North London Derby, my favourite day of the season. A game, which we used to go into brimming with confidence and couldn’t see anything past 3 points for us. There’s a little bit more trepidation going into tomorrow’s game. Both teams are not in the best of forms. Us, with only a point in our last 2 league games and them with zero from the same number of games.
I’m going to try to be neutral……in this paragraph. They are 7th in the standings and we are one rung below. The way the season has gone thus far, it would be hard to imagine anyone one of us two competing for the title. Champions League qualification may be the best that both teams can aim for (though, I don’t normally give up until it’s mathematically over for us). With teams like Everton and West Brom proving that they won’t go away just yet, we’ve got a fight on our hands. Both teams need the points to close the gap, both teams are desperate for a result. No team could afford to drop further behind.
This match comes just before the all important home Champions League tie against Montpellier. A game that we have to win to increase our chance of qualifying to the next phase of Europe’s premier cup competition. However, that match should be the furthest thing away from the mind of the team. Up until the end of the match tomorrow, Tottenham should be the only thing on their mind. The one match which the fans and supporters does not forgive for the lack of effort.
The team news for us is that we could have Wojciech Szczesny, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott fit. That said, the most important player to come back would be Szczesny. The Pole has flattered to deceive in his minimal involvement thus far this season but is still undoubtedly our best keeper. Vito Mannone looked good in a couple of games but has been suspect in the last few games. That’s not saying that Szczesny is without his flaws but he’s the better option. The Pole definitely commands his area much better and more decisive in his decision making, especially when dealing with crosses.
It is a little worrying that Bacary Sagna is facing late fitness test but while he’s the best right back in the league and I want him to play tomorrow, having Carl Jenkinson on standby and ready to play is not the worst thing in the world. Whoever lines up there will have to contend with minimising the impact of Gareth Bale, the diving cheat. A speed merchant just like his former Southampton team mate in Walcott, Bale has the ability to ghost past players if we allow him to. We’ll need to keep a tight leash on him and not give him the space to utilise that pace of him.
As with any match, the game is won in midfield. and that’s where Tottenham are going to be a little light without Moussa Dembele. The Belgian has continued his form from his Fulham days and have immediately become the talisman in their midfield. Without him, AVB will be depending on the more hatchet of his men in Sandro and Tom Huddlestone to come up against our choice of midfield. It’s probably the best midfield trio we can field, though some would argue for the inclusion of Abou Diaby (hard to disagree if the injury concern is put aside). But in Mikel Arteta, Jack Wilshere and Santi Cazorla we have a midfield with enough tenacity and creativity.
Out wide, we’ll probably start with the usual Lukas Podolski on the left and the returning Walcott. It will be the first time that the latter will come up against Jan Vertonghen. Linked with us a lot last season, the Belgian might not relish going up against the pace of Walcott. From what I’ve seen, Vertonghen contributes a fair bit for Tottenham going forward. Therefore, to have Walcott there to pin him back and deny him the chance to push forward, will also effectively block off one of their avenues of attack. As for the German, should Kyle Walker not make it for this game, then it would be an easier one for him. If the England right back does make it, then Podolski will have to do more of the defending which he recently claimed that he didn’t fancy to do too much.
I think both teams will look at the defence and fancy having a go at each other. Neither teams have looked rock solid at the back running up to this fixture. Emmanuel Adebayor normally turns up against his former teams but it remains to be seen whether he or Jermaine Defoe will get the starting place. Meanwhile, for Olivier Giroud, it might be better for him to go up against William Gallas than Steven Caulker. What with the youngster looking more dependable than the former Arsenal captain. There will be a lot of interesting tussles all around the pitch, that’s the least we can say about this fixture.
Last season, this corresponding fixture set us on a very positive run of results and we are all hoping for a repeat of that. In any other game, I would bite your hand off if you’ll give me a slim win for the Arsenal. For today, I want something different. I want Arsenal to smash them, give them a battering. They’ve talked a lot about overtaking us and the bloody switch of power in North London. These lots need to be put in their place. This is Arsenal and this is our territory.
North London is Red. Up The Arsenal.