Arsenal host local rivals Tottenham tomorrow afternoon in the first North London Derby of the season. Arsenal will be looking to continue their recent good form, having beaten Fenerbahce twice and Fulham as well after a disappointing defeat at home to Aston Villa on the opening day of the season.
Team News: Arsenal have been boosted by the return of Laurent Koscielny, who will return from a suspension following his red card against Aston Villa. As well as this, he was dealing with a head injury suffered in the first leg of the Fenerbahce qualifier. With Koscielny back, it is expected that he will partner Per Mertesacker in central defence and Bacary Sagna will shift to his favoured position of right-back.
Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere have been passed fit to play after suffering knocks in Tuesday’s win over Fenerbahce. With Aaron Ramsey in such fine form, that will be a huge lift for the Arsenal players. Wilshere will be up for the derby as always, it is important that he keeps his cool in this one.
That’s the good news out the way. Lukas Podolski is out for up to 10 weeks with a hamstring injury suffered in midweek and both Mikel Arteta and Thomas Vermaelen remain out too. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is also out after suffering a knee injury against Aston Villa earlier this month. Abou Diaby remains a long-term absentee.
Mathieu Flamini is available and will be likely to at least make the bench after rejoining the club earlier this week.
Gareth Bale is on the verge of completing a move to Real Madrid, that deal is expected to be announced very soon and will definitely be done before the transfer deadline it seems. Aaron Lennon is a doubt for this clash due to a foot injury and former Gunner Emmanuel Adebayor, sent off in this fixture last season, will miss the game against his former club due to lacking match fitness. Benoit Assou-Ekotto is out of this game too for the same reason.
Tottenham are set to lose their best player from last season to Real Madrid, but they have prepared for Gareth Bale’s departure in advance and have signed 7 players so far, smashing their transfer record three times already in this one transfer window. They have started the season well with two wins from two and also two comfortable wins in the Europa League against Dinamo Tbilisi.
Compare that to Arsenal, who qualified for the Champions League after finishing above Spurs last season, but have spent no money to date and signed just Yaya Sanogo and Mathieu Flamini on free transfers. Arsene Wenger has claimed their will be players coming in between now and the transfer deadline, but time is definitely not on our side, with just a couple of days to go.
The situation reminds me a little of two years ago, when Arsenal lost both Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri, but had to wait until late August to seal their qualification to the Champions League group stages. After progressing through to the groups, Arsenal signed Park Chu-Young, Andre Santos, Per Mertesacker, Yossi Benayoun and Mikel Arteta just before the transfer deadline. Arsenal had signed Gervinho, Carl Jenkinson and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (as well as Joel Campbell, who still hasn’t played for us yet) earlier that summer, which at the moment beats just Sanogo and Flamini. There are just two players that remain from that deadline day panic. Even Gervinho has left the club now!.
The transfer window is for after the Tottenham game. I can’t see anyone coming in beforehand and even if they did, they wouldn’t be able to play against Spurs because the registration window has closed for this game.
All that matters is that Arsenal get the job done on Sunday with the players that they have available. Anything can happen in a North London Derby. As we have seen quite a lot in this clash before, red cards can change the outcome of a game.
Last year, Emmanuel Adebayor was sent off at the Emirates with Tottenham in control and 1-0 up. Adebayor had put his side ahead but his red card for a late challenge on Santi Cazorla changed the game completely. The crowd got a lift from his dismissal and six minutes later, Per Mertesacker levelled the scores. Goals from Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud followed to give Arsenal a comfortable lead at the break. Santi Cazorla added to the lead on the hour mark before Gareth Bale pulled one back for the visitors. Theo Walcott put the icing on the cake in stoppage time and Arsenal beat Tottenham 5-2 for the second game in a row.
The last two derbies at the Emirates have followed very similar patterns. Tottenham hit the self destruct button. In February 2012 they were also in control, 2-0 up and cruising, before blowing that lead before half time. Arsenal scored three goals in the second half that day to begin their revival in the Premier League that season. Then last November’s game, as highlighted above, saw Tottenham throw a great chance to win at Arsenal away again. It seems to me as though once they get in front, they almost get scared in a way, so much so that they just end up bottling it. If you remember a few years ago when Tottenham actually did win at Arsenal, they came from behind to do so, trailing 2-0 to come back and win the game 3-2. I’m not saying Spurs will want to give us a two goal advantage, but clearly having a lead in recent years hasn’t helped them!.
