February 26, 2012
How did you sleep last night?
Me? Not great. Thanks for asking though. My neck and arms ache from the balled up tension in my back and there’s a permanently sick feeling in my stomach. Judging from all this evidence there’s a fairly good chance it might be NLD day.
Obviously I’m not a fan of the North London derby at the best of times. I feel sick and nervous even when I’m relatively confident. Even in the 13 years out of the last 15 that we’ve had a clearly superior side to that lot I know that we’re almost certain to make life difficult for ourselves one way or another.
‘Form goes out of the window on derby day’. That’s the well worn cliche that radio reporters and Sky Sports ‘analysts’ are paid handsome sums to remind us on days like this. And maybe today that should be a source of comfort. Well it’s not working.
We all know how huge this one is. Chelsea’s easy win yesterday puts them back into fourth by three clear points and three clear goals. We need to keep pace with them . Spurs meanwhile lie ten points ahead of us and while the chances of us catching them anyway this year may be remote, if they go thirteen clear those chances will become officially miniscule.
Pick up a win however and it’s seven points and game on for what would be a newly confident and rejuvenated squad.
There’s also the not insignificant factor of Spurs’ title challenge. Harry Redknapp may have claimed in his pre-match guff that all he cares about is finishing above Arsenal this season (classy and triffically ambitious. Big club attitude that.) but they’re still in that race. If we could beat them today then they go ten points behind City and that would potentially knock the stuffing out of their push. And yes, I know it’s a bit small and pathetic to rely on getting kicks out of spoiling their season but hey, that’s where we are this year. I don’t like it but I’m taking whatever I can get.
Surprise, surprise, the injury news has not been kind to us. Earlier in the week Spurs were trying to make out they would be without Modric, Van De Vaart, Adebayor and others. It’s not the case. They’re all back and ready to go. Arsenal meanwhile still haven’t announced anything regarding the fitness of Koscielny and Gibbs. It sounded as though the former was the more likely to make it but it’s impossible to say until that team-sheet is released. Needless to say, that’s a big one.
Elsewhere the big decisions are who slots in for Ramsey and Theo Vs The Ox on that right hand side. The most likely option is that Rosicky goes in the middle but the winger decision is more of a conundrum. The Ox has been quieter in his last couple of outings and obviously Theo has the more experience so I think he’ll go for Walcott. In what’s likely to be a fairly open game Theo should find more space than usual and that could be key. If he can get in behind then he can cause problems. Also, with the pace of Assou-Ekotto and Bale down their left it would make sense to try to match it and keep Bale’s hands full with the defensive side of his game.
Obviously, regular readers will know that I’d play The Ox too. Have Arteta and Song as deep lying midfielders and put Oxlade in the hole behind Van Persie. I think his exuberance and energy would be useful in the middle today, not to mention his ability to create. It would be a bold move and potentially an unsettling one for our rivals but I’d be pretty shocked if it happened.
So the team should look something like this:
Bac – Dj – Kos – Verm
Arteta – Song – Rosicky
Theo – RVP – Gerv
There’s not a lot to bring off the bench to change things up so all of that lot need to be on their game. The players know how much this one means so any sign of lack of effort is unthinkable. The captain has been leading from the front:
The last couple of games have just not been good enough. And I personally feel responsible for this as the captain of the team.
As players, we also need to look within ourselves for the solutions. We owe it to our manager and — even more — to our fans.
We need to start right now and we have the very, very best of incentives. It’s Tottenham at the Emirates and it doesn’t come any better than that.
With stories flying about this morning of £150, 000 a week contract offers, Robin has reiterated that he’s not going to even think about his next move until the end of the season. And I can understand that. Not because as he claims he needs to focus solely on his training and the next game, but because until the end of the season he won’t know what he’s signing up to. A club in the Champions League with the means to bring in players who match his ambition, or a club out of Europe entirely and lacking the funds to rebuild. Today could have a huge bearing on so many things.
The fans will play their part as ever. Our home form has been slightly better than our away form and if there’s one thing to get that Emirates crowd shouting it should be the arrival of that lot. But these things run two ways. If the team can come out swinging right from the off today that will get the crowd going. And if the crowd gets going Spurs will know they’ve got a game on their hands. And if doubts creep in to their legs then we need to feed on that and take advantage.
Even in the stinkiest seasons there are always big moments that you can look back on with warmth and fondness. Today we’ve got a chance to create one of those. Those smug Spurs fans wearing their newly discovered team shirt on the high street this year are loving their new role as top dogs. It’s time to bring them down a couple of pegs.
Right. Can’t stop. I’ve got to try and force down some breakfast and get myself down to the ground.
Come on you Gunners!!
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