Hello one and all. I’m back from a brief holiday in time for the biggest game of our season. To help me preview it, I’ve called upon the services of Tottenham fan @adamdnathan.
AN: Aside from the long term injuries to Sandro and Kaboul, both of whom would be massive additions to the side, Spurs should be at full strength. Defoe may return in time for a place on the bench, but in spite of Adebayor’s recent poor form, it seems generally accepted that we play better as a team with the Togolese leading the line.
GS: Arsenal will be without Bacary Sagna and Kieran Gibbs, meaning Nacho Monreal and Carl Jenkinson will continue at full-back. Abou Diaby is apparently facing a fitness test, although even if he passes I’d consider starting him too great a gamble.
AN: Most of the team picks itself, with Lloris, Walker, Dawson, Vertonghen, Parker, Dembele, Bale, Lennon and Adebayor certain to start. AVB’s only decision will be to play Ekotto or Vertonghen at left back, with Caulker inside if he takes the latter option, and Holtby in the attacking three or perhaps Gylfi Sigurdsson, who finally looked to be an £8 million player on Monday.
GS: Arsenal’s back four picks itself – it’s ahead of that where Arsene Wenger faces some tricky choices. I’d opt for the work-rate of Aaron Ramsey alongside Mikel Arteta at the base of our midfield, with Jack Wilshere in the number 10 role. That means shifting Santi Cazorla wide, which unfortunately drops Lukas Podolski to the bench once again.
AN: Bale is pretty much the only answer to this question of course, but Hugo Lloris could be as much of a match saver as a winner. He has been exceptional since taking the reigns from Friedel in the reverse fixture, and is regularly winning the team points with big moments between the sticks.
GS: Santi Cazorla has scored Arsenal’s last three Premier League goals, and my gut says he could be the man to unlock Spurs once again tomorrow.
AN: In terms of dictating the game, it will be vitally important for us to limit the time we allow Wilshere, Arteta and Cazorla on the ball, but the player who will always scare me when in an Arsenal shirt is Theo Walcott. I’m firmly in the camp of him being a top Premier League player, and his goals and assist stats over the last few years certainly suggest that he will be the man to watch tomorrow.
GS: There’s no doubt that Gareth Bale is the man in form. Few players in Europe are producing those match-winning moments on such a consistent basis. Arsenal fans are quick to knock Bale down (not the hardest thing to do, after all), but I suspect that any criticism masks their genuine irritation that Tottenham have a player with that kind of ability. In recent games he’s been deployed in the centre. I’d be happy to see him there again, as I do worry about what he might do up against Carl Jenkinson, who is currently lacking both experience and match practice.
AN: It’s going to be a crucial games for both teams’ aspirations of getting into the Champions League next year, with a win really boosting either sides’ chances going into the last 10 games of the season. Should the game be a draw with 15-20 minutes to go however, it wouldn’t surprise me if both teams were happy to play the rest of the game out and back themselves to finish above the other with a good run of form going into May.
GS: Arsenal simply have to avoid defeat. A draw keeps things open going in to the final stretch, but a win for Spurs would hand them all the initiative. As for what a heavy defeat would do to the club… well, I’d rather not think/write about it. A win would be fantastic, but a draw would be enough to give us a fighting chance of finishing fourth.
AN: If, as alluded to in his press conference, Arsenal don’t go into the game with a plan for Gareth Bale, there is a strong possibility that the Welshman could run riot again against a shaky defence. I don’t see him being the sole protagonist though, and arsenal clearly have a number of players who could hurt us. In truth, I can see the game being a bit of a topsy-turvy 2-2 draw, which both sides ultimately settle for at the final whistle.
GS: It strikes me that a draw would suit both sides, and on such occasions I’m always inclined to plump for a stale-mate. I’ll follow Adams lead and plump for an entertaining 2-2.
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