It makes you wonder… Arsenal finished above Spurs by a point last year. Had Adebayor not got sent off at the Emirates, would Arsenal have still won that game?. You never know, you can’t go back and look at these things. Of course I am glad that he got himself sent off because it helped the game go in our favour, but it’s certainly an interesting thought.
Mind the gap? - There have been many jokes between both sets of fans about ‘Minding the gap’ in recent years. This all came from Tottenham fans starting to print shirts with the famous London Underground warning to passengers on it and creating photos, posting them all over the internet when Spurs had a huge points advantage over the Gunners in 2011/12. Of course, Arsenal came back to finish above Spurs that year and the joke was very much on Tottenham when Chelsea stole their last Champions League spot from them after winning the 2012 Final against Bayern Munich.
Fast forward to 2013 and Arsenal lost to Spurs in early March. Most people felt Tottenham couldn’t blow this lead as they were a ‘better team’ than the year before and had learnt from their mistakes. Plus Arsenal didn’t look capable of finding the form that would see them climb above Spurs in the table and qualify for the Champions League. Of course, Arsenal did just that and sealed their Champions League qualification at Spurs’ expense on the final day of last season.
Now… the gap. Arsenal are for me, on history and at present, the better team in North London. Why?. Because Arsenal over history have been more successful and at present, despite the talk of Tottenham closing this gap between the two clubs, Arsenal still finish above Tottenham every year and do usually beat them at least once a season.
There is no denying that Spurs have come closer to Arsenal since the mid 2000′s. Arsenal have fallen from a team that won titles to a team that currently finishes 3rd or 4th every season. Spurs have climbed the table to 5th and on a couple of occasions 4th too. Despite this, Arsenal have still finished above them all these years.
I think that Tottenham have spent a lot of money this summer. They will get the majority of it back from selling Bale, plus they’ve sold players like Clint Dempsey, Steven Caulker, Tom Huddlestone and Scott Parker in cash deals. They have signed some very talented players too. Roberto Soldado has come in and scored two match-winning goals in his first two games, both have come from the penalty spot however. Christian Eriksen has the potential to be a very good signing and they signed him for a pretty good price too. Those are the two I identify as their best signings out of the seven. That’s not to say that Paulinho isn’t a good signing for them at all or any of the others, just those would be the two I’d say are their best ones.
Seven signings is a lot. Take away your best player from the year before too as well as others that were first-team players (Dempsey, Parker) and it is not as strong as people are making it out to be. New signings need time to gel in. The team needs time to bond together. Spurs have two wins in the league so far, but both games have finished 1-0 and both goals have been penalties. I think I’m right in saying Spurs didn’t get a single penalty last season. What I’m saying is, you can’t win every game by a penalty. They won’t get one every single game that they play in. Sooner or later, they’re going to have to score a goal in open play. Hopefully they fail to do so at the Emirates on Sunday and hopefully no penalties are given to them either!.
Spurs have spent money to get in the Champions League next season. If they fail to qualify again, all these people that are making fun of Arsenal for a lack of spending, it would show you that you can’t always buy your way in.
For the record, Arsenal do need to spend money between now and deadline day. I’m hopeful that they will. What Arsenal need is depth. Our best starting 11 is good enough to take on any team in the Premier League – it’s when you have injuries and suspensions, that is when Arsenal’s problems begin to mount. The Gunners will have a strong starting line-up for the North London Derby, but if it’s a tight one, do we have any quality to bring off of the bench and possibly win the game for us?. I’m not so sure about that.
Anyway, I hope you all enjoy the game. It promises to be a good one as always and as always, I am confident heading into the game. I shall be at the game tomorrow, it is my birthday and I am really hoping that Arsenal can give me plenty of reasons to be celebrating!.
Anyone fancy another 5-2 to Arsenal?. I do. I read online today that you can get odds of 125/1 for Arsenal to make it three 5-2′s in a row at the Emirates against Spurs. There will always be goals in this one, that is for sure. Personally I don’t care if we win 1-0 and it’s the flukiest goal ever scored, as long as we win it, that is all that matters to me!.