Saturday, 18 November 2017

Arsenal v Spurs: NLD Preview

With the international break over its back to serious football and it doesn't get much more serious for Arsenal than the North London derby. Spurs come to the Emirates today with the world and media in love with them and believing they are the greatest thing since sliced bread. If you were to believe all that you could read about them then Arsenal don't have a hope today.

As good as Spurs are supposed to be you would struggle to remember when they last won a trophy and if memory serves me correctly they haven't won a serious trophy in over 20 years. They may have finished second in the Premier League last season, but they were never going to win it and they bottled it the previous season when they actually looked like they had a chance. Even this season they're already eight points behind City at the top of the table and they're not going to win the league.

Of course they are four points ahead of Arsenal, but when you consider how badly our season is supposed to be going that's not an awful lot. Where that gap stands after today is the question though as a defeat for Arsenal would make it seven points, but a win would put them within a point of Spurs. I suppose it's all about expectations and the expectations are for Arsenal to do an awful lot better than Spurs.

Those expectations have been built on the tenure of Arsene Wenger and also on our history stretching back over so many years. We have won the league six times since Spurs last won it and that was thankfully before I was born despite me being in my early fifties. They just don't have the history that we have and they're trying to become the big club we have always been.

Now that we've established that history is on our side we need to get the present on our side too. There is no doubt that Spurs are playing a lot better than us at the moment and have some very good players too. If one report I read yesterday is to be believed Alexis Sanchez is the only player in our team who would get into their team.

When they play well they are a good team, but I can't say I've been overly impressed with them in the league this season. They have struggled at home in particular with so many teams seeming to rise to the occasion when they visit Spurs temporary home of Wembley. Most teams never get a chance to play at Wembley and they seem to be relishing the chance to play there when they get it.

They have a good record away from home though with four wins out of five and only the defeat at United in their last away game to spoil a perfect record. It was their home form which saw them finish above us for the first time in over 20 years last season and if that doesn't improve they might struggle to do so this season. Those four away wins came at Newcastle, Everton, West Ham and Huddersfield and they lost their only serious test in that game at United.

Of course Arsenal's home record this season is second to none with five wins out of five, but again those games weren't against the Premier League high flyers. Today is their first real test at home and it's a huge game for both clubs. I think it's an even bigger game for Arsenal because they are at home and they really need to take all three points.

A draw wouldn't be a bad result on the face of it, but a win would put us only one point behind them despite them being the greatest team ever. It would also put us right back in the fight for a top four place and with City already so far ahead of everyone else all places right up to second are there to play for. If our confidence is to improve this is the sort of game we need to win and win well.

It's been a while since Arsenal came out in a home game and blew the opposition away, but the home wins against Chelsea and United in the last couple of seasons are the performances we are looking for today. We can't approach this game in a half hearted manner and hand Spurs a lead before we realise we have to raise the level of our game. That seeems to happen far too often for my liking and every player has to be totally switched on from the first minute today.

Having said that the manager has to get his team selection right and that has to start with Alexandre Lacazette being in the starting 11. I still cannot understand how our record signing, top scorer and first choice striker could be left on the bench away to both Liverpool and City. If we're going to win games we need to score goals and usually playing your best players is a huge help.

I don't think we will see too many surprises in the team today and I would be very surprised if the manager abandoned his favored three central defenders. Personally I would prefer to see an extra man in midfield to protect the defence and try to gain some supremacy in an area where we have struggled this season. We give the ball away in front of our defence far too often and Spurs have all the tools to benefit if we do that today.

We have players who can hurt them too and maybe it's time for Alexis and Mesut Ozil to step up and let their seasons really kick off. Besides the 5-2 win at Everton we haven't really clicked in attack, but the two of them along with Lacazette are more than capable of making and scoring the goals to beat any team. We need big games from Alexis and Ozil because we just haven't got the best out of them so far this season. 

As always the first goal will be crucial and it could go badly for us if Spurs score first. If we leave ourselves open at the back they have the tools to take advantage of us and we have to do all we can to make sure they don't score first. If it means playing clever and taking one for the team then it's something we have to do because they are so good at doing just that.

We've already seen other teams like City in our last game using rotational fouling on Alexis and Ozil to stop us before an attack gets going and Spurs are the kings of rotational fouling. It's not a pretty part of the game, but it's a realistic approach we don't seem to adopt often enough. I would gladly take a red card and suspension to follow for any of our players if it's in the cause of a victory.

If we're going to do that our decision making in attacking positions has to improve. We all know Alexis will give the ball away ad nauseam, but against City both Aaron Ramsey and Alex Iwobi kept making the wrong decisions at crucial times. When we have the chance to get in behind the opposition players need to make quicker decisions at those crucial moments.

For some strange reason I'm not overly worried about today and I have a feeling we're at least not going to lose. If we play as well as we are capable of I think we can win and I hope it can be a catalyst for the rest of the season if we do. 

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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