I know I may be jinxing us all into a horrible afternoon and subsequent evening, should defeat befall The Arsenal this lunchtime, but having looked at the probable line ups today through a couple of sources, this is a Totteringham team that we really should be beating.
We should have already served them up a slice of loser cake earlier in the season, but our stuttery, jittery, first half of the campaign saw us pick up just the one point against a Spud team that didn’t really come for anything other than a point.
But this is on their patch. This is at a ground where one win in six doesn’t really make for great reading. This is a North London Derby. And for all of my posturing and confidence at the beginning of the week, all the usual nerves have crept back into my mind, infiltrating the positivity barriers I have been working hard to erect all week.
I still feel like we have a better team than that lot, with or without Alexis, but the footballing lord works in mysterious ways and we’ve seen many an average Spud team pick up points after points against us.
This game last season I was convinced was going to be fraught with disappointment, yet after Rosicky’s right peg lashed home an early goal, we showed what we have been capable of defensively when there is a settled back four and structure to our defensive unit.
This year, if I’m honest, I’d take a draw right now. Call me defeatist if you like, but with some favourable home and away fixtures coming up for us (in my humble opinion), I fancy us to go on another decent run over the next week and that might just help to propel us into a position where the Top Four Trophy feel eminently more achievable than it did a few months back.
But a win would be massive. A win would give us even more swagger than we’ve been showing. A win gives us bragging rights, but it also puts more daylight between us and them lot up the Seven Sisters Road. If we can overcome the Spuds on a cold Saturday lunchtime, I think we can start looking at third rather than looking back at who’s taking fourth.
The team news is still shrouded in mystery, as Arsène admitted that he’s still not sure about Alexis, having already ruled him out once this week. What a Psychological boost it would be for us if he were fit, as well as a potential blow to our Lilywhite opponents, but if there is any risk to his longer term fitness then manager simply must overrule player. For his own good.
For my part I feel like we have enough without Alexis. With five different scorers last weekend there are five more players who will all be feeling all the more confident. Özil and Walcott in particular, will feel that their combined goal and assist tally will warrant their inclusion from the start. I’m not so sure. In the frenetic pace of a North London Derby you can ill afford players who aren’t going to bust a gut to cover ground and occupy defensive spaces on the park when we don’t have the ball. Walcott may be fast, but he’s not a man who is known for his tracking back and with both he and Özil still returning to fitness, I think it would be a gamble for the manager to play both.
That’s why I think he should give serious consideration to starting Danny Welbeck. There are plenty of people I have conversed with over the last week who have questioned whether Welbeck is fit enough. I understand that, but with a full week of training under his belt and having already demonstrated his incredible engine, I think a front three of Welbeck, Giroud and Walcott might provide us with a little more to trouble a slightly suspect Tottenham defence. Pace either side of hold-up man Giroud is something that we’ve long coveted over the last 18 months, so I would love to see Arsène unleash both players on the counter and see if those Spuddies can handle it.
The midfield battle between Erikson and Coquelin is an intriguing one. Francis has grown more impressive in every game and even last weekend against a poor Villa side, he showed his love of a tackle and strength on the ball. If he can break up the Dane’s creative side in a similar way in which we negated David Silva, I think it will suffocate Kane’s distribution and increase the probability of a clean sheet. That gives us something to build on. There’s no doubt that victory against the Spuds will hinge on keeping those two quiet in my mind.
But we need our form players to show up today. If Santi continues his wonderful purple patch, if Giroud is up for the game, if Özil pulls the strings (should be play), then we can get a result.
Cross everything. Come on The Arsenal!