Saturday’s North London derby promises to be another classic as both sides would look to get back to winning ways after failing to triumph last week. And who better to get a feel of the game than Rohan Ricketts, a youth product of Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal but who went on to impress for Tottenham Hotspur under Glenn Hoddle and was close to a senior England call-up.
Now with India champions Dempo, Ricketts can’t wait for the game and in an exclusive interview to Sportskeeda, the 29-year-old described what the fixture means to the two sets of fans.
“The rivalry is intense and now that the gap between the teams is smaller than the time I was playing in England, it has become fiercer. Derby days are special but it often gets uncomfortable for the away fans, irrespective of the result,” Ricketts told Sportskeeda.
Both sides have struggled in the English Premier League so far and the best they can hope for is a top-four finish, although Ricketts believes Spurs have coped better with the departures of Luka Modric and Rafael van der Vaart than Arsenal, who sold Robin van Persie and Alexandre Song in the summer.
“I think Spurs have done well considering they lost Modric and van der Vaart. As for Arsenal, any team that loses a player like van Persie will find it difficult but they actually started the season well. However, they have dropped their standards and have been terrible in recent weeks with their defence in particular looking shaky,” he said.
Ricketts, whose only game for the Gunners was a substitute appearance in a 4-0 hammering of Man United in the English League Cup in November 2001, believes Arsene Wenger should start Lukas Podolski upfront and that Andre Villas-Boas should continue to keep faith in Brad Friedel.
“I am not a big fan of (Oliver) Giroud although he scored two goals last week. For me, Podolski is a striker and should start upfront but I don’t think Wenger will do so. (Andrei) Arshavin has also been doing well as a substitute so he should also get a start with (Theo) Walcott on the other wing.
“Friedel should keep his place in the team because (Hugo) Lloris made some mistakes the other day in the Europa League. The key decision for Spurs will be whom they play as striker. (Emmanuel) Adebayor was decent against Man City and I feel will cause more problems to the Arsenal defence than (Jermaine) Defoe, who is more of a finisher,” the former Wolves player stated.
Ricketts opined that Tottenham should try and use the flanks and look to make the most of Arsenal’s weakness at left back because of Kieran Gibbs’ injury while he expects Arsene Wenger’s side to dominate possession.
“It will be vital for Spurs to use the flanks and if Aaron Lennon can get at (Andre) Santos, Arsenal will have a big problem. I expect Arsenal to have more possession because they will have that extra man with their three-man midfield comprising (Mikel) Arteta, (Jack) Wilshere and (Santi) Cazorla up against Spurs’ Sandro and Tom Huddlestone with Clint Dempsey in the withdrawn forward role. Another interesting battle will be the one between Gareth Bale and Bacary Sagna,” he added.
Result not decisive
Ricketts picked Cazorla and Bale as the danger men from each side and doesn’t believe the result will be decisive for the fortunes of either side this season and also for the managers.
“No (result won’t be decisive) it’s too early in the season. Even last time we saw Spurs have a big lead over Arsenal but eventually they couldn’t hold on to it and even if Arsenal win they still have a lot of work to do. It’s true both managers are under pressure but both their jobs are safe.
“Wenger always has the backing of the board and will only leave by mutual consent, he won’t be sacked. Villas-Boas has done fine so far and I think the Spurs fans and board will give him some time too,” Ricketts said.
Ricketts, who was named after West Indian legendary cricketer Rohan Kanhai, refused to give a prediction but expects an open game and believes home advantage makes Arsenal slight favourites.
“I can’t give you a scoreline but I expect an open match with hopefully some goals. Arsenal probably are slight favourites as they are at home and maybe that’s why they need the win more than Spurs. Three points for either side will be a big boost for their confidence. In Arsenal’s case it will galvanise them and as for Tottenham, after winning at Old Trafford, this will be another massive result,” he concluded.Published 16 Nov 2012, 15:55 IST