Not for the first time in recent memory this weekend’s North London Derby is being heralded as the Most Important North London Derby For Literally Ages. To be honest, most of them feel pretty significant these days. Ever since the Footballing Gods hauled Spurs out of their mid-nineties/early-naughties funk and brain-fiddled the Wenger Drone into thinking Fourth Place was something you could polish and put in your trophy cabinet, the games have become exciting, goal-mental and above all, competitive. The equilibrium in the Capital has been tweaked and the Derby has flourished as a result.
Indeed, in each of the last three seasons there’s been at least one NLD you could hang your hat on and say: Holy Mackeral, that’s a spicy meatball! Confusing your culinary-themed exclamations while you were at it.
In 09/10 it was Gomes, Bale and Danny SH*T DID YOU SEE THAT?! Rose who baked Arsenal at White Lane Lane, in a crucial end-of-season encounter; the result of which (hilariously) ended any title hopes the Gunners may’ve entertained while going a great way to helping Spurs toward Big Euro Sexy Cup qualification.
The following year a six-goal even-spread in the identical fixture was damaging for both clubs, as it gave the Sky Blue EuroMillions winners a chance to get a throttlehold on 3rd and pushed us further down the cack heap. And, just last season, at the Emirates, what should’ve been a procession in tying up the loose-ends of a top-three finish, turned into a mummy, will I ever feel happy again 5-2 defeat and the beginning of the end for us and Harold James Redknapp. All pivotal games, all season-defining.
How Do You Solve a Problem Like Gareth? Just Ignore Him
And just what will this latest epochal meeting bring? Well, if you’ve listened to Arséne Wenger this week, what shan’t be brought to the party is any semblance of a plan for sojourning the flight of one Gareth Bale:
‘We don’t plan for anybody. It is always the same – focus on our strengths and forget about your opponent.’
Yep, solid advice there. Might I also suggest that you give him loads of room? In fact, whenever he’s in possession, just run as far away from the ball as possible. He hates that.
Agent Parker, Come In- Your Time Is Now!
I’ve talked about the renewed importance of Scott Parker elsewhere, but for Spurs what might be useful is if the Brother From Another Decade had something close to the game of his life- if it’s not too much trouble. Failing that, a performance with some degree of tactical discipline would be just dandy.
If Arsenal’s midfield trio of Arteta, Cazorla and Wilshere are treated to vast avenues of space as a by-product of the England man trying to put out fires in every corner of the pitch, there may be trouble ahead. Scott Parker has remarkable strengths as a player but sadly one of those isn’t the awareness of his own limitations. And if that’s not straight from the Little Red Book of Brendan Rodgers, I don’t know what is. To the teams:
Morning, campers. The news we’ve no choice but to file under Definitely Not Helpful is that of Moussa Dembele’s impending and continued absence. Now, we’ve only seen Germinal Beerschot’s finest export on a handful of occasions this season; it’s perhaps a rather worrying indictment of our situation that for every game that passes in which he’s not on the team-sheet, I want to stand fully-clothed under a shower and weep. Spurs were given a gift at the end of August, and far too soon after unwrapping and seeing what cool stuff it could do, it’s been taken from us. Oh ye footballing gods. Deliver us from Tom Huddlestone and I’ll be sure to sacrifice as many goats as ye see fit.
Arsenal aren’t without their own problems. After the miracle of Steve Bould Defensive Guru™ turning out to be just some rather unpleasant gastric wind, the Gooners look as ropey and indecisive as ever. Worse than us at times. Like Spurs they’ve had injuries to key men (For BAE and Kaboul read Sagna and Szczesny) and like us they’re perhaps having teething problems with the exuberance of youth (for Walker and Caulker read Jenkinson). Where they might not have expected the backline frailty to stem, however, is at the calamitous feet of one Thomas Vermaelen, who’s been terrible for some time now.
It’s not all bad for Mr. Wenger. In Santi Cazorla he’s got quite literally a super footballer, and thanks to the catastrophic money-haemorrhaging of his former employers, came at a nice, Eurozone-friendly price. He’s going to look dashing in a Man City shirt I’m quite sure.
Moving away from the NLD for a minute. Ever one for the well-timed bellyache, Didier Deschamps has been stamping his feet this week, like the petulant man-child he is. I’ll not bother with the quotes; they read much like the ones he made last time…and the time before that. Hugo Lloris isn’t getting the minutes and there’re plenty who think he should be- myself included- but sacre-bleuing yourself silly every time the boy’s benched isn’t helping. If anything it’s making a delicate situation worse. In short, Monsieur Water-Carrier, you need to make quiet your noise-hole and get H2Over it.
Now, the trifling matter of besting those rotten neighbours. A great deal, you’d imagine, will rest on the burly shoulders of Emmanuel Adebayor, who ought to start after last weekend’s all-action masterclass in lone-strikerism- and AVB has suggested as much. For an hour against City, he held the ball up well, ran the channels and bought others into play to good effect; three boxes the modern solo frontman is obliged to tick these days. Scoring goals: nice also. Trolling Zabaleta: all part of the service.
