Here we are then. Derby day. The away leg of it and the one Premier League game of the season I hate the most.
It doesn’t help that we’ve only won one in 16 and with those numbers it feels like today is going to be an uphill struggle against the Tiny Totts.
I get nervous feelings in the pit of my stomach before every Arsenal match but this won makes it the worst and the fact that today there is more riding on it because of the Champions League fourth spot we are fighting for, makes it all the more uncomfortable, even though I’m in a lovely hot climate of Portugal today to watch the game.
The old cliché that ‘form goes out of the window’ is also working against us because after two impressive performances by us and two poor performances by the Totts, we couldn’t have asked for a better time to be going in to a North London Derby. But Tottenham will be well up for this today and I’d wager their fans will be too.
I don’t want to come across as too pessimistic but I think it’s going to be a difficult afternoon this lunchtime for us. Tottenham are a wounded animal and people are talking about Harry Kane as if he isn’t a prolific striker who always seems to score against us. But he usually does so I’m expecting and mentally preparing myself for that today.
That means that the minimum we need to score if we want to have any aspirations of picking up any points is two I think. Tottenham will come at us with everything they can and so I suspect we’ll need to hang on at times. And with our defence that feels like a terrifying prospect to watch.
It’s also why I suspect we’ll see a back three and have Sokratis, Koscielny and Mustafi in the heart of it, flanked by Kolasinac and I hope Jenkinson. I thought he played well against Bournemouth and the wing back position suits him. He’s got more of an engine than any of the other options on the right hand side and he is also very good with his distribution when in those attacking positions. So Unai, I implore you, unleash the corporal today!
Midfield should be Xhaka and Torreira but it wouldn’t surprise me to see Guendouzi instead of Torreira. Unai does favour the young Frenchman but I think the tenacity of the Uruguayan works best in this game. It’s that intensity that the game demands that would also have me picking Ramsey ahead of Özil today too. Özil was great in midweek and I’d certainly be asking him to play a part but if you can only pick one and then you have Mkhitaryan and one of Lacazette/Aubameyang, then the energy and distances Ramsey will cover defensively and offensively will be more important today I reckon. Certainly for the opening exchanges of the game.
Tottenham will be direct, they will look to exploit the space left from Kolasinac and whoever plays right wing back, then get balls in to Son and Kane to create chances. And they will create chances. What we have to do is to try and ensure there’s always a body on them but above all else, no silly fouls, because even a dangling leg will be used by the diving of Son and Kane to take an advantage. The Totts are masters of the dark arts and they were rewarded for their cheating at The Emirates earlier in the season, so don’t think they won’t take even the slightest slither of an opportunity to cheat themselves an advantage today.
What we have to do is be better than that and ensure they aren’t given a sniff. It means closing space, pressing in the right places and ensuring that we don’t do silly things like the goal we conceded in midweek. That game is going to be hard enough as it is without gifting goals to the Tiny Totts.
I’m not optimistic, but I still have hope, so let’s hope that the boys in red and white are f*cking dynamite today. A win would be massive in the context of the season. Season defining potentially.
See you on the other side.