The North London Derby – Arsenal Vs Spurs
The most important derby since the one in November
So tomorrow night sees the 239th North London Derby. It’s a match even in this day and age that still gives me a few goosebumps and takes me back to the primary school days when we used to play football in the playground and the teams would be divided between Spurs and Arsenal fans. For anyone truly passionate about either of these clubs this is ‘the’ game.
From a Spurs perspective ( and most likely from an Arsenal one as well) three points are a must. Unfortunately at this stage in the season, I’m a “Glass Half Empty” person when it comes to the draw, and its two points dropped rather than one gained given the fixtures we have ahead of us.
It’s exactly at the same stage of the season as last year when we played them and the parallels as have no doubt been noticed by many a Spur are eerily familiar. We came into last year’s game after a devastating extra time loss in the Cup Semi Final to Pompey, and we had Arsenal, Chelsea and City to play on the horizon. We were expected to crumble and Wenger was still as ungracious as ever in defeat. I was gutted after the semi final loss to Pompey, I remember on the Met Line back from Wembley Park, not a word was said between any of us and the carriage was full of Spurs fans in an utterly dejected mood. I went to the Hamilton Hall on that Wednesday night to meet my friends prior to the match in a subdued mood. Spurs had blown it again, same old Tottenham and certainly around Liverpool Street that early evening the mood was one of almost resigned acceptance and we seemed to have forgotten there was so much at stake. However there’s something special about White Hart Lane under the floodlights. It’s an atmosphere that very few stadiums can match (certainly not our passionless stone cold neighbours) and that night was no different. When young Danny Rose struck ten minutes in, the feeling was that this night was going to be our catalyst. And so it proved, I’ve heard a lot of guff from Arsenal fans ( mainly of the JCL plastic variety) about how if Van Persie and Walcott had started they would have won at a canter.
In response to that, you are talking utter gash. Whilst their introduction had an effect, I believe that those last twenty minutes were down to as much as us tiring after a draining 120 minutes on Sunday, and their impact from the start would have been negligible.
So onto tomorrow’s game. I’ve been thinking of how I’d like the team to line up. The return of Huddlestone has been a massive plus in my opinion but the downside to that has been that Sandro has been relegated to the subs bench. I don’t think I’d be alone in saying that he’s been the pick of our players since Feb, although the creativity that Tom brings to our side cannot be underestimated. Is there any way we could accommodate them both in the side, almost doing a 4-3-3, with Bale and Lennon supporting a lone striker? Perhaps Harry could look into that but I don’t think a North London Derby, particularly one with so much at stake is the time to experiment.
Personally for this game I’d like to go back to 4-4-2. Unfortunately I don’t think we have the quality of strikers available to play a decent 4-4-1-1 which is what Harry has been favouring most of this season. So that leads me to the problem of how to accommodate VdV. There’s no doubt that Rafa has illuminated our season and he started off like a house on fire, with 7 goals in his first six home appearances. Not being the greatest of stats, but I think since then the only goal he has scored at home has been the penalty against Bolton. He’s not been in the greatest form for a while and whilst injuries have played a part in this and I can’t really question his work ethic ( certainly in both the Bolton game and the home leg against Real he worked tirelessly), his contribution to the team hasn’t been of the required standard recently and therefore I don’t think he should be in the starting lineup. I trust in Harry’s famed man management skills that he’ll be able to handle Rafa’s bruised ego if that was the case. That being said which two out of our three misfiring strikers should then start?
Let me put my cards on the table and admit I am not Peter Crouch‘s biggest fan, although that’s not entirely his own fault. I think when Crouch starts our play at time becomes a tad one-dimensional and the likes of Dawson and Benny aim long balls trying to find him. His goalscoring record in the league over the years has not been impressive but he has of course given us some very valuable goals. However a lot of our more ponderous displays have been when he has been up front, albeit it as a lone striker. However in a 4-4-2 I think he is a much more valuable asset and with a goal poacher playing close up to him, much like VdV was earlier in the season we can get a lot more change from him. He has gone through the full gauntlet of emotions whilst at Spurs from being the hero at City and Milan to the villain of the piece at the Bernabeu.
In contrast I’m a big Pav fan, and one of my few criticisms of Harry’s reign here has been his fleeting use of Pav. Yes I know Pav can frustrate but it’s always seemed to me the moment he’s had a bad half his number has been up and it’s clear Harry doesn’t fully rate him. However I think he’s the best of our strikers in linking up midfield and attack and also has the ability to get a goal out of the blue. He’s probably, in his recent league run, been the best out of our three strikers but given our recent results I can accept that’s like choosing Colonel Gaddaffi as my favourite from a trio of him, Mugabe and Saddam Hussein.
Finally what about the wee man Defoe. I’ve always been in the pro-Defoe camp, even when it was the ultimate Spurs fan debate out of who’s better between him and Robbie Keane. Javier Hernandez now reminds me of Defoe at his pomp, a confident striker who would always get the crucial goals. Sadly he seems to have regressed, this can be traced back to his injury last year when he was out for a good while. This season has been extremely unlucky for Jermain, just when he looked like establishing himself as a first choice England player he had that ankle injury and its seems with that plus a loss of confidence conspiring to make himself look a shadow of the player he was. Surveying Spurs message boards and the general consensus amongst fans I meet, Defoe is a player who divides the fan base. There is a large section of our support who don’t rate him and think a Stoke or a Fulham is more his level, others who think he is still our most natural finisher and our best striker. I must admit I am in between these two camps. Defoe is a decent Premiership striker who is not in form. At the moment I’d probably use him as an impact sub rather than from the start but I hope that he can be given the time to recapture his form because an in-form Defoe firing on all cylinders is an asset.
So my line up then for tomorrow would be:
Corluka Gallas Dawson Ekotto
Lennon Huddlestone Modric Bale
I was torn at right back with putting Kaboul in, who did so well towards the end of last season, but Charlie swings it by being slightly more comfortable with Lennon on the right .
Make no mistake after Sunday’s game Arsenal will come at us, but I think this could play right into our hands. They are not a great side and are second by default given Chelsea’s travails this season. Have faith, have hope and rest assured the Glory Game will see North London’s Glory Glory Club triumph against the Nomads from Woolwich.
COME ON YOU SPURS and lets hope we have another night to remember.
The original article can be found in my Spurs blog The Glory Game