It’s the worst day in the footballing calendar for me personally, today is, as we travel away to Sh*ite Hart Lane to face that horrible lot round the corner in the North London Derby.
I’ve always hated this fixture. Nerves, bragging rights, the fear of defeat and having to face all of the idiots at school, then work, etc. Added to that the fact that we have a pretty poor record of late (we’ve won once in 13 years for crying out loud!) away to them and it all makes for a rather unpleasant build up and then usually watching too.
Today’s game does have a different feel to it. I mean it will literally have a different feel with the fact that no fans are in the stadium and having been to a fair few home and away NLD’s in my time on this earth, I can tell you now – it makes a heck of a difference when the atmosphere has been whipped up by the home support. It’;s the same at The Emirates and you can feel it in the air on match day. But today won’t have that feel to it as much.
I think the respective fortunes of both teams will also contribute towards the feeling of the game. The Tiny Tots have had as shocking a season as we’ve had and with just one point separating the two teams in eighth and tenth respectively, today’s game is more about Europa League than Champions League. And that’s a weird old feeling.
But there will be some familiarities about the game later. Like when Harry Kane scores yet another penalty against us at some stage. I was looking at it yesterday and he’s bagged five goals from penalties in the last eight games against us and three in the last three league matches we’ve played against them. So whether he dives or is brought down by a silly challenge, it feels like you could put your house on him getting another one this evening.
Or perhaps not. Perhaps this is an Arsenal team slowly learning its lessons under Arteta? Perhaps this is an Arsenal team who are going to show a little composure and not go diving in when the ball is inside our own penalty box? Perhaps it is a team with a plan? Certainly the arrival of Arteta has seen – eventually – an upturn in our fortunes and we can all see the difference he’s made when it comes to the defensive side of our team. Luiz, Mustafi, Xhaka – all have benefitted from his coaching and we’ve seen them resurrect what has been fading Arsenal careers in just a few short months.
And the players have all responded. We go into this game with a bit of form behind us. The draw at home to Leicester may on paper look like a disappointing result, but the way the team played in that first half was a joy to behold and if we get more of the same later on then we’ll all be hopeful of getting our first result at there Toilet Bowl since Tomas Rosicky leathered a ball into the corner with his wonder strike back in 2014.
Tottenham go into this match hardly setting the world alight and their insipid display against Bournemouth felt symptomatic of a team who has already lost interest in the nonsense of their scummer of a manager.
But it’s Jose Mourinho and his record against us is maddeningly good. Out of 20 games against us he’s beaten or drawn on eight occasions with us just getting the better of his teams twice. It’s infuriating because some of the teams he’s had – like United for example – have not been very good in the slightest. Yet some of his sides have found that formula to do us over.
Arteta is a new manager and a new challenge for Mourinho though and my hope is that Arteta has a very clear plan as to how his side overcome them. My hope is that we start fast and make the most of both flanks because Aurier and Davies are both players I think we can get in behind. That’s why I’m also wondering who Arteta will pick at wing back, assuming he continues with three at the back and wing backs, that is. Personally I’d be looking at Tierney on the left and despite his patchy form, I’d be opting for Hector on the right. He knows this fixture well and if he can continue some of the positive forward runs he made against Leicester and Norwich, it will provide a good foil for whoever plays in front of him in that wide right forward position.
I hope it’s Pepe. I’d like to see him let loose on the right hand side, but only if he isn’t isolated, which is why I’m hoping for a Hector Bellerin that will run on the overlap. If Pepe has that kind of runner in front of him and overlapping or underlapping him, then he could get a bit of space with which to drive at the Tittenham back line.
It will be interesting to see if Mourinho reacts to our probably line up by matching us with three at the back. Pochettino did that a couple of times against us and it didn’t always work – like the 4-2- win we had at The Emirates last season – but Mourinho is a master of nullifying opponents and he might see that as a chance to do it.
What we need to do is not lose our heads and go down via yet another red card, nor do we need silly challenges inside the box, because we don’t want to give them any silly advantage. I feel like there’s been too much already this season and in recent years against that lot. Let’s have none of that today please, Arsenal.
Back tomorrow with some thoughts on what transpires today. Cross everything guys.