co-ordination.

I can identify with their problem because, at Arsenal, there was a time when we suffered from it too - just before Christmas last season.

That's when we had a team meeting, where everyone spoke honestly and frankly. We resolved to take responsibility for our own contributions and for the ethic of team-work as a whole.

The result? We did not lose another Premier League game until after we had won the championship because we kept our mouths shut, got on with the job and looked after each other where it mattered - on the pitch.

From what I can gather, Tottenham have been holding team meetings after each game. But if you talk amongst yourselves too many times, you will never identify the solution to your problem.

It's easy to talk, talk, talk. But in football you have to find the answers on the pitch, and that's where there does not appear to be enough talking, organisation and co-ordination.

At Arsenal, one meeting was enough. Everyone got the message, everyone knew where he stood. It had a big impact on our season. Maybe it was not the turning point, but it was a good reminder to the players of our priorities. Spurs have had difficulties for two or three years now and I can understand their fans being frustrated. Individually, their players are too good to struggle.

It was a shock to find Kenny Dalglish leaving Newcastle after only two games of the season, but that seems to be the price managers pay if they cannot deliver results.

People who run football clubs are no longer prepared to wait for success. It almost seems as if you have to win every game - or you are out.

While it is not for me to comment on the speculation surrounding Christian Gross at Tottenham, all I would say is that, in France, I have never known two top clubs change coaches so early into the new season.

Spurs' problem is like that of a chef trying to find the right recipe: all the ingredients are there, it's just the measures in the mixture which are not right.

Look at last season, Tottenham gave us two of our toughest games. At Highbury, they held out for a goalless draw with only 10 men. And at White Hart Lane, they made it difficult for us again and deserved their 1-1 draw.

As far as I'm concerned, the sooner their results pick up, the better - because they will be more difficult for us to play against while they continue to struggle. Derby games are never easy at the best of times.

As I have said before, winning the championship is more difficult for a London side than anyone else because there are so many `derbies'.

Our first one of the season is coming up at Highbury this afternoon against Charlton.

As one of the promoted teams, they will be determined not to get rolled over - although I suppose you could say we are the underdogs this time because they are top of the table!

If we are serious about retaining our title, we know we have to win our home games, whether it's against Manchester United - or Charlton.

ENGLAND'S RAY OF LIGHT

FOR some time now, everyone at Arsenal has been saying that Ray Parlour's time would come with England.

So it was especially satisfying to see him called into the squad for next week's game in Sweden.

Although he was one of the most consistent midfield players in the country last season, the World Cup came round just a fraction too early for Ray. It would have been difficult for him to make an impact without being given one or two warm-up matches first to taste international football.

But the build-up to a European Championship is the natural time to introduce him at the highest level, and I feel he will be a valuable addition to the England squad.

Last season, he was the perfect foil for Patrick Vieira and myself in midfield. Ray has a great heart, moves well with the ball and is tactically sound. I must confess I knew nothing about him before I came to England, but his work-rate and the way he complements the other midfielders has been one of Arsenal's great strengths.

It was no accident that he was probably the best player in last season's FA Cup final - he had been performing like that all year.

Now he is ready to make an impact at Wembley again - in our home Champions' League matches and in an England shirt.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Author:Petit, Emmanuel; Walters, Mike
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Aug 29, 1998
Words:890
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