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Match Preview: Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur; Premier League Match Day 25

It is the biggest game on the weekend fixture list. It is likely the biggest game of Arsenal’s season. It is without a doubt the biggest North London Derby of Arsene Wenger’s tenure at Arsenal.

Ed Note: Special thanks to Myles for helping this post along while my sore elbow acted up and slowed down my writing. Myles is a stand up guy. 

It is the biggest game on the weekend fixture list. It is likely the biggest game of Arsenal’s season. It is without a doubt the biggest North London Derby of Arsene Wenger’s tenure at Arsenal.

To me the only other derby that matches up the intensity of the North London Derby is the Old Firm derby. The El Classico is sham and Manchester United versus Liverpool isn’t a proper derby – that’s my opinion and I am entitled to it. The first meeting of Arsenal v Spurs was in 1887 when the club were situated in Plumbstead (Kent). It was abandoned 15 minutes before it was scheduled to end on account of darkness. In their first league match up in 1901 Arsenal would go on to win that 1-0.

The real animosty and start of the derby however happened in 1913 when the club moved from Manor Ground to Arsenal stadium in Highbury just four miles from White Hart Lane. The first real derby was in 1914 at White Hart Lane when Second division Arsenal beat first division Spurs 5-1. The rest as they say, is history.

And its a glorious history, with the red side of London enjoying the better of it for the most part. But in the last few years you’d be hard pressed to not acknowledge the improvement at Tottenham. Out of the last 8 matches again Arsenal, Spurs have gone 3W 3D and 2L. The matches are almost always close and should Spurs win on Sunday, it will the first time they’ve done the double on Arsenal in 19 years.

For Arsenal, it is a huge match. Spurs won’t admit but it is for them as well,  but it is more so for Arsenal. It is one of those blasted six-point swing matches. An Arsenal win closes the gap on Spurs to 7 points. A loss moves it the gap to 13 points. Hence the 6 points.

Arsenal are need of something, anything from anyone to spark this team to life after two very painful losses to AC Milan and Sunderland. In those two losses they have conceded 6 and scored 0. The players and managers need to step up and take a proper account of themselves in this match. For his part, Arsene Wenger is calling on the players to step up. At Milan they failed to even show up and at Sunderland they failed to show any kind of life when it was needed. Any of those two approaches will surely be painful to the club, the players, the manager, and more importantly the fans.

Lee Dixon summarized it perfectly:

“Going into a north London derby, as fans you’ll read lots of stuff. As players you put that all out of the way, you forget it, because it is ultimately about what happens on the day.

“The thing to pay more attention to is recent results and Arsenal’s form is poor.

“That in itself is demoralising. But when I was at the club, if we ever had a bad series of results the next game you want to be a big one because it gets your mind focused on what’s coming rather than feeling sorry for yourself.

“And there’s no bigger one than the north London derby at this stage of the season with so much at stake. So roll your sleeves up and get stuck in.”

And that’s what it is going to take. Getting stuck in. Arsenal can’t afford to to just be tippy-tappy. Looking for the perfect pass or opening isn’t going to win this game. What Arsenal need to do is come out with the directness in play that saw the Gunners rise from 17th to 4th. They also need to press the hell out of the man with the ball. The Gunners are going to have to play as if the ball is the only thing that matters to them and when they don’t have it they need to get it. When Arsenal went on that run, mentioned earlier they were so good going forward and so good at pressing the opposition. Their pressure forced the errors that caused Chelsea to implode at the bridge. It also made life hard for many of the European teams we faced. When we do it well, we really do it well. It wins us games.

Since January the going hasn’t been good for Arsenal. They’ve been less direct and more pitter-pattering around the box. When Gervinho left for ACoN we lost a lot of the directness we needed.  With Nasri & Fabregas we had the ability to unlock defences. Now, not so much. Wenger has used Gervinho and Walcott to turn the club into a more direct attacking side. Using speed to cause defences problems. Oxlande-Chamberlain offers some of the same as well.  Now that the Ivorian is back and gets re-settled we can hope that we can become more direct again.

At White Hart Lane, the Gunners were unfortunate to come out of the game with a loss. And whether anyone wants to admit it at that time, the Gunners were just as good during that match. The Van Der Vaart hand ball was the obvious game changer. Additionally, losing Sagna, Mr reliable, was a huge loss.  With him back and a lot to prove the Gunners need to focus on this one game. With a win by Chelsea the whole season can come down to this one match. There are times when players need to step up. This is one of them. Arsenal can ill afford their 9th loss of the season. Not with the top of the table and battle for a CL as congested as it has been in years.

