16th November 2012
By BEN HOLT
Arsenal vs. Spurs. They’re usually cracking encounters with goals, drama and more twists and turns than an episode of Homeland (minus the terrorism). A two-goal lead in a North London derby is worthless; we’ve had a 3-2, 3-3, 4-4, 5-4 and most recently 5-2, where the Gunners came back from 2-0 down, scoring three goals in 11 minutes.
Tomorrow lunchtime it’s Wenger vs. another new Spurs manager. If my history is correct, AVB will be the tenth Tottenham manager the Frenchman has come up against. Nine others have come, tried to conquer, and then gone, pushed overboard by impatient owners.
While many Spurs fans will argue that Daniel Levy and co are too impatient, some (in my opinion, misguided) Arsenal fans will claim that their owners are too patient. Dissatisfied with only a top four finish every season, they believe Wenger is disillusioned and tactically inept. Fabregas, Nasri and Van Persie have all found pastures new, and the club hasn’t done enough to replace them.
In fairness, Arsenal have still got great players – Santi Cazorla, Wilshere, Oxlade-Chamberlain to name a few, and a manager who has never failed to reach the Champions League. Surely that makes them favourites for a top four place this season. But then again Van Persie’s departure may prove to be too big a loss. How many more games would Arsenal have won this season with the Dutchman in the side? And there are big defensive frailties; Vermaelen has been poor by his standards and with Gibbs out injured, the left side is a problem area.
So the red half of North London are seemingly downbeat about their chances tomorrow, so surely Tottenham must be feeling optimistic, right?
Wrong. It’s early days under Villas-Boas, and fans are determined not to get on his back, but his side are yet to emulate the electric form we saw from Tottenham last season. Things have changed of course; Modric and van der Vaart have left, Dembele, Dempsey and Sigurdsson have arrived, but supporters will still feel aggrieved that they haven’t exactly been blown away so far. Fans’ favourite and ‘club captain’ Michael Dawson has been relegated to the bench and Europa League matches, while the Portuguese has a stubborn approach to formation, sticking with 4-2-3-1 when two up front seems a better option.
It looks set to be a tight match, with neither team confident of getting three points. If there’s to be a winner, it might come down to individual performances. Gareth Bale and Santi Cazorla are the star men – if either have a fantastic match, that could be the difference.
It’ll certainly be interesting to see who comes out on top, but will it be an indicator of who’ll finish in the top four? I don’t think so. Expect some drama though, and if your team are winning, don’t relax until full-time. Not that you were going to.