Tottenham Preview: No Slip Ups Permitted


Well this is it. For me, the emotions of the day make this the hardest of the four fixtures against the top seven this month. City and Chelsea are far better teams than Tottenham but the North London Derby, that’s more emotional than either of those matches. Ask Podolski or Rosicky, they ‘get’ this fixture. I am sure others do as well; that’s why it is tougher. Expectations/

Wenger would love to be able to call on the likes of Wilshere and Ramsey, those who could drag that little bit extra out of themselves for a local derby but he can’t. He can call on Kim Kallstrom though – he’s the man. I feel a lot of sympathy for the Swede. Like Mathieu Flamini’s signing, the jury was underwhelmed by his signing. Unlike Flamini’s signing, the squiggle at the bottom of the contract did not signal the arrival of further reinforcements. Kallstrom will make the bench today with numbers running out. Is he making the bench for that reason or is it talent that puts him there? Would, if everyone was fit, he make it? I think so but whilst the tea leaves offer hope, is there a Roy of the Rovers debut waiting to happen? Surely too much to hope for.

And therein is Kallstrom’s problem; expectations were raised by our own hopes and the echoes of the past whistled their refrain. It was another window where, well if it wasn’t panic, the plan for strengthening did not go as well as planned. And to be honest, my experience as Championship Manager all those years ago leaves me knowing Kim Kallstrom will make his debut and run rings around the oppositions defence, ending the game with his value enhanced by a hat-trick of assists. Who needs tea leaves, eh?

OK, reality bites. I am not sure which reality, perhaps it is the primordial waves travelling through space and time but I am optimistic about today. Perhaps it is the memory of Clive Allen scoring only to be overhauled, not once but twice. Perhaps it is witnessing Nico Claesen lofting the ball into the Arsenal net with seconds on the clock, only to be pegged back and surpassed as 1-2 became part of Tottenham’s post code. These are the things about the North London Derby I remember. Roberts penalty hitting the bar, Nicholas giving Arsenal the lead with a wondrous shot across Ray Clemence. Brian Talbot finishing the night with a breakaway goal that broke Tottenham’s title challenge. Ian Wright equalising with barely a minute on the clock, celebrating like loons who had won the League. Celebrating like loons when we did just that. It’s a match Arsenal must win following Chelsea’s defeat and City’s victory. The crushing emptiness of defeats, even in testimonials.

It’s match that Tottenham’s wretched form does not want them to lose. It’s been too long, 2007 and the summer sunshine feels like a lifetime ago; it’s just a match which Arsenal must win to cement the place in the top four and secure their first trophy of the season. And trophies, according to David Seaman, is what Wenger needs to enable the club to push on. The first will be the toughest to win and that’s why the FA Cup run has been hugely welcomed. We have been here before, defeat at Wembley to Birmingham still brings an element of disbelief; that’s why winning at Wembley this time around is a key step to take, to prove that they can do it. I personally believe that the title has gone despite Chelsea’s intention of blowing up; anything less than a win this weekend will make that a certainty. Win today and the focus moves to next weekend and so on. As Arsène says, the only thing the players can do is take this month one game at a time because results in their own and other matches, change the landscape constantly. Win this weekend and next, Chelsea are a point away with Liverpool and City likely to be the top two. This season’s title race is a portent for the future with the likelihood of next season and beyond being a similar dogfight, perhaps five teams involved if United get their act together.

Pride is the obvious reason to avoid defeat but victory will breath life into Tottenham and put them within three points of fourth place. Even them catching Arsenal over the next fortnight would not be a cause for concern given Arsenal’s fixture list combined with Tottenham’s predictable unpredictability of form. An implosion never seems more than a heartbeat away, a heavy home defeat not beyond them in any match. One today would be good too. Despite the injury problems, Arsenal have enough attacking instinct and verve to inflict just that on their rivals. Monreal returns (perhaps Gibbs) to give the left side strength whilst the axis of Flamini and Arteta has enough combative experience to not flinch from the challenges of this fixture.

