Like I said yesterday in the blog, I hate these North London Derby Days, because they just bring out the worst nerves possible before a game. As Lee Dixon once famously recounted about when he played his first one having signed from Stoke and Toby Adams had him up against a wall, “we just can’t lose this one. Not to them”.
And that’s what it feels like. Victory is an elation that cannot be articulated in words. A draw leaves an unpalatable taste if it’s at home and acceptable if it’s away. But defeat and you just want the world to swallow you up. You want to go home, crawl under a duvet and not come out until the next match day.
Which is why I just don’t enjoy myself on these fixtures. There are some people who talk about how great it is; the excitement, the expectation, etc, etc, but I can’t describe the dull ache in my stomach as excitement. Good grief no.
The big questions are how both teams will line up and with Emery we have a man just as unpredictable in his line up as Pochettino. The Argentine has played a variety of formations against us and also personnel this season, so who starts for the Totts is anyone’s guess, although there are a few we know will get on.
Lloris, Vertonghen, Alderweireld, Erikson, Alli and Kane will all surely start. The rest is a bit of a guessing game but those players are key along with Son, who will find pockets of space in the channels and probably look to get at us when our possession breaks down.
That’s how they undo us today; by being quick in the transition and exploiting when we push our fullbacks forward. Which will inevitably happen. The only question is just how much licence they get to press forward. Will Emery go with three at the back again and tell his wing backs to provide the width? Will they be operating more as offensive wide men than defensive fullbacks?
And who will be given the opportunity to support Bellerin and Kolasinac at full back? Will it be Iwobi and Aubameyang with Özil floating in the middle? Is Lacazette fit enough to start? If not, do we see Auba through the middle with Iwobi and Özil either side of him?
That only happens if we play three at the back methinks. If we go with a back four then it’ll be three attacking players behind one striker and that would be Lacazette with Auba, Özil and Iwobi I reckon.
There are a lot of ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ around the team at the moment but if I’m not 100% on how we’re going to set up this lunchtime then at least we can be sure of one thing from Tottenham’s perspective – they won’t be 100% certain how we’ll be setting up either.
What we do need is the same intensity from the first minute like the Liverpool game. I suspect the Totts will want to silence the crowd quickly and will look to get at us very quickly this afternoon. They’ll fancy their chances too against our leaky defence and you only have to see the way we bombed forward unnecessarily in the dying seconds of the first half last weekend against Bournemouth, to see just how brain dead we can be defensively some times.
I just want those defenders to have a look around themselves today. Last week on the Bournemouth goal we probably could have avoided conceding any at all with a little bit of spacial awareness of who was around us. Tottenham are much, much better than Bournemouth and if they get in behind with the likes of Kane, even another stellar Leno performance won’t keep them out.
I’ll be honest with you; I’d take a draw today. I’d bite your hand off for a couple of draws this week because as long as we keep momentum and flow by picking up points, it feels like we’ll be in good shape as we approach Christmas.
Defeat today will put them further than us, but it also deals a bit of a psychological blow ahead of a game away to Old Trafford, a place in which we’ve one like once in about 400 years in the league. Two defeats in a week and Emery has a real challenge to lift his players for the busy run in. So we need to cross everything and pray that today we avoid defeat and if we can pick up a win…well…wowsers, that could really kick this team on.
It feels like Emery needs a big ‘scalp’ of one of the top six teams right now. We’ve had two defeats and a draw and that ‘W’ needs to come soon before we all start worrying that it might become a ‘thing’.
Let’s hope his team gets that ‘W’ today.
Up the Arsenal.