I’m sat here at my Macbook staring blankly at white space. It’s North London Derby day and I’ve got that very familiar feeling that comes at least twice a season minimum. We play them. That lot down the road. The noisy neighbours. The chirpiest of chirpy fans. The ones that we’ve always said live in our shadow.
But that has always been an irrelevance to me because it doesn’t stop the uncomfortable feeling I get from within my core every time we play them. It is a feeling that I’m not sure the human body is designed for. There’s doubt, fear, anxiety, excitement, recalling of memories past, more fear, as well as a nervousness that rarely raises its ugly head except on these occasions. It is a feeling of numbness that hits your navel and for me is this dull sensation that runs up into my lower chest.
I think it’s fair to say that I don’t like this feeling and by extension, I equally dislike the pre match period on match day before an NLD. I’ve never truly been able to reconcile how people can be so excited at time time in the morning. I’m sat here with a boiled egg and some soldiers and I haven’t quite got to the stage where I’m ready to put my game face on and cheer the lads. It’s the worst time because the adrenaline hasn’t kicked it. Just this dull ache.
But this year the ache seems to be more prevalent than in seasons past. The seeds of doubt nag louder and longer in my mind. It’s because of them. It’s because of what they have grown into under Pochettino and it is because this is the first time that i’ve gone into a home game against that lot thinking that they are the better side, with the better plan, as well as the better manager. Not based on history, of course I know that, but based on the now. Based on how he has set his team up and based on their style and approach to games. Sadly, they just look better than us, and I think we all know it.
So that uncomfortable feeling inside me grows still.
Second egg navigated. Hoping that it was just hunger that was the reason for the extra nerves. It wasn’t.
Must plough on.
The thing is, I know that we have the players to get the win today; we have enough attacking talent to worry an Alderweiereldless Tottenham. We have midfield runners in Ramsey who can turn in big game performances when his mind and his positioning is right. The defence is…well…the defence but if Harry Kane is in fact only just recovering from rehab (to which I really doubt) then perhaps we can marshall him and with Mustafi back we have our first choice defensive three.
But the problem I keep coming back to is the o=verall plan. I fear Tottenham’s more than they must fear ours. They know exactly what we’re going to do. We’re going to try to dominate possession, commitment men forward and inevitably, leave ourselves with space once the ball turns over. I keep having this recurring vision of the ball breaking down on the edge of their box and within three passes all of our players are out of action and Kane is bearing down on goal. Pretty much like what happened two seasons ago. That’s what I fear more than anything else so what I am praying for is a disciplined performance from our two midfielders.
We’re not playing a team in which when the ball gets to them, they just hump it down the channels in the hope that one attacker will do something amazing or our defence will eff it up. We’re playing a team that breaks as a very effective unit. If the ball turns over they will quite quickly find that Alli, Erikson and Kane are all being supported by the full backs and that overload could cause us trouble.
So what do we do?
Personally, I’d think about telling Ramsey to curb his natural attacking instincts. Replicate what he did against Chelski and show the kind of conservatives that makes us more solid defensively. Then used the combined ability of our best front three – assuming they’re playing – to fashion the chances to win the game. We simply must build this game from the back and remain resolute. Otherwise we’re going to get picked off.
We know where their strength is. We know that Erikson and Kane are the main men and we know that they’ll play three at the back with pace on the wing and look to create chances through the counter. So I just pray that Wenger actually has a plan today other than “play your own game lads”. That sort of sh*t doesn’t wash in the modern game and so we should know intimately everything about the opposition. Do I believe that though? Heck no.
Big games are needed from men in red. Start Ozil. Start Alexis. Start Lacazette. Tell them to show us why they’re worth more than the rest. Give us the kind of big game performance that has fans leaving happy from an Arsenal perspective. Show that you’re up for it. Show that you believe some good can come from the season. Demonstrate to us that we can all believe you when you say there will be a reaction. Own your performance today. Don’t go hiding in plain sight.
Up the Arsenal.