It’s that depth of feeling and understanding which makes Wenger’s team selection a little tricky. The obvious solution to Özil’s absence is to bring Rosicky into the line-up. It’s hard to argue with the Czech’s inclusion but I will. In fact it’s nothing to do with his form, just adding a bit of firepower to the front line. Olivier Giroud continues to work hard but is he distracted by more rumours surfacing about his private life and Arsenal future? Whether he is or not, he still needs support on the pitch; Podolski is most likely to provide that. Arsène will probably disagree and select Rosicky to play centrally with Cazorla on the left.

It leaves the line-up something like:

Szczesny; Sagna, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Monreal; Arteta, Flamini; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Cazorla, Podolski (Rosicky); Giroud

Per Mertesacker believes Arsenal cannot afford any slip-ups and with the coming matches, that will be hard to avoid if we are being honest with ourselves. Recent history does not offer much hope of nine out of nine for the top five encounters this month and pragmatism says five or six would be good enough to secure a top four finish. More than that would fire belief for the remainder of the season and as it reaches its climax, there will be times when the players are running on empty and that belief will give them an ounce more of energy in achieving their goals.

Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.

’til Tomorrow.


358 thoughts on “Tottenham Preview: No Slip Ups Permitted

  1. Possession isn’t everything, I agree. I can’t stand tippy tippy but you must use the possession you do get effectively. We didn’t, just kept giving the ball back through poor passing or poor hold up play.

    Yes I watched Bertie and George’s teams win titles and cups, as did you, if I remember but we played some exciting and effective football. We rarely looked like we did today, toothless and on the defensive. We were usually in control.

    We may hope, and get, a different performance next week but the fact remains that one more effective piece of play by spurs, or a little luck, would have rendered the game next week much less important. We would have been out of any title race.

  2. I have noticed a pattern this season, when we play shit we grind our results, when we play tippy tappy holldy handsy looky how goody we play football we come a cropper. Bring on the shitness I say and keep grinding our way to some trophies.

  3. I think we wanted a win and a strong performance before going to Stamford Bridge. If we feel a bit of relief and apprehension it is because the result was great but not a decisive victory that showed we are streets ahead of a faltering Spud side. I hope the players feel good about their effort, the result and confident they can play better. Everyone knows derby games are tricky. We’ve done we’ll.

    Now we must do much better or settle for 4th and hope we an win the FA cup.

  4. Well one thing is sure though.IF you are not a medic yourself its hard to pinpoint where the fault is. Nobody knows what happens within the walls of Colny. Nobody except those that are there. Footy one can have opinions about, even qualified opinions about as a fan. Medic stuff? Well that is a whole different ball game that unless you work in the field is very hard to have a qualified opinion about. Such is the medical area.Besides players can reacts in different ways to same treatment as all bodies are unique..You need to know the player, the facilities and their medical history to properly asses the arsenal medical team. Now who does that??

  5. What about the cup performances against spurs and Liverpool, duke? Excellent wins achieved by fast fluid football, balanced attack and defence.

    Why can we do that one week and not the next?

  6. Yes, Dukey, we have ground out victories, but not so many against City, Chelsea, Liverpool (our victory was some of our best free flowing football of the season), ManU, Everton (one home draw in the league so far). Spuds have been the one exception among top PL teams, thankfully. So I think it is reasonable to feel that we need to play more effectively and with better passing than we have managed. Whether it is possession our counter-attacking, a strong performance means we are in control and dictate the play. We didn’t do as much of tha as will be needed against our competitors. And wins are what we need.

  7. As Bob points out, our victories against top sides in the cups have principally been through strong Arsenal performances. I’d say the big exception was v. Dortmund.

  8. By the way , when I say we play shit and when people agree with this observation we are only talking about possibly the 5 attacking players as like today even when people say it was a bad performance the 5 defensive players will think otherwise.

  9. @Consols

    I remember games where we just about ground out 1-0 wins…… holding on till the last second. It wasn’t always that exciting. Today was one of those.

