Nothing better than the buzz of a big derby day to get you up early in the morning! Yes, I may be 6500 miles away from where the action is really taking place, but as an Arsenal fan, I know all about the ferocity of the North London derby, which never really ceases to intrigue and delight in equal measure.
Last season’s 5-2 was one of the most memorable Arsenal games I have watched, while events of 2 years back, when we lost 3-2 at the Emirates, after leading 2-0, remain in my memory for various reasons. It is the kind of game with a real ebb and flow, and form is never a factor. Both sides know the scale of the task in hand and stick to it, and it has been the Gunners who hold the upper hand in this tie, despite Sp*rs coming out on top a few times over the last couple of years.
First things first. Last week’s draw against Fulham did leave a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. We should really have won it right at the end, but didn’t, but overall, credit to Fulham, because they did not deserve to lose. The entire defence has been poor over the last few weeks, and despite all the talks about Steve Bould having a lot to do, with the early season solidity, it all seems to have gone downhill a bit, hasn’t it.
The left-back slot has been very problematic so far, and every team we faced looks to exploit that very weakness. First, it was Schalke with the pacy Farfan, and QPR tried to do it with Hoillett and Wright-Phillips. Manchester United used Rafael and Valencia to good effect again, Schalke used Farfan again, and even all of Fulham’s goals came from attacks from that very flank.
Arsenal’s problems also to some extent lie with midfield, and also to some extent in attack. It seems a perplexing situation, when the defence is performing well, the strikers aren’t and not winning games, whereas when the strikers are actually scoring, the defence looks shockingly complacent.
It is this very complacency, that needs to be shunned, as we enter a crucial winter phase of the season. With games coming thick and fast, errors need to be reduced, and chances need to be capitalized. Speaking of which, one man who took nearly all his chances against Fulham was Olivier Giroud, who slowly seems to be getting a hang of Arsenal. He has scored 4 goals in his last 4 games, all headers.
And, the stats suggest that Giroud is not typically strong with his head, scoring only 1 of his 21 goals from his head last season, as he helped Montpellier to the French league title. Suggestion would be he can get only better and better as games progress, and he certainly seems to be gelling with Theo Walcott and Lukas Podolski, who are providing him with the service he desires. The handsome French bloke had this to say,
I never doubted my abilities. It’s just that I missed these small goals that would make me gradually gain confidence. I’m glad to prove myself to the English, who have been very patient with me. They make me confident.Theo (Walcott) was instrumental. He made two decisive passes. I get along very well with him. There are other players with whom it works well but especially him. He begins to know me and so too does Bacary (Sagna).I have more affinity with the right side for the moment because there have been changes on the left side. That being said, Lukas (Podolski) knows me well.When the ball is centred, I’ve more opportunity to show for it. It’s not just in front of goal, in my general participation in the game, I feel better and better.
The short-tall partnership of Walcott and Giroud looks to be working out very well. Walcott’s pace and guile and ability to beat defenders and Giroud’s aerial and physical abilities, have added an extra dimension to Arsenal’s attacking play.
With Walcott yet to agree a new deal with Arsenal, and with Arsene Wenger marking the end of the year as the deadline for this to be sorted, it will be interesting to watch how things pan out. Stupid reports have emerged recently, that Arsenal could offer Walcott in exchange for Sterling and £8million!
In other news, Emmanuel Frimpong has quashed recent rumors that he could be on his way out of the Emirates, after some reports that the club is unhappy over his progress. He has however stated his intent to move away on loan, to gain some valuable experience, which will be beneficial on the long term.
Last season, his loan at Wolves was cut short due to injury, and the Midlands club looks the most likely destination for the battling Ghanaian midfielder to continue his footballing education. Wolves fans took to the maverick player quickly, and the club are keen on taking him in January, based on his fitness and progress.
Carl Jenkinson, meanwhile has been doing some steady progress himself, and he has been rewarded with a 5 year contract , which was signed with no hassles. A time when loyalty matter little in football these days, Jenkinson and Wilshere hope to have long careers with the club they supported as kids. Jack Wilshere admitted he was living a dream, playing for the Gunners.
