North London Derby: Fan-to-Fan Preview

Hello folks.  It’s derby weekend, and so I’ve invited my Spurs-supporting pal (contradiction in terms, I grant you) Adam Nathan along to have a quick chat.

If you’re still not satiated after reading through this, them head over to arseblog and listen to today’s arsecast, on which I join a couple of other more eloquent bloggers to discuss derbies, defending, and other delights.

SELECTION HEADACHES

GS: Arsene has been spared a major headache with the admittedly worrying news that Kieran Gibbs is not available.  That means he’ll be able to field all three of his first-choice centre-backs, with Thomas Vermaelen again being shunted out on to the left.  There have been some suggestions in the media that Arsene could switch to 3-5-2 imminently, but I’m dubious about that story.  Even if he was contemplating a switch, I doubt he’d make it ahead of such an important game.  Aside from that, the team picks itself.  If Wojciech Szczesny is fit he simply has to displace Vito Mannone, whilst Bacary Sagna ought to continue at right-back, despite a touch of fatigue.  Jack Wilshere will return from suspension to join Arteta and Cazorla in midfield, whilst the front three of Podolski, Giroud and Walcott should continue after a relatively impressive showing against Reading.

Adam: Sadly, the selection headaches all Spurs fans will have wished upon Boas have been eradicated by a lengthy injury list for Saturday’s game. In addition to long term absentees like Ekotto, Parker and Kaboul,  Dembele’s chronic hip injury could not have come at a worse time for us, with our form seriously suffering since the Belgian’s injury flared up again in the last international break.

In terms of the decisions AVB will have to make, I would expect him to again, wrongly, go with Brad Friedel in goal in place of Hugo Lloris, whilst Huddlestone, Carroll, Livermore, Dempsey and Sigurdsson will fight it out for the two centre midfield spots along side the Brazilian Sandro, who has probably been our most consistent player this season. Up front, whilst some will call for a strike partnership of Adebayor and Defoe, I would expect us to again go into the game with one striker. After an impressive full league debut in Manchester last weekend, most Spurs fans will hope that Adebayor is given a chance to line-up against his old team once again.

RECENT FORM

GS: I don’t want to talk about it.  Ok, fine… after a positive start familiar frailties have been exposed.  The clean sheets with which we started the season now appear anomalous rather than indicative of any kind of improvement.  Arsenal seem stuck in their painful annual cycle.  Traditionally, November is when the wheels come off.  So far, it’s brought us the comprehensive defeat by United, and the surrendering of two two-goal leads against Schalke and Fulham.

Adam: Quite frankly, we have been pretty poor all season. Aside from a good 90 minutes at Reading and decent halves at Old Trafford and St. Mary’s, we have looked like a very average side thus far under our new management regime. Naturally it will take time for Boas to impress his ideas on a squad that not only suffered a terrible end to last season but has since been dismantled and put poorly back together by Daniel Levy, but in order for our season to end with any degree of success, we will really need to buck our ideas up, hopefully starting on Saturday.

HEAD TO HEAD

GS: My impression of Spurs is that Sandro and Huddlestone aren’t the most mobile of defensive midfielders, so I’m hoping the fleet-of-foot provided by Cazorla and Wilshere could be the difference.  Moussa Dembele will be a big miss for Spurs.

In recent weeks, we’ve looked very vulnerable on our left flank, and Spurs have the players to exploit that.  They tend to line up with Kyle Walker and Aaron Lennon, but they also have the option of switching Gareth Bale to give  Thomas Vermaelen a different kind of problem to tackle.  Or attempt to, at any rate.

The major worry is the horrible habit players have of scoring against their former club.  It’s not hard to imagine either William Gallas or Emmanuel Adebayor returning to haunt us.

Adam: In terms of where we can actually hurt Arsenal, I can’t see past our one true match winner, Gareth Bale; if we are to leave the Emirates with three points, it’s fairly safe to say that he will play a crucial role for us, with his well publicised pace, power and finesse. On the other side of the pitch, Aaron Lennon has had a decent season so far, although continues to deliver the goals and assists that would see him classed as a top player. That said, Arsenal have seemed to struggle at left back this season, so perhaps the England winger will be able to put in a big performance on Saturday afternoon.

With regard to where we can be hurt, the centre midfield area looks like a worrying proposition for Spurs fans. In all likelihood, we will continue with a three of Sandro, Huddlestone and Dempsey, the latter two who have in truth had terrible seasons thus far. If Arsenal are able to press us high up the pitch and maintain possession in the centre of the park, I worry that we will get overrun and ultimately punished by Arsenal’s attacking flair, which doesn’t seem to have been the reason for your dropping of points thus far.

PREDICTED TEAM

GS: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Arteta, Wilshere, Cazorla, Walcott, Giroud, Podolski

Adam: Friedel, Walker, Caulker, Gallas, Vertonghen, Sandro, Huddlestone, Dempsey, Lennon, Bale, Adebayor.

PREDICTED SCORE

GS: Arsenal 2 – 1 Spurs – I can’t see Spurs not scoring.  In fact, I think they may even take the lead.  However, this game is so big for Arsenal that I believe we’ll pull a result out of the bag.  The likes of Podolski, Giroud and Cazorla have the chance to make themselves a hero.  My money’s on the Frenchman to do just that.

Adam: Arsenal 3 – 1 Spurs - Ultimately, we have not played well for a month now, and seem to have too many injuries to stand a serious chance of taking anything away from the game this weekend. Whilst many have pointed out the frailties in Arsenal’s team, your players always seem to raise it more than ours do on games like this, with last season being a great example, and as a result I expect you to come through fairly unchallenged. That said, we live in eternal hope!

A little over 24 hours till game-time now.  Come On Arsenal.

Gunnerblog is the brainchild of childbrained football writer James McNicholas. Aside from Gunnerblog, James currently contributes to Bleacher Report, The Mirror and ESPN.