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EPL Match Day 14: Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur: Match Preview

It's Derby Day People

Sometimes you read some things that just make you laugh. Like this for instance:

“We’re a lot closer to them than we have been for a long time, and against the best we seem to raise our game.” – Peter Crouch.

Peter, Peter, Peter, you should just shut up and focus on that hottie WAG of yours. You are clearly speaking out of turn. Sure, you had two great games against Inter. No offence mate they are hardly the team they were under Mourinho and had they been coached by the special one you’d be out of the bloody tournament already. But in terms of the best – as you classify the teams ahead of you in the table, you have yet to win in 68 away visits to either Liverpool, United, Chelsea or Arsenal. So you really have gotten up for the best – more like gotten beat by the best.

I’ve now gone and spent entirely too much energy on Tottenham when what we really want to talk about here is our Gunners. But I have to go on for a bit because for whatever reason (actually I think I know the reason) every year the press annoits Tottenham the likely squad to overtake us and every year – well, the don’t. Personally, I think it has more to do with Wenger and a bit of xenophobism that still exists in the press and in the pundits. Fat ‘Arry who has appointed himself the next manager of England (just ask him), is English and runs this team and is defended and lauded as a saviour every time he speaks. But here’s the thing, sure by all means ‘Arry is a “players manager” but his tactical nous is non existant. Just ask Van der Vaart who says he likes Tottenham because ‘Arry doesn’t make you practice anything. Which could explain a lot when it comes to the Spurs inconsistent form.  Or it could just basically mean ‘Arry doesn’t know how to manage and has been riding an extraordinary wave of luck.

Seriously I often wonder if at the Redknapp family dinner table on Sunday’s if Fat ‘Arry and his spawn Jamie discuss who is the bigger twat.

Okay now I have really spent too much energy on that other team from North London. Let’s turn our attention to the only team in North London that matters – Arsenal.

Let’s get right to the elephant in the room shall we? Our home form this season hasn’t been exactly oustanding. More a long the lines of rather frayed if you ask me. But the Gunners are going out in matches and fighting for them. Just ask Wolves and Everton. The squad is working for it’s wins and as I said in an earlier article this may be a good thing. If you can build this as sustainable habit even in matches you walk through it will go a long way to getting the club some silverware.  Why is this important in this match? Spurs are a different team this season in that even through their own foibles they have played well at times. They want to prove their CL credentials like we do our title credentials, they should come to play. Our boys will need to turn in a yeoman effort this Saturday morning.

Should we win and we will enjoy displacing Chelsea from their top spot. Lose – and all the hard work at the Molineux and Goodison park were for naught. For me the key is going to be who Arsene sets up front to lead the attack.  The back four of Spurs are decidedly weaker than they have been, with only Hutton being the one who merits any positive mention. That is why I am hoping for a front line of Van Persie, Chamakh and Walcott. Walcott is admittedly more of an offset for Bale (keeps him honest). Bale would have to be aware that Assou-Ekotto is mismatched for Walcott in terms of speed and will need to spend some of his time tracking back to keep tabs on his friend and former Southampton colleague. I want Van Persie in the line up because I think he can benefit from Chamakh’s ability to hold the ball up and bring in supporting players. With Van Persie you get someone who if he gets fed the ball up front will take his chances and an in form Van Persie converts those chances more than not.

All that being said, the is an argument (more of a likelihood that he starts) for Andrei Arshavin to start. Arshavin offers us a level of creativity up front that may put him on the pitch rather than Van Persie. To me though for this match especially, Arshavin is going to have to improve his ability to track back and put some defencive coverage on either Modric or Van Der Vaart. Clichy as good as he is prone to the odd gaffe and having only one player on either Van der Vaart of Modric could come back to hurt us.

Defencively I am looking forward to the battle between Bacary Sagna and Gareth Barry. I really do rate Sagna as the best RB in the league. He is strong defecively, the odd mistake he makes are few and far between, he has pace, he can cross the ball and as he has shown, he can score. But it is his pace and defecive skill that will be called on.