How the Game Should Play Out:
I really wish I knew how this was going to go. Because when you think the Gunners should come out with a response like in the Wearside last week they didn’t. When they had a chance to make a statement against United, the didn’t. As Robin Van Persie said  this is an opportunity to put the past behind them. I know a lot of Gooners will forgive and forget all transgressions of the past if the Arsenal win this match. Both teams wash each other statistically on the road and at home in terms of goals scored and goals allowed. Arsenal have the edge in terms of goals allowed at home and goals scored at home. Both teams are speedy so that is negated. The battle will be in the mid-field. Whoever wins there, wins the match.

 Players to watch
Arsenal. Gervinho: It’ll be interesting to see how he lines up, and on which side he does so. In the projected line up we’ve put him on the left, so he’ll be matched for pace against Kyle Walker at right-back  for Spurs. Gervinho has just returned from international duty with Ivory Coast, putting in a shift and a half for the Elephants. Although he only scored one goal in the campaign, he was ever present during the tournament although he was at fault in the final when he missed a penalty which gave Zambia the opportunity to win  the tournament 8-7 on penalties. He played well against Sunderland, at first, but then seemed to fade away with the rest of the side in the second half. This game will be a big test for the 24-year-old, as he is yet to blow our minds this season and this would be the perfect time do so.

As predictable as Wenger is, he’ll have Gervinho switching from left to right throughout the game, which means we can see how he fairs against Assou-Ekotto, who has been excellent this season for Tottenham. But for now, the pace of Kyle Walker should be Gervinho’s only concern, being as Walker is not actually very good defensively.

Spurs. Adebayor: As detestable as he is, I have to admit that the former Togo international is on top form for Spurs this season, especially when he notched up four assists in the recent clash with Newcastle. I doubt he’ll get a warm welcome at the Emirates, but he’s going to be a handful for our defence, especially with his areal presence.

Projected Line Ups:


Injuries and Suspensions:
Arsenal:  Ramsey (ankle) Coquelin (hamstring) Mertesacker (ankle) Santos(ankle) Wilshere (ankle) Diaby (hamstring)

Spurs: Gallas (calf), Huddlestone (ankle).

Leading Scorers:
Arsenal: Robin Van Perise 22

Spurs: Emmanuel Adebayor 10

Last Meeting (EPL):

Arsenal: 1

Spurs: 2

Goals For:

Arsenal (home): 2.0

Spurs (away): 1.7

Goals Against:
Arsenal (home): 0.8

Spurs: (away): 1.3

Last Five:
Arsenal: WWDLL

Spurs: WDWLW

Goal Difference:
Arsenal: 13

Spurs: 24

Match Official:
Referee: Mike Dean (Matches 20, R1 Y66).

Broadcast Information:
US: Fox Soccer Channel 0830 AM EST

UK: Sky Sports 1 1330 GMT

GAMEDAY CHAT: It’s Open!!!!!!

YAMA Prediction:
Arsenal: 2

Spurs: 2

Final Words:

By now you know that Andrei Arshavin has rejoined Zenit St. Petersburg on a loan until the summer. Zenit has agreed to pay his wages, and pay Arsenal a £1 million loan fee. I believe there is also an option to buy. For what its worth there is word filtering out that some time this week Arshavin may have said some things on the practice pitch that both management and his teammates may not have taken to kindly too. If the story I’ve been told is right he essentially quit on the team during one of the training sessions this week. This is what I’ve been told was the impetus to finally moving him before the summer.

I was questioning why Arsenal would move a player when there is no chance to bring someone in. I know we’re getting on Wenger and the management for their handling of transfer business but this one is really perplexing. If the story above is true then it would explain why the decision was made now. Wenger along with Captain Robin Van Persie have tried hard to build a team that is together. Any disruption to that would not be looked on kindly.

For his part Arshavin was quoted as saying he leaves Arsenal with a heavy heart but he wanted playing time ahead of Euro 2012. He said he had hopes of returning to Arsenal after the summer tournament.

The departure of Arshavin opens the door to Yossi Benayoun getting more time. Yossi while not a barn burner has been good (for the most part) coming off the bench for the Gunners. He is good as an impact sub and has the work ethic the Gunners need. I also have been wondering if this would also mean that Benik Afobe may get some calls up to the Senior Squad.

Arshavin will go down as promise unfulfilled. People will undoubtedly say it was all down to his being played out of position. His departure had nothing to do with his talent and where he was playing. It had everything to do with his attitude and work ethic. I’ve gone through it before so I will spare you the story again. Suffice it to say, Arshavin is a victim of his own doing noone elses.

Good news for Gooners for next season, the club have agreed NOT to raise ticket prices for General Admission next season. Ivan Gazidis and club management have heard the fans loud and clear and issued a statement that basically said that they couldn’t in good conscience raise ticket prices in the current economic environment. Which one? The global one or the anticipated one should we miss the Champion’s  League?

Allright folks thats it for this week. I will be at Fado’s Irish Pub in Philadelphia for the kick off and hope to get there early enough to set up to tweet and live blog the match. If not – och well.

Till next time – Stay Goonerish!!!



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