Arsenal vs Tottenham: The real London Derby is here
With the return of West Ham and QPR to the league, the tally of London clubs goes up to 5. The 2 words ‘London derby’ that used to carry immense significance in the by- gone era, has now become a bi-weekly affair.
If Chelsea vs. QPR looked to be an intense on-field rivalry, the animosity between the Red and White parts of North London has always lived up its hype as one of the fiercest English rivalries.
None of the previous versions of this derby have been cozy affairs, with as many as 23 goals being scored in the last 4 encounter. With Arsenal’s 5-2 win at Emirates last season still clearly etched in every North Londoner’s mind, the Lily Whites prepare for another trip to the Emirates amidst immense injury woes for both sides.
Truck-load of Injury woes
AVB’s Spurs were just recovering from a poor start to the season when they were hit by the injury bugs. AVB’s most crucial signing and soon-to-be-superstar Moussa Dembele is out with a hip injury. After the departure of Modric, Dembele has been the one to provide the pace and drive in midfield, and in his absence the likes of Dempsey and Bale have become much less sharp. Kyle Walker is another one missing as he pulled a calf muscle against City. Defoe and Lennon are doubtful too, though the latter seems to have passed a fitness test on Thursday. Leftback Assou Ekotto is still out injured and Vertonghen will continue in that spot.
Arsenal have injury worries of their own, as Walcott and Chamberlain will struggle to make it to the starting lineup. Though both will surely be included in the squad, the decision to start Walcott or not is surely going to affect the match tactically and shall also affect the contractual situation of the player. The main blows for Arsenal would be Wenger’s categorizing of Gibbs and Diaby as long term injury absentees, as both these players were the reason for Arsenal’s strong start to the season. Szczesny might finally return in goal, which would boost the Gunners heavily as Mannone has not been convincing enough in set-pieces.
Expected Starting Lineups
Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertersacker, Koscienly, Vermaelen, Arteta, Wilshere, Cazorla, Ramsey, Giroud, Podolski
Tottenham: Friedel, Naughton, Gallas, Caulker, Vertonghen, Sandro, Huddlestone, Dempsey, Bale, Lennon, Adebayor
Apart from all the hype and drama that surrounds this fixture normally; the match seems fully dependent on 2 crucial decisions by the managers.
The return of Adebayor?
First of those would definitely be whether AVB would give Adebayor a start against another one of his ex-clubs. Though from the injury listings Defoe seems to be out of the XI, AVB often trusts his ace marksman to make an impact even when unfit. But given an opportunity to start at the Emirates, Adebayor is surely to change the entire dynamic of the game.
As seen in the game against City, Ade was able to get under the skin of his ex-teammates and destabilized the defense for certain period of time. He is often seen dropping to deep positions on the left touchline and then beat the right back for pace down the flank. This style of play would be highly advantageous for Spurs as they have the ideal players to take advantage of this situation, Bale and Dempsey. Dempsey has not had a major impression on the team yet but the extreme opportunist has a tendency to arrive at the right time in the box. Also Bale, who would be on the left wing, will be able to drift central to allow Adebayor that free space. The Welshman would then be unmarked by the now beaten right-back, and will have time and space to launch his long-rangers.
Arteta on Ade…… a mismatch made in heaven
It is at this point of time that Wenger will ask Sagna to stand off Adebayor and concentrate on marking Bale. Adebayor would be the responsibility of the deepest midfielder, here Mikel Arteta. And it is here that the complete game changes. Wenger would be playing right into AVB’s ploy as Arteta has looked the weakest link of Arsenal’s midfield. After being dominated by the likes of Berbatov and Ruiz last weekend, the Spaniard will not be able to handle Adebayor’s pace or trickery. A booking or two is certain at this position, and even though tactically aware of this ploy, Wenger does not have any other option to stop this; apart from his rumored interest in deploying 3 center backs.
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Ramsey on the right?
The second important decision would be Wenger’s ploy to play Aaron Ramsey on the right. Though this is the Frenchman’s tactic only in away games mostly, but with the pace of Bale and the engine of Vertonghen on the left, playing with Walcott meandering upfront could cause a major unbalance in numbers.
Walcott on the other hand has been unhappy at this situation of not getting the start in big matches, but the Englishman, when given the nod these days, is often seen playing next to Giroud rather than tracking back on the right flank. This would leave Sagna with a lot of work against 2 very good wing backs, a problem that could be solved if Wenger played his Ramsey card.
Choice of Center backs
Though Arsenal fans worldwide went crazy about the work Steve Bould had done at the start of the season, but now the ‘same old Arsenal’ phrase has returned. Much has been spoken about the appalling Santos and the surprisingly poor Vermaelen. The Belgian would continue at left-back, with a mammoth task to contain Lennon down the flank.
But it is the Spur’s center back pairing that needs to be highlighted here. Gallas and Caulker have had a long run together and have settled well. Gallas is sure to stick to Giroud during the game and Giroud’s deep movement and off the ball runs are going to pull Gallas out of positions at times. But AVB’s marking around Cazorla will be much more important now; Cazorla tends to drift into forward positions while pressing off the ball and this leaves a gap between the midfield and attack.
So Caulker will be told to lay back and handle the runs of Podolski and Walcott. Sandro will be given the job to mark Cazorla. With Huddlestone also in the deep lying midfielder role, Cazorla will have to decide his positioning very intelligently. This is where Ramsey’s inclusion might affect the game, as the Welshman will provide much more support to Cazorla centrally.
With the attack of Arsenal coming good finally, their defense seems to be returning back to their erring self. Spurs could have easily taken advantage of this situation but they lack any source of creativity or pace in midfield. Again ex- Gunners Adebayor and Gallas will look to leave their mark at the Emirates, as Gallas especially seems set to score against each of his former employers.