There is no better way to bounce back from the mini international break than to have a tasty north London derby tomorrow to get us back into the swing of things. The game is at the Emirates and kick-off is at 12:45 GMT (21:45 JST) and will be shown live on Sky Sports 2 and J-Sports Plus. Coverage on J-Sports will begin at 21:39, a good time here in Japan for some sociable drinking.
I was lucky enough to win a competition to go to the game at White Hart Lane in 2004, luckily in the away end with the Arsenal fans. Tottenham went a goal up, possibly from a free-kick from Ziege(?) and we then equalised through a Pires penalty (so my brother has informed me anyway, as I had remembered it differently…) But, the atmosphere on the way into and out of the stadium was some of the most hostile and intimidating that I have ever experienced. Back in those days there was the added element of Sol Campbell to add some extra spice to a fixture that really doesn’t need any spice added. The stress of such an environment was relieved somewhat when upon entering the ground my brother was whisked off by security to a private room wherein he was searched for drugs, or a bomb, or something that he shouldn’t have. I, of course, upon seeing him being nabbed by the Tottenham security filth, slinked into the stand to take up my seat. There was no way I was going to miss the game because of that! I suppose I should say that they promptly let him go after giving him the once over and he was able to watch the whole game.
Now, you may think that this was a bit of a bastardo thing for me to do but I suppose that, subconsciously, *cough cough* I did it because of an incident that took place a year or two earlier when myself and said brother were attending the north London derby at Highbury, this time we were sitting in the East Lower. We got a penalty in the 85th minute, or thereabouts, and Lauren stepped up and scored it. The resulting manic celebration resulted in my brother cracking one of my ribs with his elbow. So, I’m sure you will agree, my subconscious’s attempt at exacting revenge at the Lane was justified a few years later.
Usually, I always sat in the North Bank (hence the name of my blog) The only times that I haven’t sat in the North Bank was that one against Tottenham in 2001/2002 and a Champions League Quarter Final against Chelsea, in 2004, where we sat in the West Stand. Apart from those, from 1994 until 2006 we always went to the North Bank. I loved that stand.
Anyway, I digress. The game against Spuds is now a bit bigger than it has been for the last few years due to the fact that they are now a bit more competitive than they used to be. They still are nowhere near the level that Arsenal are at, but they have a few decent players in their squad. I think that we will need to keep a close eye on Modric and Van Der Faart. I have a feeling that they will start Crouch up front and lump balls into the box in order to test Fabianski and our central defenders. So, we will need them to be on their toes and put in a good performance.
Team news ahead of the game is that Wilshere will have a fitness test sometime today and perhaps we will get more information on how that goes at the manager’s lunchtime press conference. Apparently Wilshere has a ‘little strain of a little muscle,’ though I am pretty sure that the injury isn’t linked to today’s Sun story of Jack having a saucy encounter with a lap dancer. Not sure Jack will appreciate the boss referring to his meat and two veg like that. Hehe. Seriously though, he was referring to a muscle in Jack’s back.
Arshavin and Rosicky are slight doubts for the game and they will be checked over by the medical staff. RvP played 45min for Holland during the week so he should be a little fitter if required to come off the bench. Almunia, Ramsey, Vermaelen and Diaby are all still out injured. One suspects that Almunia is more likely to be out with a broken heart than an injured elbow at this stage. I think that our squad must hold some kind of world record for slowness to recover from injury, we tend not to do a four or five day knock anymore.
That should see us line up with; Fabianski, Sagna, Squillaci, Koscielny, Clichy, Fabregas, Song, Denilson, Nasri, Walcott and Chamakh. That line up is based on the assumption (before hearing the press conference update) that both Wilshere and Arshavin will both just be fit enough for a place on the bench. The bench will likely be made up with Szczesny, Djourou, Eboue, Wilshere, Arshavin, RvP and Bendtner.
Some interesting stats from Opta are that Lukasz Fabianski has the second best saves-to-shots percentage, 83%, in the league. This is only bettered by Petr Cech who has an 85% saves-to-shots percentage. Also, the top four players in the whole of the Premier League for passing accuracy in the final third are Diaby, 87%; Rosicky, 86%; Denilson, 86% and Nasri, 85%. Impressive, and surprising, stats. One final stat which relates to last weekend’s game against Everton is that Arsenal have now scored 77 goals against that team, which is more than any team versus any single opponent in Premier League history.
Ahead of the game, Sagna has called on Arsenal fans to refrain from booing Gallas and that is something that I am in agreement with. We should not boo a player that gave us what we all wanted, a move away from the club. Perhaps instead of a booing, we should all just laugh every time he is on the ball. Mess with his mind. But booing doesn’t help anyone. If you are lucky enough to be at the game, please don’t boo. Instead of booing, try to vocally support our own players. Get a really good atmosphere going. This is a big game, no doubt about it and three points are essential in order to go top of the league, for a few hours at least.
Arsene has sat Bendtner down for a tete-a-tete and has told him to be patient as the team are doing well and he must earn his place back, he can’t expect to just walk back into the team. Our big Dane said in the Express:
“I have been talking to Arsene Wenger and he has told me the same things that he said publicly, that I have to be patient. He is right and I have known that all the time. I just want to play, like any other player. But I am aware that my team-mates have been playing well in my absence and some have been scoring goals as well, so it won’t be easy for me to regain my place among the starting XI.”
Before I wrap things up, I would just like to take a moment to wish former Arsenal legend Robert Pires all the best in his time at Aston Villa. I really hope that he can get a good amount of playing time there and finish out his career playing in the Premier League. It’s the least that he deserves. I hope that he can rejoin Arsenal in some capacity once he retires from playing. How great would it be if both Pires and Bergkamp were to join our staff in the next few years?
Finally, some Paddy Power odds for tomorrow’s game:
Money-back Special – If Bale or Walcott scores the last goal, all losing 1st /last goalscorer, correct score & scorecast singles on the match will be refunded.
Half-time/full-time: Draw/Arsenal is 7/2, Arsenal/Arsenal is 6/4 and Spuds/Arsenal is 19/1.
Correct score: Arsenal to win 2-1 is 13/2; 3-1 is 11/1 and 3-2 is 18/1.
Anytime goalscorer: Fabregas 17/10, Nasri 23/10, Squillaci 11/1 and Song 6/1.
If any of those bets catch your eye, click on the Paddy Power banner on the right of this page, sign up and you will get a FREE £10 bet which you can let ride on one of the above if you choose to do so.
That’s that for today, here’s to a big performance and three points against the scum tomorrow. Remember to make it a great atmosphere because this it the 50yr anniversary season since Spuds last won the league!
Take it easy.