I’ve got to be honest and tell you that the nerves have already started for tomorrow’s North London Derby. It always starts at least two days before the actual game and by the time I reach the day before I’m already thinking about the potential outcomes, both positively and negatively.
I make myself more nervous by reading even more blogs, news articles, game predictors, press conferences and the such like. I don’t know why I do it, but perhaps – certainly for Arsene’s press conference – I’m searching for some sort of unspoken hint as to how the team will be prepared tomorrow. I’m looking in to his eyes and hoping that he looks like he’s confident enough to think ‘relax, we’ve got this’ and that by some reason that will set my mind at ease.
It doesn’t. Arsene could probably sit in his press conference leaning back with a cigar in his mouth saying “I’m not even remotely worried about tomorrow, we’re gonna smash ’em” and I still wouldn’t feel comfortable. In fact I’d probably feel the opposite, that he’s underestimating the opposition, that we’re not ready. It’s the perpetual torture that football fans put themselves through you see. And if you’re an Arsenal fan like I am then you know what I’m talking about and you are going through the same feelings. Heck, you probably flicked on to today’s blog with the same desire to gain some sort of comfort in the words of somebody who loves the same team you do. I’d love to tell you my words will provide a blanket of metaphorical warmth that will leave you feeling all fuzzy and confident for tomorrow, but I’m looking for that same blanket myself, so if I find it I’ll let you know. But for now the search goes on.
At least we have no additional injuries from the game on Wednesday. Hopefully Koscienly is back, because we’ve already challenging Newcastle at the top of the Physioroom.com injury table, so the idea that more players would have dropped was a worry. More on who will play tomorrow, but the importance is that the players will be ready and up for this game. I think they will be and starting his first NLD tomorrow will be Petr Cech who Arsene has rightly applauded as one of the best that there has been in the Premier League. He’s made a massive impact since joining and it seems every week we’re seeing saves that last season’s two ‘keepers just didn’t always make. Having him in between the sticks has been a massive part of our good defensive record this season (joint best in the league) and hopefully he can make his record shut out tomorrow. If he does, we’re one step closer to picking up three points, with just the forward players needing to replicate the chances we got against Bayern to give us a good opportunity to win the game.
The Spuds are a hard team to play against. Pochettino has set them up well and they will make sure they are hard to break down tomorrow. I expect them to try to play on the counter and Arsene was very complimentary over their manager and team. It’s clear there is respect between the managers, just not between the fans!
Away from the presser, Mesut Ozil has been talking up the ‘pitbull‘ Coquelin, who has become an integral cog in the team over the last 11 months. He’s going to be important tomorrow because of his aggression and in breaking up attacks, but it’s good to see that even the creative players recognise the impact of a stable foundation to a team. I said as much in the summer, but it really does look like this team is more united that other variants of the side in the last six or seven years. They all seem like they get on and across the pitch there is respect for what each player does. Naturally the more creative players get the plaudits, but all of the team has been part of this success in the league up to this point and when players don’t recognise that, when they look for individual glory as Arsene mentioned in yesterday’s presser, that is what can really destroy either individuals themselves or the team ethic. You could argue that some teams are practically one man teams and are still successful – like Ronaldo at Madrid – but those are isolated cases. In the main it is about team ethic and all players recognising they are one piece in an eleven man engine.
Here’s a quick question for you – is it Alexis’ first start in a North London Derby tomorrow? He didn’t play in September and didn’t play at White Hart Lane last season, plus I think he was a substitute at The Emirates last year, so will he be lining up from the start for the first time? If so, I wonder how he’ll get on. He’s had a couple of ropey games recently, potentially down to fatigue (although you’d never know it), but what odds would you get that he catches fire like he did against United? I’d like to see that very much, thank you.
And on that somewhat positive note, in which I might just have found that warm blanket I mentioned, I’ll take my leave for the day.