Connect with us

Match Previews

Match Preview: Arsenal v Tottenham; EPL Match Day 7

It is simply- “the Norf London Derby.” Twice a year it is the time on the calendar that most Arsenal fans yearn for. A chance to put their noisy neighbours in their rightful place. And in the 15 years since Arsene Wenger has been at Arsenal there has never been a time when Spurs have finished above Arsenal. But, is that about to change?

It is simply- “the Norf London Derby.” Twice a year it is the time on the calendar that most Arsenal fans yearn for. A chance to put their noisy neighbours in their rightful place. And in the 15 years since Arsene Wenger has been at Arsenal there has never been a time when Spurs have finished above Arsenal. But, is that about to change?

If we’re honest, the club we love while improving isn’t as dynamic or thrilling as it has been in the past. It is as frustrating as ever. 6 matches in and 3 losses. The form somewhere between good and god awful.  For Arsenal to keep their neighbours down they will need to be somewhere near good and better.

Our “friends” from North London, have had a good run after stuttering start of their own. Punditry all over England are calling this year they displace Arsenal in the heirarchy of clubs. Just like they did last year and the year before. But given our form of late – even with our improvement – there could be something in it this year. Yes, it pains me to say that. More than anything I always look forward to this match because there are so many memories. But I am filled with a mix of excitement and dread. I hate it when our club is the centre of attention for all the wrong reasons – a set back at the Lane and well that kind of negativity will come back in spades with the added insult of Spurs fans piling on. Points and success from the Lane are an absolute neceessity

Last season who could’ve forseen that Arsenal would’ve put 10 past a Spurs keeper only to wind up with one cup win, one league loss and one league draw. Or who could forget Fabregas stealing the ball seconds after an Arsenal goal to score a second and cause the Emirates to erupt. These are the things this derby is made of. Of course outside of those moments the recent memories against Spurs have certainly given Spurs fans and pundits ammo for their argument that Spurs will over take Arsenal.

For both teams it is matter of intent. A win by Spurs even this early could give them hope that they are finally going to put an end to Arsenal’s 15 year run of supremacy over them and possibly supplant them in the table. For Arsenal, a win would signal the fact that the early season woes are clearly behind them. A win turns the corner completely and against a good team a win likely begins to remove any doubt that Arsenal will be competitive this season.

The key problem for both teams isn’t in their attack, it’s in their defences. King, Kaboul, Walker, and Assou-Ekotto will make up the back line for Spurs. Hardly a back 4 that makes strikers quake in their boots. If I am Arsenal I am going right at King and his weak knees with Robin Van Persie at every moment I can. For Arsenal, the merry go round of Centre Backs continues with Laurent Koscileny facing a late fitness test, making it more likely that Alex Song will move out of the centre of the pitch and join Per Mertesacker as a CB. Gibbs or Santos will be on the left and Sagna will be on the right. While its not a shambolic defence – its not my first choice for our starting central pair. Mertesacker is improving in his understanding of the English game but he has yet to have a regular partner. Song at CB isn’t a foreign concept and it is his original position and where he has played for his national team. It may be a sure fire way of keeping him from going on unwanted runs rather than anchoring his spot on the field. I want service into the box for Van Persie so I think Santos would start though Gibbs would be better against Van Der Vaart on the wing. Sagna – well what can you say, he is the best right back in the league.

The key for the defences is the match up of american keeper Brad Friedel for Spurs and Wojiech Szczesny for Arsenal. I am taking Szczesny every day of the week in that match up. Right now the two top keepers in the EPL are Szczesny and Hart. Where Szczesny beats Hart, is that he parries the ball away from the net cleaner leaving little for an attempted rebound. Hart killed himself against Munich last week by not being able to do this. But we aren’t up against Hart. Brad Friedel is an able keeper but he is hardly world class.  Szczesny is. Just ask Germany.

Spurs attack is going to be a handful and they might actually have the edge over us in the midfield with Sandro being their weak link. Parker and Modric however make them better then a group made up of Frimpong (who will start here if Song is a CB), Arteta and Ramsey. The lack of Wilshere in this midfield for this match can’t be over looked. And while Arteta is impressing every time Modric is a better creative mid. Ramsey has been inconsistent and while I think Frimpong will relish playing in the derby his youthful exuberance could get us in trouble.

Up front I’d say its a wash. Van Persie, Gervinho and Walcott/Arshavin are as good if not slightly better than Adebayor, Bale and Van Der Vaart.  Adebayor is back to antagonize Arsenal fans. We haven’t seen him since that first year he joined City.He’s apologized for his antics of that season but he has also vowed to score against his former club. And given his recent form it should be expected. Head to head against Van Persie, I’ll take Van Persie more for sheer heart and work rate. Van Der Vaart looks like a transfer target in January and is dealing with niggly injuries and doesn’t seem to be the threat he was last season. Gervinho will keep him honest. Bale is so so. He’s good but is the European nightmare the press made him out to be? Absolutely not. As a matter of fact the noise that has typically surrounded the Welsh winger is awfully quiet which suggests he is not having a season like last.