There is no denying the form of Gareth Bale right now.  But Bale does have issues with his offencive play. An interesting look at the stats shows that Bale has attempted more assists than any other player in the EPL but only has one or two to show for it. He does not seem to be able to get as much on EPL defenders as he is against Europeans ones. Also, I think Bale can be neutralized somewhat by our right side attackers. If as I said earlier,  Bale is kept honest either through the pace of Walcott or the creativity of Nasri, hewill have to play a little more true – i.e. back as cover. Assou-Ekotto isn’t the best LB in the league and has let many chances comes through him. Nasri, Walcott, and Sagna are good enough to take care of that.

The good news for Arsenal fans is that we actually came through an international break without – a break or a bruise. While there are some notable admissions from our squad due to injury(Vermaelen), we have most of our first choice starters available to play. Which is a lot more than can be said for the visitors. Arsenal are a strong attacking side, probably the strongest attacking side that Spurs will have come across with maybe the exception of Inter Milan. Harry’s recent tactic of pushing everything forward can work against him with the pace our squad posseses. With such a weak back four any counter-attack made by Arsenal could be deadly for the visitors.  Arsene’s squad selection will be interesting because I think he sees this in Tottenham and may select a squad that can really burn the Spurs.

How the Match Should Play Out:
So Tottenham want to come to the Emirates and prevent the Gunners from going atop the league. The Gunners want to come out and go atop the league and further solidfy their title credentials. All that equates to a cracker of drby. It won’t resemble that bore fest that was the Manchester derby a couple of weeks ago. This should be an out right down and dirty attacking affair. Which is why I like our squad much better than Spurs. Our strikers aren’t as dubious as the Crouch and Pav tandem. Even if Defoe comes off the bench he is only just returned from injury and by the time he comes on it may be too late. I look for Arsenal to go back to their home form and take it to the Spurs. The Emirates will be a loud and raucous place and I expect the boys to take full advantage.

Players to Watch:
Arsenal: Sing it with me folks – “Naseri, Samir Naseri, Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na, Samir Naseri.” Samir Nasri is a consistent breath of fresh air in this otherwise inconsistent run we are having. He is creative, he is direct and he is fast. If he has the ball on his feet he is making opposing defences tremble. The blistering run he had against Everton showed that his touch is as deadly as his speed. If not for some good goalkeeping against Everton, he could’ve had a brace. He said earlier in the week, he wished he could’ve not done the international friendly, because he was much more focused on the derby. Here is a lad who gets it!!

Spurs: Gareth Bale. Well why not, the press are busting their wad over him – with some calling him as good as Lionel Messi. Bah. He’s good, not that good. He is the engine by which Spurs are running right now. But he does tend to disappear from time to time. If they are to do anything he can’t disappear for this match.

Probable Starting XI


Injuries and Suspensions:
Arsenal: Wilshere (back – D) Rosicky (hamstring – D) Almunia (elbow) Vermaelen (achilles) Ramsey (ankle) Frimpong (knee) Diaby (ankle)

Spurs: Defoe (ankle – D) Lennon (hamstring – D) Dawson (knee & ankle) Huddlestone (ankle) Keane (ankle), Dos Santos (groin) King groin) Woodgate (groin), O’Hara (back)

Last Meeting (Carling Cup):
Arsenal: 3
Spurs: 0

Last 5:
Arsenal: WWLWW 

Spurs: DLLDW

Leading Scorers:
Arsenal: Chamakh 8 (5 league) Nasri 7 (4 league)  Walcott 7  (5 league)  Arshavin 5 (2 League) 

Spurs: Bale 8 (4 league) Pavyluchenko: 8  (4 league) Van der Vaart 7 (5 league) 

Goals For:
Arsenal: 2.5

Spurs: 1.2

Goals Against:
Arsenal: 1.0

Spurs: 1.7

Goal Difference:
Arsenal: 14

Spurs: 1

Match Officials:
Referee: Phil Dowd
Assistant Referees: Darren Cann & Simon Long
Fourth Official: Andre Marriner

Broadcast Information:
US: ESPN 2 7:45 AM

UK: Sky Sports 2 1245 BST


GAMEDAY CHAT: It’s Open!!!!!! 

YAMA Prediction:
Arsenal: 3

Spurs : 1


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