Sire! Sire! The vandals are at the gates!
But Sire, they will surely be through if we do not act!
There is nothing we can do about it.
But we must man the ramparts, ready the archers and oil
I am sorry it has come to this but Premier League rules dictate we must play Tottenham at home once per season…
Butterflies kicked in yet? It’s a long day of tingling excitement for the teatime kick-off in the North London Derby. You can ready yourself with today’s playlist, Stick It To The Man, which can be found here or if you have the Spotify desktop client, use Dad’s Jukebox on the right sidebar.
Football has almost gone retro today with Liverpool and Everton meeting today. Get the Party 7 out alongside the dry roasted peanuts and bombay mix; Babycham and Snowballs for the ladies. Double derbies work wonders, work wonders…Those of a certain age now have Burton Pale Ale’s advertising jingle running through their head.
Last season was something of a pause for breath in the meetings between the two sides, three fixtures mustering just four goals between them. This from meetings that had twenty in the previous four to those. It didn’t matter as Arsenal won the trio of matches without conceding, something that is as pleasing as hitting five in consecutive seasons, just in a different way. Losing one-nil is a painful defeat; the hope of salvaging something remains until the last-minute before being extinguished as the referee’s lips the purse one last time.
Anguish is something that Tottenham are used to, according to Arsène, whilst they build their new stadium. No, wait, they will have to get to used to. It’s all relative, I suppose. Wenger took the opportunity to build the portents of doom in their minds whilst they contemplate the impact funding can have. It all depends on your outlook but with a multi-billionaire owner, it is surprising that they are contemplating external borrowing beyond that which the government has already pledged. Then again, that Joe Lewis is flirting with American hedge funds indicates his long-term view on the club.
It’s interesting that Arsène considers it to have been a stressful time in the club’s history. That suggests he feels more relaxed now which may be more due to winning the FA Cup than the future of the club. Wenger was a victim of his own standards; judgements passed are based on what he has done rather than aspirations. Arsène had a rich vein of success in the first half of his reign and I wonder if he would have changed the period from 2006 to 2012.
We all would, of course, make different decisions with the benefit of hindsight and I suspect he would not have neglected the FA Cup to the extent he did on occasion; exits at Blackburn, Sunderland and Stoke probably wouldn’t have happened whilst stronger teams may well have been fielded against the likes of Chelsea and United. Like I said, hindsight is easy and as long as we learn from those mistakes and progress, that is all anyone can ask for. That includes squad depth, the whole gamut of footballing experience. If the majority shareholder can learn that taking money of the club is a relatively easy process, I am sure the manager will adapt quickly to having a big transfer budget.
Speaking to the media, Arsène suggested that the line-up for this season is not yet settled despite the improved performance at Villa Park. For this afternoon, to me, it is relatively straightforward; a little tinker with the right side of the team but nothing more. The return of Per Mertesacker means Wenger will switch Chambers to full back and being at home, Santi Cazorla’s invention wins over the pacey directness of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Whilst Wenger prefers to consider Mesut Özil’s role in the side on a game-by-game basis, it is clear that the understanding between the German and Danny Welbeck is building.
Playing Özil centrally allows him the option of drifting wherever the space is waiting to be exploited. Put him on the wing and he can be crowded out on the flanks with the only solution to move into more traffic in the middle of the pitch. For that reason, it is curious not to play him there more often where he is harder for opponents to neutralise without creating space centrally.
The temptation to bring Jack Wilshere into the side must have been strong for Wenger, to take Aaron Ramsey out of the limelight and offer respite. Doing so just swaps one set of pressures for another. That he will not make the change was indicated by a robust defence of the Welshman. Wenger agrees with many that Ramsey has not been at his peak although Arsène prefers to indicate this by highlighting his charge’s overall contribution. What is clear that having been chastised as he grew up in public, expectations have moved rapidly in the other direction and the judgements just as harsh.
He played poorly by his own standards this season – or is that compared to last year – and this is noticeable because the goals haven’t been as regular. It underlines what regularly scoring can do for confidence but this season his dangerous presence is known so the constant reinvention that players who reach the top of the game must undergo, begins again. The speed of that development cycle in his game determines those who move from being considered very good to world-class.
The latter is thrown around like confetti on a wedding day but the players who stay in that class show the footballing intelligence quickly. Ramsey will do the same and you sense that Arsène wasn’t too far off the mark when he noted that the player was too consumed with the scoring aspect of his game. Becoming comfortable with the balance between the various parts of his game will allow Ramsey to relax on the pitch and improve his form. It’s an easy game on paper, isn’t it?
A win is vital for Arsenal. Results last weekend went our way, this weekend will not be so clear-cut. Even at this early stage of the season, it is important to stop a gap from opening, especially with the visit to Stamford Bridge next week. I know Southampton and Villa are there now but I wouldn’t expect either to be around the top four next May. If Arsenal are to make progress from last season, remaining unbeaten and winning is the key. Keeping that going this afternoon is vital and as a nice benefit, offers bragging rights as well.
From The Vaults
I know what you are thinking. You’re expecting a home tonking but I think this match report from Arsenal’s visit to White Hart Lane on 27th September 1975 might just be the most honest you will ever read. And one of my favourites. Tottenham did finish above Arsenal this season, with Bertie Mee’s final season. How they would have laughed. Shouldn’t have really; the following season, 1976-77, saw Terry Neill cross north London to take the vacant Arsenal job and Tottenham finish bottom of the old First Division and relegation.
Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.