  10. our counter attack was non existent and there were several opportunities to close out the game. Too slow and ponderous and kept giving the ball away. We will have to be an awful lot better against Chelsea. Wenger’s 1000th game. Wish I felt more optimistic that he’d break his “Mourinho duck”, having never beaten a Mourinho team. Chelsea are my least favourite team. But they are far more likely to take a chance & stretch Per/Koscielny than Spurs.
    We do have a lot of our best attacking players out with injury, so hope the rumours that Ox picked up another injury aren’t true. Santi and Rosicky can’t play every game or they’ll be injured too.

    I have ambitions greater than beating Tottenham, but won 3 and conceded no goals to them in all 3 makes for a pretty good evening.

  11. I`ll gladly take the three points today – & be concerned about the quality of our play tomorrow.

    Besides , a goal like that deserves to win a game.

  12. Northbank1969

    I can’t remember a team that has been so heavily inflicted with injuries to key players at crucial times than us over the last couple of years. Since the Eduardo incident we’re had a horrendous injury record..Be it training style or because teams tend to kick lumps out of us something needs to be addressed. 4 points off title spot with Ramsey, Wilshere, Theo, Ozil, Podolski, No Diaby, Gibbs and Nacho all having been out for long periods is very concerning, especially since it’s WC year so they won’t even get a summer break as such

  13. Yes, sometimes, Northbank.

    On experience of the past, we have seen teams like this current Arsenal side before. They don’t win league titles but they can win cups.

    That’s fine, I want one or two of those, but I hope we are aiming for more than that.

  14. @MLF

    I think at the moment we’ve only got 8 players out injured, and that includes Diaby and Kallstrom. (so you could class it as 6) Most of the top teams have between 4-8 players out injured. I’ve just checked the Injury League website. I see four points off top spot as positive….. but I’ve always been a glass half full sort of fan 🙂

  15. @Consols

    Little by little, lets get a cup this season….. then next season we can aim for more. Lets not forget that it’s been a while, so I’ve got patience. At least it’s not 1953 – 1968 🙂

  16. I’m with that, Northbank.

    That’s why I can’t understand the unwillingness of some to take a food, honest look at where we are now.

  17. @Northbank…..

    There is no reason for moaning, we won against the Spuds @ White Shit Lane despite playing good for 70 seconds out of 5400.

    When you win you win, of course this stat won’t matter. It will not work against big teams who have the killer instinct and the players to do something with all this possession.

    If you win against Barcelona playing like that, it’s a freak of nature or a crazy ball.

    Unless, I’m on dope, Arsene had a brain transplant, and we are now playing defensive football all around? Although we are doing well defensively, We are NOT A defensive team.

    We did miss Ozil today, with this much space behind the Spuds back line….He could have wreaked havoc.


    Do I take the win in any game like that, of course I would…………..Is it going to work? We going to need a whole lot of luck.

  18. Bob,

    In past seasons we’d be dumped out of everything in a week by now, we are doing better now, were still in there. apart from the cl of course but its improvement.

  19. The problem is replacing the key men we have.

    Our squad is not level in terms of ability, we need more quality players who can step in and cause chaos when a key first team member is out.

  20. Dukey

    You are so right, todays game, over the last few seasons would have been a loss and the implode would commence. This season however, with our defensive strength, has seen us move on from that. Still in the running, FA Cup semi….. there are ‘reasons to be cheerful’ 🙂

  21. It’s OK, it’s progress.

    It’s all about stepping it up, building to be a team that can
    compete with the best in Europe and for the Title, consistently.

    That’s where we must be aiming, surely?

  22. I’m just glad we won today. Didn’t get to see the game but sounds like I don’t need to.
    What does concern me is that if we can’t raise our game against a shite spurs team then we can pretty much give up any hope we have on taking down Chelsea or Man C.

  23. Arsene on aspirations

    The 64 year old insisted he is up for the fight.

    The Frenchman said: “I still have the energy and the excitement. I want to do well.

    “I do not stay here because I have been here a long time but because I want to respond to the expectation of our fans.

    “People want us to win the championship. People want us to win trophies and that is what I want to do.

