I’m sure I’ve said this before on this type of game day, but I hate North London Derby’s, I really do. The worry, the build up nerves, the pessimism that only seems to exist in my life when it comes to The Arsenal; all of it just builds to a crescendo for this game every season.
Especially away from home. We haven only had a couple of good days away from home when we’ve played them and I have to say in most recent times its been rather painful to watch.
They seem to get a lot of penalties and so today we all know that it’s a dead cert to happen. The week has been spent talking about diving and under normal circumstances you’d expect the Tiny Totts to get nothing from whoever is the referee, but I just have this feeling it’s going to happen.
What our players need to do is mitigate that risk by not leaving dangling legs out. We need to see discipline and composure inside our own box, which is easier said than done, because we all know our players are prone to the occasional brain-fart moment.
The question we all have though is whether or not Arsene will draw on the success of November’s 2-0 victory at The Emirates by playing a similar team and style. The Totts that day were caught by surprise I think, as we allowed them to have the ball a little more and ensure that our back three were capable of covering each other when needed. Kolasinac and Bellerin were wing backs and I seem to recall both had decent games, so I’m wondering if Wenger will revert to a back three today.
If he doesn’t and sticks with a back four then the challenge for our full backs will be to not get caught too high up the pitch when the ball turns over. Tottenham will look to find gaps in those wide forward positions in behind our full backs. And if we continue with Xhaka and Ramsey in midfield then the worry is that the Swiss won’t be able to cover the space that will inevitably crop up. So personally I am hoping for a black three because I think we should be applying the same tactics as we did earlier in the season. Let them have the ball in deeper positions and deny space in those pockets where Erikson and Kane like to pop up.
A three at the back does mean that you’d be looking at Xhaka and Ramsey in the middle, but it also means Mkhitaryan and Ozil drifting and floating behind Aubameyang up top on his own. The Gabonese had some flashes of brilliance during last weekend’s game against Everton but he was quiet in large patches, so I’m expecting a similar sort of performance today if I’m honest, because I don’t think he will be back to full fitness for a game or two.
I’ve said it before on the blog though, the key to today when we are going forward is movement, as well as pace. Liverpool exposed the Totts last weekend by moving the ball around the pitch and countering with lightning speed. Arsene will have been mad not to have watched last weekend and seen how Tottenham can be got at. I just hope he doesn’t do his usual ‘Let’s only think about us and not the opposition’ because I don’t think that works for a second when you player the bigger teams. Especially away from home.
We need big performances from our big players. We need Mustafi and Koscielny to be up for this but for the German what we need is no diving in or rash tackles. Tottenham are a snide and cynical team and they will kick out, go down easily, scream bloody murder and Mustafi does have a propensity to go down hard and quickly and that could be a recipe for disaster.
People have been talking up the value of our record at Wembley and whilst I kind of dismissed that on one of my blogs earlier in the week, I’ve been thinking a bit more about it, and come to a slightly different conclusion. If we as fans talk up the psychological difference for the team between home and away matches as a reason why we’re underperforming on the road – and we have all talked about there being a psychological issue for the team – why can’t the same be said for going to Wembley? Perhaps I’m just clutching at straws but there must be something about the ground that our team like and so I am hoping they can channel their inner cup-final mojo to get us over the line and away with at least a point today.
I’m not really confident though. I never am with these games. It’s the eternal football pessimist in me you see. I just can’t shake it.
Come on Arsenal, let’s have something to smile about come 3pm this afternoon.