Good morning, folks.
It’s here; the tingly, nauseas, nervous sensation that invariably accompanies the North London derby against those rambunctious Spurs of Tottenham. We hate them, they hate us. The atmosphere in and around Wembley today will be palpably vitriolic. It’s football’s glorious contradiction; I’m dreading the match and I can’t wait for it to start at the same time.
Last weekend’s victory against Everton was a showcase of fluent attacking football and a joy to behold. In the 5-1 thumping there were signs of a new era; a new style and approach to Arsenal and one that had genuine promise. It put a smile on the face on even the most solemn and miserable Gooner. But make no mistake about it, folks – we face a far stunner test today against Spurs and their recalcitrant, sh*t-bag players.
However, I’d feel a lot less positive had we been playing at White Hart Lane. That’s a nasty, intimidating ground to play in – I’d imagine it’s a great deal worse than usual when the Arsenal come to visit. Wembley, on the other hand, has been very good to us in recent years and we have a very good record when we’ve played there (won the last 9 visits). The fans won’t be as close to the pitch and it’s essentially our second home.
The team news hasn’t thrown up many surprises. The only serious doubt is Petr Cech who still suffers with the injury that saw him withdrawn against Everton. That means we might be looking at David Ospina between the sticks, who’ll either be brilliant or have a game so jittery and bad we might as well have one of the ballboys arbitrarily throw a stuffed animal across the penalty area when Spurs attack.
Danny Welbeck has fully recovered and is back in contention. The only long-term absentee is poor old Santi Cazorla, who appears to always be no further to kicking a ball in Arsenal colours. Every week I remark upon what a crying shame that is, and every week I profess my undying love for Santi. I really hope we see him again soon. He’s been missed.
Arsene Wenger is nothing if not a man who keeps his faith in a winning formula, so I doubt we’ll see anything other than the same team that started last week. However, if it was up to me – and it’s a bloody good job it isn’t – I’d make a couple of changes. There is certainly likely to be a greater physical battle on the pitch and we’ll need better cover defensively. With that in mind, I’d remove Iwobi and Xhaka and replace them with Wilshere and Elneny. I’m assuming Petr Cech won’t play at all. A starting 11 that looks like this:
In midfield the game will be won or lost and we’ll have to compete. The combative nature of a triumvirate of Elneny, Ramsey and Wilshere is coupled with the ability to get forward and support the attacks. As much as I rate Granit Xhaka as a footballer, I’m not sure he’s natural defensive midfielder and we need someone in there who’ll look after the back four as Spurs are very quick on the attack.
Any opposing manager must assume that defence is our weakness and they’ll look to exploit it. However, with Aubameyang ahead of Ozil and Mkhitaryan, we are now a far more intimidating force on the counter attack. We have a finisher as accomplished as Lacazette on the bench should we need to grab a goal late on in the game. We need a big performance from the entire team and one that consists of concentrating for 90 minutes.
If we can do that; if our attack fires in a manner similar to the previous week, I think we’ll win the game. There’s more pressure on Spurs to come out and play and that might be to our advantage. There’s no disputing our hosts are a good team with excellent players like Kane and Eriksen and they undoubtedly pose a threat, but if we perform to our abilities, they are infinitely beatable and capable of being petulant and snide when things don’t go their way – Dele Alli, in particular, is a pernicious little p*ssbaby who likes to go in studs-first.
I’m going to boldly predict a 2-1 victory, but if I’m being honest; I’d probably take a decent score-draw if it was offered right now.
I’ll be back tomorrow to discuss the events of the day.
Until that time, and as always: thanks for reading, you beautiful bastards.
Soundtrack to this post: