Sunday, 1 September 2013

Arsenal v Spurs Preview

Today is a very big day for both Arsenal and Spurs as they meet in the first North London derby of the season. Arsenal had a bad start to their season when they lost at home to Villa two weeks ago, but bounced back to beat Fulham and progress past Fenerbahce to the group stages of the Champions League. Spurs have won their first two league games and progressed to the group stages of the Europa League.

There have been contrasting summers for both teams from a squad perspective with Arsenal bringing in two players on free transfers while Spurs have brought in a host of new players at great expense. Of course Arsenal haven't lost any players of importance this summer for a change and Spurs are spending the money they are about to make from the sale of star player Gareth Bale. They have started the season well with Bale, but it's almost impossible to overstate how important he was to them last season. 

Without his solo goals and man of the match displays I have no doubt Spurs would have been no more than a mid table team. How they cope without him this season will be very interesting, but they have certainly strengthened their overall squad in anticipation of his exit. I don't like to say it but their transfer dealings have to be admired as they sought out their targets and followed through to sign as many of them as they could.

Arsenal's lack of transfer action has been a stark contrast and it's hard to believe they entered the summer with any cohesive plan or policy. It looks like any deals they manage to do will go through on the final day despite Arsene Wenger claiming that they wouldn't leave it until the last minute. Hopefully the events of today's game won't have a knee jerk effect on how Arsenal act tomorrow.

The Arsenal team is pretty easy to pick today with so few options available to Arsenal due to their squad size and current injury problems. Players such as Mikael Arteta, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Lukas Podolski and Thomas Vermaelen could all have played a big part in today's game, but cannot play due to various injuries. None of them are expected to be available too soon either which emphasises the importance of the business Arsenal have to do tomorrow.

The injury to Podolski means Santi Cazorla will play on the left of the attacking trio and he will be a loss to the team in that position. I'm not saying he won't be influential in that role, but he makes so much happen in the attacking midfield role that the team misses him when he pushes wide. I still think he could be Arsenal's best player today, but I would be a lot surer of that if he had a more central role which led to more time on the ball. 

Spurs haven't conceded a goal in their first two league games but their only two goals have come from the penalty spot as their team has struggled to create chances with so many new faces and without their talisman Bale. They will have to be up for the fight today as well as up for playing good football and quite a few of their players won't have played in a North London derby before. It will be interesting to see how they react as the game starts at a hectic pace and the tackles go flying in.

In contrast the Arsenal players have all been here before and most of them played in the previous two derbies at the Emirates which Arsenal won 5-2 on both occasions. Neither of those games started well for Arsenal but the team kept paying their football and fought back for great victories. If things don't start well for them today they need to remember how they fared on both of those occasions.

The return of Laurent Koscielny from suspension should help to strengthen the Arsenal defence as long as he pays like he did last season and not in the opening game against Villa. It's important that the midfield in front of him do their defensive duties properly so that he isn't left exposed like he was in that game. If that means both Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere have to play a little deeper well so be it for the good of the team.

Despite Spurs defence looking good so far this season I think Arsenal are going to make chances and what they do with those chances will determine the outcome of the game. If Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud can be at their best in front of goal they will get the chances to earn Arsenal the victory. Despite winning their first two games Spurs will fall behind Arsenal in the table if they lose today's game. 

I'm hoping to see the free flowing attacking football Arsenal showed at Fulham last week and as long as they are up to that task I'm predicting a narrow win for them. I would be surprised if either team kept a clean sheet and it could well be another high scoring game. I have no doubt my nerves will be in shreds as I watch but that's nothing new for an Arsenal fan.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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