With significant absentees, there’s no denying that our midfield has a bit of the Diet Cokes about it, rather than the robust, full-fat version a Parker or Dembele might elevate us toward for a tricky away game such as this. Being on the lighter side of lightweight, then, Sandro is utterly vital. Key also, will be the chaps jogging alongside him in matching shirts. The Brazilian will pull up trees until team-time but he sure as heck can’t do it without friends. Whether it’s Huddlestone, Carroll or Sigurdsson in there: they’ve got to share the burden of putting Arsenal’s midfield through the meat grinder evenly.
There Will Be Goals.
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So, Chesney Hawkes of Woolwich has said he’d quite like to see Spurs in the Europa League next season:
“I would not settle right now for fourth place. We are four points behind the other north London club – I am not going to say their name – and hopefully we can challenge them.
“Hopefully Chelsea can challenge them [Spurs] for fourth place and I would be really pleased to see them in the Europa League next season.
“That would be fantastic. Hopefully they will be looking at this result and are looking over their shoulders.”
Wow. So cutting. This, of course, isn’t the first time one of Wenger’s feisty bambinos has tried to hurt our feelings like that. Precious souls that we are. It was only last week that Emmanuel Frimpong was on Soccer AM, informing the sofa-bound public that Spurs play like girls. Jack Wilshere, too, is forever acting the spoon on the Twitter box.
Look, chaps. I get it. You all want to show the Arsenal fans that you love the club a squillion percent times infinity and those other North London lot (can’t possibly mention their name) are a complete bunch of rotters. It’s cute. Really cute. But also a bit embarrassing. Maybe leave the trash talking to the internet forums?
In the meanwhile, let’s have a nice evening of Cup football tonight, with no nasty surprises. Thankyouverymuch.
Oooh, Betty. This is a big one.
A Sunday lunchtime soirée across town with 4th place Arsenal- or, for those of you who get a buzz out of acronyms, the NLD. Round two.
And this time, it’s personal.
Well, you know. It’s kind of personal. Is it personal? I’ll have to check that.
Anyway, it’s fair to say our North London cohabiters haven’t been enjoying a great time of it recently- by their own standards- illustrated rather concisely by their last two outings in knock-out competition. Thunder-punted to the Champions League curb by an efficient but by-no-means-brilliant Milan team last Wednesday; before losing their get-out-of-jail-with-a-trophy card at the Stadium of Light seven days ago tomorrow. Nope, it never rains at Arsenal. Just hammers down with sh*t. Season all but terminated. Double lolerz.
So how should we approach this one, then? Beware the wounded dog, is my immediate thought. Particularly one who seems to just lollop about the place looking forlorn, waiting for the vet to come over and administer the sweet, sweet relief. Because he might just bite.
These days, Robin Van Persie might cut the shape of an utterly depressed crab, but he, much like Arsenal, are not ones to be underestimated. Gervinho, RVP, even Theo Walcott are all potential match-winners on their day.
The good news is that the chaps of Hotspur are in splendid form. If we quickly (quicker) forget the horrid display at Stevenage last weekend and remember what might be the best opening half of football I’ve seen from a Tottenham side in the last two decades- fluid, p*ss-whippet quick, clinical- there’s every hope that we can turn the sex on against a team apparently in the cack. In all honesty, we should fancy ourselves taking the lot here.
Now’s the time to be ruthless, then. We need to keep piling on the hurt for the pocket-wrung supporters of Woolwich, who’re in desperate need of an emotional breather. For them, a win against the old enemy would be just the over-priced ticket; just the vehicle to get their season up on its legs again and forget all the despair that went before. It’s Spurs’ duty to resist. Our duty to prolong the misery.
In short, we need to crush them.*
I think you’re ready for my Twitter jelly.
*Or, you know, a draw. A draw would be okay.
I’m not usually one to get my chuckle on at the expense of other’s misfortune; schadenfreude, on the whole, is a filthy mistress to being spending your time with. But I will make an exception in light of Arsenal’s lol-carnival at the San Siro last night. So much for Milan being a team of tired old dogs. And so much for Arséne’s cunning plan to take the game to the Rossoneri- rather than hope to bajeesus the opposition would be courteous enough to allow them a counter-attack or two. Like that silly, naïve Spurs team did last year. When Peter Crouch scored and, you know, they went through.
On the subject of glamorous fixtures, Tottenham travel to *quick look at Wikipedia* Broadhall Way this Sunday, for a 5thround F.A cup tie with mighty Stevenage. One-time thorns in the side of Wor Alan and Newcastle United in the late-nineties. Interesting facts about The Boro: they were the first team to win a competitive match at the new Wembley and amongst their number they have a midfielder called Stacy and another called John Mousinho. Who, presumably, is José Mourinho’s English equivalent.
The ‘Special’ One.
Not a fixture to be taken casually, of course. This is a team on the up that would like nothing more than to show up a bunch of fancy-dan London-types. That said, with J-Dizzle and Saha up top we should have sufficient firepower to see us through, while giving Adebayor a hard-earned breather. Chuck in a midfield of Kranjčar, Lennon, Livermore and Modric and a backline of Rose, Nelsen, Dawson and Kaboul and we really ought to be cooking on gas. But what say you? More power, captain?
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