Good morning to you on a very important day in the football calendar indeed. Derby day. The North London One. At home. Three points is the target and up and down the land (and the globe actually) there are Gooners like you and I nervously counting down the time to kick off. And it is nervous, isn’t it? Because let’s face it, without wanting to trot out all of the old cliché’s, the great form that we’ve had at home since the dawn of the Premier League era mean the square root of naff all today.
We host a Tottenham team who have just come off the back of a disappointing home defeat to West Brom (you can’t really call the midweek games the last games that the teams will have played because the two North London sides are completely different to the ones that will be rocking up today) and who have struggled to find their rhythm since the start of the season. In fact, you’d go as far to say that Spurs’ form is pretty poor so far. Over the last few weeks the Spuds have lost twice at home to West Brom and Liverpool, whilst also being pegged back by Sunderland away. So it’s hardly a Tottenham team that will be kicking off at The Emirates full of swagger. That’s what we’ve had during the previous 5-2 victories a couple of seasons ago, so I don’t really know what to make of the Spuds going in to this game. I mean, we could just as easily have that lot giving the games of their lives against us that belies their recent form, as we could see a comfortable evening of goals for our lads.
What does worry me is the fact that everyone is pipping us for a comfortable afternoon. When you’ve got people like Paul Merson saying we’ll have an easy afternoon and a 3-0 victory, Mark Lawrenson saying it will be a comfortable 2-1 and even Jamie Redknapp telling us the Spuds are a ‘million miles’ away from us, it instills anything but confident in your humble narrator here. Only because we’re not Chelski or City. Our dollar hasn’t been tainted with oil and we haven’t also managed to buy a truck-load of luck, so usually when everything points in Arsenal’s favour, we get a bloodied nose. Next week we’ll be on the receiving end of the pundits telling us that we haven’t got a chance against Chelski and it’s almost certain that what they say will come to pass, but when we are the favourites, rarely do we have it easy. I’m praying not to have that today. I’m praying for a real comprehensive victory that sees us a few goals up by halftime and a nice 45 minutes of jovial frivolity for the second half.
As for the teams, I suspect we’ll see the same side that dispatched Villa last week, minus The Ox for Alexis. So I am hoping that Arsene decide’s that Mesut should sit behind Welbeck and see if they can combine well as both did at VIlla Park. Defensively we’ll need Chambers to be at his best against a Chadli who looks a little bit more impressive than the five-minute player that played last season up against Jenkinson. The Spuds will play with a 4-2-3-1 and have Chadli and Lamela either side of Adebayor with Erikson sitting as the playmaker. Arteta will be responsible for making sure that Erikson doesn’t find space in between our defence and the midfield, so my hope is that he performs better than in the Dortmund game, in which he continuously let players run in beyond him.
It’s why Ramsey’s role in the team will be so important. Ramsey is at his best – I think – when he is starting from deeper and pushing forward. With Ramsey’s starting position being further up the field, it doesn’t give him the licence to be as successful with his driving runs I don’t think, so I hope Arsene opts for the Welshman sitting a little deeper than when he started the season. That would support Arteta and help to stifle the Spuds attack.
Our attacking quartet will need to find a way past Kaboul, Verthongen and Capoue who, up until his injury in the NLD last season, I thought looked like a decent player. Both him and Dembele can travel with the ball and look decent with it at their feet, but if Mesut can find those pockets in between their back four and the two deeper lying midfielders, he could have a good afternoon. He missed last seasons game because he hadn’t been signed in time, so I’m hoping he can show the world of his quality and build on the great performance of last week.
As Arsene mentioned in his presser yesterday, Ozil and Welbeck’s partnership was good last week and it has to be good today. Unlike two weeks ago when Welbeck found his chances few and far between, one suspects that he’ll be given more opportunities to put one away against this Spuds team. They play very open and do not have the requisite quality that Moneychester City have, so if Welbeck is presented with a chance it’s important that he puts it away. He opened his account last week in great poachers fashion, but he needs to get a run of games in which he’s scoring to secure his place in the side for the long-term. Let’s not forget that it was an excellent and deft touch of Giroud’s that won us this game last season, so that is what Welbeck needs to replicate today. If he can do it a few times too that would be grand.
We’ve drawn too many games already this season, so ideally we need the win more than anything else. A draw won’t really feel like we’ve mastered the ‘big games’ just yet, so its imperative that we don’t let a psychological barrier begin to build like it has in previous seasons. Having said that, it’s what I believe will happen today, as I think we’ll not see a Tottenham side anything else other than wanting to make a statement. I think we’re in for a tough afternoon and given our propensity to ship goals from set pieces, it wouldn’t surprise me if we get sucker-punched with a Kaboul goal from a corner or something like that. Chasing a football match is nobodies idea of fun, but I have a nasty feeling that’s what we might see this afternoon. After all, we’ve got form in that regard if you think about the two 5-2 victories.
I hope my gut feeling is wrong, I hope we can give them a smashing, so let’s all do our part to help the team to shout ourselves hoarse come 7.20pm London time this evening.
Come. On. You. Reds.