To have my family 20 minutes from the training ground and an hour from the stadium is perfect for me. Cesc wanted to go home. Home for me is Arsenal. Cesc wanted to go back to his family and friends. My family and friends are 20 minutes away. It’s perfect.I’ve played 39 games in the Premier League, which is nothing when you look at players like Tony Adams and how many appearances they made. That’s something I want to do.Our ambition every year is to challenge for the Premier League title. If we didn’t think we could do that, we would be under-achieving.People might say we’re a long way off — and the table doesn’t lie, we are a few points behind — but we know what we have to do.We know we can’t afford to drop points. We know we need to be in the top four. We know we need to win a trophy and get in the Champions League again.We do it every year and there’s no reason why we can’t do it again.
He also spoke in gleaming words for fellow teammate Carl Jenkinson.
I’m delighted for him,It’s clear for everyone to see how much of an improvement has been made. He came to the Club playing barely any games for Charlton and it was a big step for him. He’s got a great character and he’s a great lad to have around. He’d run through a brick wall for you.To have him in your team and even in the dressing room is great and I’m delighted for him and his family. I know his dad will be delighted. It’s a good story and hopefully now he can get his place in the England squad and be a regular.
Finally, if you are interested, there goes Ivan Gazidis again with his crap about Financial Fair Play, commercial deals, and Arsenal’s long term future.
Right, team news then. The meaningless friendlies in midweek, mean a lot of Arsenal players return to training, weary, jaded and jetlagged, none more so than Santi Cazorla, you may feel, who travelled to Central America, warmed a bench and returned back. The Spaniard has looked tired and out of ideas in recent weeks, and surely this will be detrimental to his preparation. However, he is expected to start, being the most creative player in midfield.
Mikel Arteta has picked up a minor hip injury, and faces fitness tests. Olivier Giroud, who played in France’s 2-1 win over Italy, also faces some calf and hamstring issues, also will face fitness tests. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Wojciech Szczesny are however available for selection. Chamberlain was out for 3 weeks before getting some game time as a substitute against Fulham. Szczesny has been out for the better part of a month.
Theo Walcott, who had muscle problems in the Fulham match, and Bacary Sagna are the other who also will face fitness tests. Koscielny and Mertesacker played the full 90 minutes of their games against Italy and Holland respectively. However, both are expected to start. Thomas Vermaelen, who pulled out of the Belgium squad, will start at left-back.
Rosicky, Diaby and Gibbs still remain long term absentees according to the manager. However, recent rumours are that Rosicky could be on the bench. The Czech midfielder literally orchestrated the 5-2 win last season. Diaby is perennially 3 weeks away. Gervinho is atleast a week away from fitness
Sp*rs have some major injury concerns of their own. Moussa Dembele, the new Belgian signing from Fulham, is out. Kyle Walker and Aaron Lennon, all of whom had injury problems last week against Manchester City are expected to be fit in time for the game. Jermain Defoe, rested last week, due to fatigue, will vie for a starting spot with the cuntish Emmanuel Greedybayor. Also out for the cunts are Scott Parker, Younes Kaboul and Benoit Assou Ekoto.
I expect the two teams to line up like this.
It will be a very interesting battle in midfield. Huddlestone and Sandro are physical midfielders, with Sandro assuming the football pitch as a boxing ring, with his ridiculous teeth guards. Clint Dempsey hasn’t really had the influence he wished he had, so far at Sp*rs, but AVB is willing to give the American midfielder time.
I feel Jermain Defoe will be preffered to Emmanuel Greedybayor, due to his fine goalscoring nick of late. Arsenal will have to watch out for the dangerous pace of Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon on the wings.
Attacking wise, if Arsenal can win the midfield battle, it will be a big boost for the Gunners, because there are frailties in the Sp*rs defence. Vertonghen has settled in quickly, but the defence overall can look shaky. Steven Caulker looks one for the future, while Gallas and Friedel bring immense Premier League experience.
All in all, it will be another feisty North London derby. On the 125th anniversary of the first NLD, which Sp*rs incidentally won, the question of losing doesn’t arise for the Gunners. A win is a must, in a match that is expected be of epic proportions.
All the players out there should know the magnitude of the game and the rivalry. Be proud of the gun on the chest and make North London a red territory. It is ours for the taking. Show some guts, some passion and just get the 3 points for fuck’s sake!
Enjoy the game wherever you are!
Jai Arsenal 🙂
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