    “I had to stay here a long time knowing that we had little chance to win the Premier League but I think now we are in a position again where we can fight with other clubs to sign big players.”

  24. Whats this about Dim Sherwood throwing the ball at Sags a couple of times, if he isn’t careful he will be joining Alain Pardieu at anger management classes.

  25. I do agree, had this been last season we’d have crumbled under their pressure. Avoid a loss to City and Chelsea and FA cup win and it’s a good season! If OG goes in summer, then i replacement will come in and we have Ramsey, Diaby, Rosicky all rested in summer. Jack should rest as well IMO but he won’t and i’m always nervy with Ox, always limping away at the end of games! Ox, Ramsey, Ozil are my picks for next season, pace, creativity and guile.

    Did anyone see Merson ripping Spurs a new one? Cracking! “Whos buying these players? It’s not Sherwood is it? Of 100 million spent, who out of the lot of them can you say has been worth it? Not one of em” Cracker.

  26. Well bob I think we are now, we were top for a while this season which we haven’t been for a few years, that’s progress in itself, were still in with a shout of the title and its now mid march. normally were talking about the emirates cup about this time of the season. let wenger spend some more money from under his bed next season.

  27. Gritty performance. On another day the hope is that Ox would have buried or at least hit the target with 2 of his 3 opportunities. Arsenal could and should have scored at least once upon those 3 opportunities and in so doing probably would have run out winners by a more comfortable score line. Ox may have to remember his shooting boots for the next game.

    The second half spoke of the nervousness within the side to just keep the ball out of our area, whilst missing the point that blindly hitting it up field did nothing but invite more pressure.

    I have to say it is almost completed formulaic the way Arsene approaches his substitutions now, 70 minutes or so we start with defenders replacing our attackers. Not that the side did well before the advent of the subs in keeping the ball, but to then reduce the attacking numbers and settle for hoofing it up field just seemed staggering. Surely it makes sense to try and retain some of the possession ourselves? I understand we set out to counter from deep in this game, but we got so deep at times we had no outs at all.

  28. Am I right in thinking that Chelsea will be without the services of both Ramirez and Willian for the fixture at the Bridge next weekend?

  29. Anyone still think ManUre is going to get a 4th place spot?

    Tippy tappy is the way forward, I love it, but we just need someone who can take it by the scruff of the neck to tippy tappy it to.

  30. 6 years since we last won at the Lane, cannot really have any complaints. Oh, and we gained 3 points on the current leaders whilst future distancing ourselves from those chasing the top 4. Good weekend really.

  31. @TATG

    Liverpool totally warranted their win and they made United yet again look very ordinary. That said, the dive by Sturridge which thus resulted in a player being sent from the field should by now be a retrospectively punishable offense in my book. Simulation now has simply gone on to cast a terrible shadow over the game, and it is cheating. Paul Mariner recent stated on ESPN FC that diving is not in fact cheating but rather a tactic to be employed in a game where by you are allowed to encourage the referee to make a decision in your favor. Simply, this notion is bollocks. Attitudes like this is why the game gets brought in to disrepute and questions are asked about officials fairness. It is time to put this bed, blatant cheating should be a retrospective ban and 3 games not 1. Time to stamp out this shit. Sturridge, you’re an odious footballer who I put is pilloried in the coming days.

  32. Congratulations to Joel Campbell and his Greek League title with Olympiacos securing a 2-0 win over Panthrakikos.

  33. I don’t care how we win at WHL as long as we do. In fact – despite all their sound and fury – I felt only really worried in the third quarter. In the first half we were only a deep breath of composure away from extending the lead, and in the last 20 mins they got tired and ran out of ideas – defensive subs worked ok then.

    We’d have lost that game two years ago – but hey, we’re within range of Chels, even though we need another gear for that. Glass half full!