So where is the advantage for either team? It is likely in the locale. White Heart Lane is an opposing place to play on good occassions. For a derby? Its going to be down right inhospitable. For the few of our players they haven’t played in this match or anything like it, it is going to be completely foreign. Arteta will know what its like because to me the Merseyside derby is the only derby that comes even close to being on par with this match up each season. Other than that unless you’ve played in it – you won’t have a clue what its like. For the first leag of the derby ties being at White Heart Lane gives Spurs that mental advantage they would need.

I’m going to skip the usual “how this match should play out” section because I have to be honest, I don’t know. Spurs have been playing better and Arsenal are improving. For Arsenal it will take a consistent performance across 90 minutes of football. In their last few matches even though they’ve won, they have yet to put together two consistent halves. They need to come out with a performance reminiscent of the second halves against Olympiakos and Bolton.  They absolutely have to boss the match and control the ball. The less Spurs have it, the easier it is to keep them off the score and shuts the WHL crowd down. The ability to play well and in a style consistent with Arsenal skill levels is there. They’ve shown it. Just not for 2 halves put together. If they want to walk out of the Lane with all 3 points they will need to do it. They can do it.

Players to Watch:

Arsenal: Robin Van Persie. He scored his 99th and 100th goals of his Arsenal career last week. He is now the heart and soul of this club and he has shown he can carry them on his back. He needs to come up big.

Spurs: Emmanuel Adebayor. The former Arsenal hitman has joined Spurs on loan to prove his worth. Scoring against his former club would go a long way to at least proving his worth to Spurs fans.

Probable Starting XI:


Injuries and Suspensions:
Arsenal: Diaby (ankle), Vermaelen (ankle), Wilshere (ankle),  Squillaci (calf) Koscileny (ankle)

Spurs: Gallas (calf), Dawson (achilles), Huddlestone (ankle)

Leading Scorers:
Arsenal:  6 (3 league)

Spurs: Adebayor 3 (3 league)

Last Meeting (EPL):

Arsenal: 3

Spurs: 3

Goals For:

Arsenal (away): 1.7

Spurs (home): 2.5

Goals Against:
Arsenal (away): 4

Spurs: (home): 2.5

Last Five:
Arsenal: WLWLL

Spurs: WWWLL

Goal Difference:
Arsenal: -5

Spurs: 0

Match Official:
Referee: M Dean

Broadcast Information:

UK: Sky Sports 1 1600 BST

GAMEDAY CHAT: It’s Open!!!!!!

YAMA Prediction:
Arsenal: 2

Spurs: 2

The Final Word

This weekend marks the 15th anniversary of the signing of Arsene Wenger. It also marks the first time since Kroenke took over the club that he actually had something to say about the the club and about Arsene Wenger. Looking back at the Wenger years they have been filled with every high and low you can name. He has said he’d like to continue on for the next 15 years (its not realistic but you get the point). Stan has said the person who will dictate when Wenger leaves will be Wenger. So you get the sense from both men that the Arsenal manager will be here for a while.

Stan has gone on to lend support to Wenger on the controversial deals for Fabregas and Nasri saying while they wanted to keep both Arsene’s decision (he made a point saying both deals were Wenger’s choices) to sell both is supported by team management and the owner.

Of the sale of Fabregas, he says: “That was between Arsène and him. I like the kid but I’m not going to change his mind. Arsène made the decision. If we wanted to be really hard about it, we could have done but Arsène believed that it was the right way to do it. We talked about it when we were in London.

“I also get it on Nasri. If we didn’t do something on Nasri people would be looking at us next summer and saying, ‘Why didn’t you do this?’ We bought in a lot of resources that we can use on other players.

“I honestly didn’t make the decision on Nasri. Of course the board talks about these things but, at the end of the day, that’s for Arsène.”

Additionally, he articulated something I’ve felt about the club for a while. This spell, this run of form and lack of trophies is something sometimes you have to go through.  It is part of a transition. Of course you want that transition to be shorter than its taken us. But it happens when you make a fundamental shift in how you operate. These are time frames in a club’s history you have to get through or as Stan said:

“Maybe it is one of those times when we have to work our way through, maybe with some young players. Arsène has been really good at developing these guys, people like Alex Chamberlain and Jack Wilshere.There are some really good players that Arsène thinks can be special.

“Sometimes you go through periods like that. Arsène’s our man. As an owner, that’s who we put our confidence in.”

The words from Stan won’t do much to assuage the fears of those who feel Wenger is past his prime.  If the club are committed to Wenger for the long haul and let him leave on his own terms you could see him finishing out this contract regardless of the club’s form. That can’t feel good to the Wenger out crew.

While support from management is a good thing, I think it clearly places too much in the hands of one man. And while I think Wenger clearly should be given this season to see things out, saying he can basically remove himself takes away any authority the club has over him to exact any kind of change.  The club need leadership from above. Not hands off and letting one person run the entire show.  I get it, Wenger is a legend and should be treated as such, but legends sometimes fall away or let the game pass them by. It is a sad thing when that happens. We want our legends to be on a pedestal, revling in all their glory. Just ask Tom Landry. But if the game has gotten away from Wenger, the club leadership needs to say, (and I am paraphrasing) we want Wenger to stay but the team will be assessed at the end of the season and we’ll make choices based off of that. That’s what we need from Stan but at least he said something.

To read the full Stan Kroneke interview go here

Until next time – Stay Goonerish!!!



More in Match Previews