Saturday, 5 November 2016

Arsenal v Spurs Preview

Things are going very well for Arsenal at the moment as they sit level with the leaders in the Premier League and have already qualified for the last 16 of the Champions League with two group games to spare. They are unbeaten since losing at home to Liverpool on the opening day with an understrength team and their usual injury curse hasn't kicked in yet even if there are a few players out. The pressure is about to ratchet up considerably though and that starts with tomorrow's game at home to Spurs.

On the face of it 23 points from 10 league games is a very good return, but we have to remember that Arsenal have had a very good run of away games so far. They drew at last season's champions Leicester, but the other four teams they have beaten are hardly world beaters. Hull, Burnley and Sunderland will all be very happy just to avoid the drop while Watford would probably be quite happy to finish comfortably in mid-table. When it came to the crunch last season we had a much tougher set of away fixtures in the second half of the season. 

On the other hand we have already dropped three points at home to Liverpool and struggling Middlesbrough managed to get a point at the Emirates too. We only just scraped past both Swansea and Southampton and our only convincing home display was when we beat Chelsea 3-0. As good as we might think we are there's an awful lot more work to do to stay in the title race.

We still have to visit every single one of the teams who will be challenging for the title while after tomorrow we will have played three of them at home. If we're going to keep pace at the top and build the confidence needed to mount a serious challenge I think nothing less than three points against Spurs is a necessity. We have looked very vulnerable in defence far too often this season and we're up against a Spurs team who have the best defensive record in the league.

We cannot defend like we did at home to Swansea and Liverpool or away to Ludogorets and PSG and expect not to pay a price for it. Spurs might be struggling to score goals, but they are the only unbeaten team in the league and we will have to be at our best from first minute to last to get the upper hand. We certainly have the flair players to cause any team real trouble and Arsene Wenger has to pick the right team to get about Spurs and beat them.

I'm hoping Santi Cazorla and Hector Bellerin will return from injury in time to play as they are both very important to our tempo in a game. Up front I think Alexis Sanchez must start as the central striker with Theo Walcott (if he's fit) and Alex Iwobi either side of him with Olivier Giroud as an option from the bench if needed. Who plays alongside Cazorla (if he's fit) is the big question and I think I might just prefer to see Mohamed Elneny get the nod.

I know it's probably a straight call between Francis Coquelin and Granit Xhaka, but I would be worried about the ability of either of them to last the 90 minutes without getting a red card. Maybe Coquelin will start and be replaced by Xhaka for the final 30 minutes and that might just rid us of the fear of a red card. It's going to be a very competitive game in midfield with tackles flying in and we need to insure we have the full compliment for the full game.

Since beating City a while back Spurs haven't won a game or scored a goal from open play. They will possibly have Harry Kane back from injury, but he will hardly be match fit and their confidence will not be high. Leverkusen showed on Wednesday night that they will make defensive mistakes if they are closed down and that's something we need to do.

I don't think for one second that Spurs have the ability or the mental strength to go through a whole season unbeaten as Arsenal did in 2003/04. It would be very nice if we could be the ones to end their unbeaten start to the season and maintain our sole Invincible status yet again. Of course we have so many reasons to want to beat them and yet another one is for us to go top of the league after City failed to beat Middlesbrough.

Spurs are going through a slump and will be vulnerable and there is no better time to put them in their place. In Mesut Ozil and Sanchez we have two players who should be the envy of every Premier League club and I think they will be the difference come full time. I'm hoping for a perfect day for Arsenal which will see us put Spurs in their rightful place (our shadow) and see us go top of the league before the international break too.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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