  34. Miami Arsenal
    No Jose either, he’ll be in the stands for it.

    As for the subs..Well there wasn’t really another attacker we could bring on! I can’t wait to see this side with Ramsey, Wilshere, Ozil and Ox in full flow, i think it could be devastating, thing is will it ever bloody happen! Throw in a player like Bender or something to help from the defensive side and a top class CF in the mould of Suarez/Aguero/Cavani and we could be formidable

  35. I for one am extremely happy with what took place today.

    Beat Sp*rs for the 1st time at shite fart lane since 2007. Check

    Opened a 9 point gap over sp*uds, with a game in hand, taking a massive, early stride towards CL qualification. Check.

    Closed gap on leaders. Check.

    I couldn’t give a monkey’s how we played today in posssion and attack: we dug in, we focused, we defended and we won. Considering we were so poor, we should have been out of sight with the first half opportunities Ox had (+ Podolski and Giroud bearing down on goal at 1-0 in unison, unopposed, and falsely flagged offside); perhaps people have forgotten the hissy fit nice but dim had at his side’s kamikaze “defending”. We were poor at keeping the ball and wasteful on the counter and still won. Perfect. #coyg


    Only time i was worried was in the first 5 minutes when it looked like Woz had taken some goalkeeping advice from Almunia at half time….

  37. Matt

    i forgot about that, Pod clearly onside as well with Giroud free for the cutback, they’ve certainly missed that out of the analysis. If Ox had put away his chance when he was 1 on 1 with Lloris, we’d have gone on to score 4/5 i think, when we get in the mood we’re great but scoring the quick goal seemed to backfire and we didn’t know if we should attack or contain

  38. Line up today was perfect
    Every Arsenal pass was perfect
    Every Arsenal challenge was perfect
    Arsène’s subs? All spot on
    Giroud’s performance? spot on
    Our offensive game? fantastic.

    Why? Because we got the maximum result possible out of a football match which is 3 points. We haven’t won at the shit hole since 2007/08

    There I was thinking that at this time of the season the result is all that matters because you can be certain, we would be hearing exactly that if we had 67% possession had loads of chances and drew 3-3 because we didn’t defend for our lives.

    You can be sure to hear something like ‘a proper title chasing team can grind out wins when not playing at their best’

    I remember watching Arsenal vs Chelsea a good few years back now at home. We dominated them, missed all sorts of chances and were picked off on the break and lost 4-1 I think it was.

    This season shows that we have learnt from those days and this game has nothing to do with our match against Chelsea. There will likely be both tactical and personnel adjustments and we are probably unlikely to score after only a few seconds so the game will more than likely play out differently.

    With Walcott, Ramsey, Wilshere and Özil out injured and single digit games remaining I am more than happy with any scrappy victory against our neighbours away from home.

  39. Hi MGK! Nice to see you on the blog.

    Of course in terms of this result there is much to celebrate. A good weekend for us. When we look forward to Chelsea, I have more concerns.

    No Ramires or Willian, but they have plenty of players. Matic was an excellent pick up for them. That is the sort of skillful physical presence we could do with too. But less options for them helps us, certainly.

  40. Mean, I don’t think the result shows much other than that we beat Spuds away, which is a very good win. If we beat Chelsea and Coty and Everton ugly with pretty poor performances, I’ll be thrilled. The chances of that happening are pretty low though. But what options do we have? We’ve got so many injuries to top players and no real options upfront so is it any wonder we often have games that are more characterized by our defensive qualities?

  41. That 3 points was tooth and nail from the 10th minute to the last minute.

    That was survival ,not grit.

    There wasn’t at any moment in the game where we were remotely comfortable, none at all.

    And THAT’S why it was such an incredibly tense match.

    Results like this, yes please!

    Performance like this, no thanks!

  42. @Moe

    Besides the Wojo flap that resulted in an effort but which was blocked by Kos (I believe), I cannot say I felt nervous about the result at all. Arsenal should have put the game beyond Spurs in the first half and if not for some indifferent shooting and a poor off side call we may have been 3 up.

    The only pressure we really endured was our inability in the 2nd half to string passes together but you could see that Arsenal were determined to hold on to the lead rather than expand upon it. I’m not in favor of the latter where we invited unnecessary pressure, but really they didn’t create much of anything for the most part.

