It’s started already. As I tap away at my Macbook the time has only just ticked over to 8am in the morning and I’m already feeling those North London Derby day butterflies. The visit of the Scum at the carpet later on this afternoon and I’m already a bit of a nervous wreck.
I don’t like this feeling at all. I don’t like NLDs at all. But they come around twice a season and you just have to deal with them. I know the feeling is amazing when we win, I love it even more when we win, but any pre game build up I always find horrendous as my nerves set in and jangle away at me.
We have to win today. For this project Arteta is delivering to be a success, there has to be a moment in which it all ‘clicks’ and if that isn’t via a win and three points today, then when is it? He has said himself that this group is a new group, but a group he wants, has forged and accepts are his players. He has the raw materials with which to create what he will see in his head as his masterpiece, so now it is up to him to deliver, and deliverance must be today, in the first proper test since the ‘restart’ of the season.
So, how are we going to beat Tottenham today then, huh?
Well firstly we’re going to need to nullify Kane, Son and Ndombele, who have been their main men historically or in Ndombele’s case since Nuno took over. Ndombele is the drive in that midfield and has the ability and athleticism to drive Tottenham through the middle of the pitch. But he can also be got at if he can be caught out in possession in their own half. That’s how Wolves approached the game in midweek and there’s one instance – I think it might have led to one of their goals, in which he loses possession deep in the Spurs half and Wolves hit Tottenham when they aren’t set up in their shape. If we can press high and win the ball back off Ndombele, we can create chances, which is why I’m wondering if one of Smith Rowe or Odegaard will be detailed to press him when we are out of possession.
Then we move to Son, who will play wide left in a 4-3-3 and will look to find space In behind to run in to on the counter. That’s where Tomiyasu must have a good game today and this will be his first real test against one of the league’s best wide forwards. Son has pace, he has movements and he can finish. He’s a sly and snidey little sh*t too so Tomiyasu needs to be well aware of that and the threat that he poses. The good news is that Tomiyasu looks like the robust kind of player who can handle Son – at least from a one-on-one duel and so balls over the top will hopefully be cut out and let’s hope he has the pace to catch Son when the ball does come to him with space in front of him.
Then finally the biggest threat they have is Harry Kane, who absolutely will score against us today, because he’s been in such dire form. No Premier League goals, barely registered any shots in the league this season, looking like a forlorn figure at times, Kane always scores in the derby and I’m expecting no different today. Which means to win to win today we need to score as many as we have all season, or probably three I’d imagine, which again might be tough because we have found ourselves rather blunt in the final third this season and Tottenham under Nuno will set up to be difficult to break down. It wouldn’t even surprise me if he reprises his three at the back he used at Wolves. If he does that it changes the game completely and means we have to watch their wing backs Reguillion and Emerson Royal, because a back three will give them licence to roam more and mean the flanks are where the contest is won. Nuno hasn’t played that way all season against them but after last weekend’s humbling at home to Chelski, I just wonder if he shifts his direction completely. If he does, will that stump Arteta, or does he have the wherewithal to adapt his approach to nullify them?
That’s what we’re about to find out.
These games are always tough and often decided on moments of insanity or genius. A sending off here, a penalty there, so stupidity is not what we need from a man in red and white on the pitch today. The first thing I’m sure you’re therefore thinking is whether Xhaka starts today but you and I both know that he will. He is one of Arteta’s generals and he loves picking Xhaka, so I expect a midfield double pivot of Xhaka and Partey to start the game. I think the back five has to stay the same so it then becomes a question of who plays in the front four. Aubameyang will start and with the way Arteta prised Auba’s running last weekend – despite not get much action on goal at Burnley – says to me that he will start the Gabonese. But who plays behind is interesting. We have four players he can choose from in Pepe, Smith Rowe, Saka and Odegaard. I think the latter two will 100% start, so it is then up to the manager whether he gos Smith Rowe or Pepe. I’d go Smith Rowe and put him out wide left. In the 2-1 win at home last season Smith Rowe linked up well with Tierney and I think that could be a good partnership to take on and pin back Emerson Royal at right back. Plus it means Saka moves back to the wide right position and I think that is a position in which her is better suited anyway. Pepe is an end-product merchant and has already been involved in one of our goals this season, so perhaps it is harsh on him, but I just think that line up gives us a better balance against what will be a tough and difficult to break down Tottenham team.
If you’re going today then make sure you sing up with me, because we’re going to need every voice to cheer the boys on later, I reckon.
Ok, time for some sausages and then we move. We’re Islington bound.
Catch you all tomorrow.,