Every time the fixture list is released each season, just like Thierry Henry once did, I look to see when the North London derbies are. Who are the opponent prior to this game, just to see if it will hamper our chances. Such is the importance of today’s game. It is important to the fans and hence it should also be important to the squad.
This season’s match will be the most significant local derby of Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal career. One which he will go into not as the overwhelming favourite. Our dominance over Spurs since Wenger took over the helm is nothing short of remarkable. The gap has been reducing in the past couple of seasons. From winning for the first time at the Lane to their first away triumph at the Grove last season.
Spurs’ revival are down to the wheeler and dealer that is Harry Redknapp. The England manager wannabe, has managed to gelled this team together and made some good buys to supplement the squad. Luka Modric will be the central piece for the home side today. Talked out of moving away, many has cheered Redknapp’s succesful retention against the failed attempt of Wenger with regards to Samir Nasri and Cesc Fabregas.
Modric will be the creative fulcrum for Spurs with able supports around him. Scott Parker will do the screening job in front of his defence and will be his usual tigerish self. Gareth Bale (read as once the greatest player on planet Earth) will be up to his usual tricks on the left. No doubt, Bacary Sagna will have the ape in his pocket for the entire game.
Then there’s the figure up front. Emmanuel Adebayor joined Spurs on loan from Manchester City. His short sojourn at Real Madrid did nothing to push Mourinho to pursue his signature. His return to City was unwelcome and Spurs were the only one who came to offer his an exit. Of course the cycle could easily repeat with this loan move.
I think he will be forever be remembered at Arsenal for being a money chasing player. One, whom Wenger took the chance on when no one bothered. We made him the player that he is today. Once his smashed past that 30 goals barrier in a season, his head turned. The celebration 2 years ago and the anger that has come from it, has not died down for me. Adebayor always enjoys a fruitful start to all his new teams. It is our defence’s job to make sure that doesn’t continue.
A defence that will be shorn of the pair of centre back that was to be our first choice for this season. Thomas Vermaelen and Laurent Koscielny will both miss this game due to their respective injuries. The former will be back some time by the end of this month while the latter should be available after the international break. Without them, the responsibility falls on the broad shoulders of Per Mertesacker.
The German will probably have beside him Alex Song. A defensive midfielder by trade by can operate the deeper role when required. Both have the experience to cope and will have to use all of that to negate the attacking strength of Spurs. If I were them, I’ll play the offside trap. Everyone knows that Adebayor doesn’t know that such rules exist.
Crucially, they won’t be the only key to our defending. There will be one more who will sit and screen, just like what Parker does on the other side. The signs are pointing towards Emmanuel Frimpong. Personally, I would rather have Frimpong and Francis Coquelin both in the centre of midfield. Both are young but have worked together on numerous Reserves games. There’s a big fear that the Ghanaian will get caught up in the heat of the match and accrue cards. This is one match we definitely do not want to play with a man less.
This is how I see we will line-up;
Especially due to the shift of Song to centre back and the possibility of Frimpong playing in his first derby match, I feel Wenger will opt for more experience in midfield and up front. Players who knows what is needed of them. Players who will slot in when their team mates are out of position. More than most, players who knows what this fixture means and be an example to the rest of the team.
Even if Ledley King could make it, I still think the heart of their defence is our way through. Pace and recovery speed will not be on the side of King or even Younes Kaboul for that matter. If Robin Van Persie can spin into space or be slid in, that’s our opportunity. I can’t help but feel that Andrey Arshavin will play a crucial role in today’s game. He is one of the few in our squad who can see the pass and will attempt to try the pass.
A win for the red half of North London today will see us move back on top of Spurs. A place where we truly belong. Some things should forever remain in our shadows. Time to turn the lights off them.
Come on Arsenal!!!!