  43. MA

    I’m always a bag of nerves! 🙂

    I understand what you are saying but it makes me nervous when you let the other team have such dominance over the play. Were Tottenham a better team, that game would have been alot different.

    Question is though,was it a deliberate tactic by Arsene, because i noticed we didn’t play in their half, we were content with the counter attack.

  44. MA

    Kallstrom back next week, where do you see him playing? Next to Arteta/Flamini?

    I don’t know what he brings though, i mean do we let him have the Wilshere/Ramsey/Chamberlain role when he comes on as a sub, or does he replace Arteta?

  45. I’m sure many of us expected a better performance from Chelsea at Villa. Every team have played so many games and the pressure is very high we are not going to get top quality performances every week. Let’s not forget, it wasn’t long ago when we beat a very good Everton side to get into the FA cup semis.

    Today Spurs didn’t create many quality chances. They had a lot of the ball and crossed the ball to Mert and Kos. Szczesny gifted them their best chance.

    It might not always make for comfortable viewing but we seem to trust in our defensive game. (Newcastle away another example) when we go in front our aim first and foremost is to hold it.

    On another day we would have killed them on the break during that first half. That is my only slight regret, I say slight because of course we won.

  46. I’d love us to beat Mourinho with us own bus. Love us to score from a Chelsea mistake and then park the bus (successfully) for the 90 minutes just so we can listen to the fucker moaning about it at the full time whistle. Win that game and seriously anything is possible.

  47. great result
    great defensive performance..
    a goal worthy of winning any game and a defensive display by kozzer to make tony adams drool..

    only grumble is everytime spurs went forward the ball found its way to ade and it stuck and they swarmed us yet everytime we went forward the ball got no further than the half way line before it was on its way back..
    giroud was fucking shite i dont know what he was doing today other than fuck all and when he did get the ball he was laying off hospital passes, we might as well have been playng with 10 men but its a good job spurs are shite and kozzers top class and stopped ade from destroying us.

    motm performance…

  48. @Moe

    Yeah, Kallstorm will be a deeper type midfielder. Really his acquisition as a last minute loan seemed to be purely from a rotation point of view with future injuries in mind. Lets not reopen the “he was injured when he got him debate” 🙂 I didn’t understand it then and I certainly don’t now, but at least he is finally close to fitness.

    I don’t think it was Arsene’s intention to defend deeper and deeper, will at least not until he then introduced 3 defensive players for attackers. At that stage Arsenal set out their stall to defend in numbers and it showed. Again for me the result mattered and in truth I saw grit in the team, a determination to get the job done. As I said above, the game should have been over as a contest before half time and I think that played in to the minds of the players.

    Chelsea will be a tough nut to crack next week and I am not going in their with the assumption we should expect much of anything from the game. But, as a lover of the Arsenal my heart says we can win, may be not handsomely but I’d take a 1-0. I’d also take one of the less important squad players giving the Odious One the universal finger 🙂 it’d be worth their ban.

  49. If reports are true (which they seldom are) then Giroud is off in the summer as wifey is pissed and she wants him back in France or no marriage.

  50. Miami Arsenal

    I have some issues with that, i can’t see Wenger selling for less than he paid and would anyone bid £15million for him in France right now? I don’t think so….I fully expect him to still be here after WC! But i want Wenger to bring in another CF of a different nature along with a natural winger! Pod will be off, which i think could actually be quite damaging for team moral as he seems to be the very Arsenal, but will be interesting to see what happens. I think Sagna will be off to Monaco or PSG, if pod leaves i feel it will be to Schalke for Draxler swap and i think the Florentina RM/RW who’s name escapes me could come in!

    Like i said, i think Ramsey, Ox, Ozil axis will be devastating next season if we bring in a CDM who can play alongside Flamini/Arteta! But if we’re getting players signed up, i hope Kos is in line for a massiave pay raise, he’s been amazing!

  51. Funny that Giroud could leave due to marital issues and RVP looks disinterested at Man U, wonder if Wenger would take him back at a cut price for 1/2 seasons and bring in Draxler to learn off him haha.

    Personally i wouldn’t take him back, but Wenger definitely would

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