I think it’s fair to say that NLD’s, especially NLD’s where we have a week to think about them, carry that little bit extra significance in the hearts of Arsenal fans. Not only are they matches against our closest rivals, but once again this year Arsenal find themselves all but out of trophy competitions and scrapping with both London rivals, Tottenham and Chelsea, for the coveted Champions League spot. As we know, a place in the top four has not guaranteed every team rights to play in the Champions League (just ask our hosts for Sunday’s game about that), but this year it is conceivable that there might be space for both North London teams in the pot! Of course such a statement is blasphemy, who could want Spurs to get another sniff of Europe’s elite competition? For starters it just wouldn’t make it as ‘elite’! So Sunday’s game provides us with two glorious chances; one to regain our rightful place above Spurs in the League, and two, to begin their slide out of a competition they, and their ginger bearded manager, dream of entering. Ironically, AVB is the tenth manager at Spurs since Wenger came to the helm. They don’t seem to learn do they? With us today for this preview is a Spurs fan, boooooooooo, and the usual Gooner gang. Enjoy!
Tom S 08.16
Arsenal have developed a habit recently of knocking 5 past the Hotspurs and a repeat on Sunday would be the perfect remedy for recent disappointments against Blackburn and Bayern. Villa was a tense game; the pressure on the players was huge after back-to-back defeats and they could have easily capitulated under the scrutiny. A win was absolutely vital, not just in terms of keeping in touch with Chelsea and Spurs on points, but also for the morale of the team heading into possibly the most decisive period of the season. If Arsenal had surrendered points against the Brummies there would have been a media frenzy, panic among the fans, uncertainty among the players and even more pressure on Sunday’s game. Luckily a certain little Spaniard was on hand to make sure Arsenal had a somewhat more peaceful week of preparation!
This Tottenham team, meanwhile, are not to be trifled with. Coming off the back of 5 successive defeats at the hands of the Gooners they will be out for payback and with Bale finding that once in a lifetime form, the defence will need to be sharper than they have been for a while. Sagna has struggled for consistency since Christmas, although it is still a shame to miss his battling spirit for this one! There is pace a plenty in the spurs attack and AVB has got them playing flowing football especially on the counter. While the Lane may not be the most raucous arena there is always an added tension on Derby day, especially if Arsenal make their “soon to be trademarked” slow start. An early goal for the travellers will dampen the atmosphere and settle the nerves and I would back Carzola to be the man to strike! An interesting side story may come in the simmering rivalry between Walcott and Bale. Whilst an adamant Arsene insists he picked the right man, the rest of the country would seem to disagree. Bale would seem to as well, after scoring more goals against Arsenal than any other team. Could this inspire Theo into a stellar performance? We live in hope.
A win will take us one point behind the Spuds and with Chelsea’s form taking a Benitez-assisted dip, we could quite possibly get into third before long. Wenger may have been a little ambitious with talks of overtaking City, but with the league now our only focus, third should be our target (aim for the moon to fall in the stars etc.) I found it slightly strange feeling happy to see a Dembele strike keep Tottenham in the Europa, as whilst their attention is wandering there is an opportunity for slip ups and that could just be the difference come the end of the season.
Confidence is key this weekend and I’m throwing my support behind the boys. Score prediction? 5-2! Obviously!
Let’s paint the town RED . . . No actually!
Touchline Tom 09.14
Well as Abou Diaby came out and said this week, the NLD is ‘more than just a game’. Quite what chance he has of staying fit if that is the case I don’t know, but he certainly understands the importance of this for us fans. Without another game until Bayern, a lull of that kind after a defeat is unthinkable. Almost as unthinkable as Bale not throwing himself to the floor at some point on Sunday.
I like that you flag up Cazorla though. Of the 33 North London Derbies, we have only lost four. A large reason for that has been that extra bit of quality our squad has possessed in the final third. You think of players like Henry and Bergkamp who loved this fixture and scored many crucial goals. It might be worth congratulating the Dutchman at this point for the statue of him which is to be erected outside the stadium. Quite what it will be I don’t want to say, only that the picture below will give you some clue. Returning to the game though, you fancy Cazorla to be the man who could provide something special. We all know Bale can run and shoot, but Cazorla’s ability to get in behind the lines and free up space for a pass may be crucial on a tight pitch.
At this point I think it might be interesting to get a snippet from a Spurs fan. Heck knows we all need a laugh in times like this! Take it away Mark.
Mental Mark 09.53
Well here it goes, let’s hope I make it out of this one alive! I can certainly see it being a tight game. Bale has been winning us games single-handedly at the moment and the progress he has made these last 3 months has been unreal. He will know doubt be marked closely by Arteta. Dembele also been a revelation this season and has stepped in well with Modric going. Although he’s had a shocker of a season, Adebayor is bound to have an impact given the nature of the game! He’s got a lot of making up to do after the shambles at the emirates. He has scored ten goals in this fixture already!
If we win, we open up a 7 point gap on you which would put us out of reach in my opinion. Look at last year, when you beat us at your place we were 10 points clear at a similar stage in the season but our heads dropped and confidence got shot to bits! Not to mention ‘Arry and england and the effect that had! I just can’t see AVB letting lightning strike twice.
I’m going to go for a 2-1 spurs win like last season’s game. That is only if we defend properly (although you’ve got your own well-documented defensive problems!). I certainly can’t wait to see Bale swinging corners into that zonal marking shambles you have going on at the minute. There is a lot of height in this Spurs side and Arsenal players need to make sure their heads are on the end those deliveries! Whilst I think AVB is a breath of fresh air, his high defensive line has cost us dear this season and I fear that if the right cb’s are not chosen we could see a repeat of the 5-2 game! But if he sticks Dawson and Vertonghen in there we’ll be fine and open that gap up beyond repair!
Well that just goes to show how delusional some Spurs fans can be! Jokes aside, thanks Mark for your input. I am sure many of us are slightly worried of Bale’s deliveries. I know some of the Arsenal players who take corners could learn a thing or two from him at this minute!
After a mixed couple of weeks we go into this one a little edgy, but it doesn’t need repeating that in these derby games form very much goes out the window. I guess I just did repeat that! If we can use Walcott’s pace in behind and Cazorla and Wilshere can make things tick in midfield, we should get the points. For me Diaby has to start IF fit, just to add that height and physical presence, even if it’s just for half an hour before he’s got his feet up on the treatment table. A player I would like to see out there too is our Czech mate Rosicky, whose experience and quality could be a vital asset in the run in. We can’t allow the Spuds to peel away in the race for fourth. Spurs have looked a better team under AVB with a few good signings here and there. With no Sagna for the derby, Jenkinson will be left with the task of trying to shackle the in-form Gareth Bale. He is on fire at the moment and we just can’t allow him any time and space. Another player looking the part and a player we should have gone for is Hugo Lloris who is playing brilliantly and could have been a good mentor to the error prone Szczesny in the Arsenal team. But of course Wenger knows best and will need a few tricks up his sleeve to out fox, the fox himself (AVB) this weekend!
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