Saturday, 17 November 2012

Arsenal's Premier League Game With Spurs Previewed

Arsenal play at home to Spurs today in what is an absolute must win game for them. They have had their worst start to a league campaign in 30 years and things quite simply have to improve. It's hard to imagine that Arsenal are in a worse league position than they were at this time last season after the way last season started.

They managed to turn things around last season though and this season has taken a nosedive after a promising start. It was all going quite well up until the October international break, but since then things have deteriorated rapidly. Hopefully the mini international break in midweek can have the opposite effect to the last one.

It's hard to fathom where things have gone wrong but they most certainly have. At first Arsenal couldn't create a scoring chance but their defence was holding fairly solid at least. Over the last few weeks the goals have come again, but the defence has looked as vulnerable as it did last season.

The omission of Andre Santos from the team did nothing to improve the defence as Thomas Vermaelen replaced him at left back. Vermaelen hasn't being exactly setting the world alight with his defending either, but his position as captain has kept him in the team. With Kieran Gibbs injured yet again maybe it is time Arsene Wenger looked for a top class left back who can stay fit.

Spurs don't exactly come into the game in a great vein of form either. They have lost three of their last four league games and they need a result to stop their slide too. They would love to do that at the home of their fiercest rivals.

There have been loads of comparisons made with the same fixture last season when Arsenal managed to turn their season around with a magnificent 5-2 victory. That was a remarkable day and a remarkable game with Spurs racing into a two goal lead before Arsenal took them apart. Some more of the spirit shown on that day by Arsenal would go a long way towards getting the result they need today.

In terms of team selection there are a few questions still to be answered with some players facing fitness tests before their fate will be decided. Hopefully Wojciech Szczesny and Theo Walcott can recover in time to play and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain can at least take a place on the bench. Arsenal will need every single player they have available to them to give them as many choices as possible.

I have no doubt that Jack Wilshere will return to the team after his one game ban for the red card he received against United. He still has a fair way to go to get back to his best after 17 months out injured, but he has a lot to offer to the team as he regains his touch and form. I have no doubt he will be up for this game and he knows how much it means to each and every Arsenal fan.

One of the few positives from the 3-3 draw with Fulhm last week was the performance of Olivier Giroud and the two goals he scored. He should start again today and hopefully he can inflict some real pain on the Spurs defence. He still hasn't had a proper run of games in the team since the start of the season, but last week's performance has to buy him some time to show what he can do.

Ideally I would like to see Bacary Sagna shift to left back and Carl Jenkinson play at right back, but I can't see the defence changing from last week. United recently showed the way to stop Arsenal is to mark Mikael Arteta tightly and not allow him time and space to start Arsenal playing any flowing football. If Spurs employ that tactic today the boss has to find a way to counter it.

All too often Arsenal continue to try to play as they have set up for a game regardless how things are going on the pitch until it is too late. The boss has to be able to react to whatever might be going wrong nd rectify it for the good of the team.

If the Arsenal midfield can get their game together they are good enough to dominate Spurs and control the game. They need to find some real pace to their game though and impose themselves on Spurs. The players need to play with the passion which the fans will have as they support them.

One of the biggest threats to Arsenal will of course be Gareth Bale and he is a player who has to be watched closely. The referee needs to watch him closely too and realise if he goes to ground with both legs going in opposite directions it's yet another dive from him. He got Spurs a penalty in this fixture last season by doing so and he's been very fond of doing it since then.

What better way for Arsenl to kickstart their season again than to do so with a resounding victory over Spurs. If the players can find the passion and intensity needed on the day I believe they can take all three points, but it won't be easy. I'm predicting a 3-2 win for Arsenal and a very close game full of highs and lows.

I would take any sort of win though and it doesn't matter who gets the goals once Arsenal score more than Spurs.  

Here's the highlights from last season's fantastic 5-2 victory over Spurs.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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