We are on the eve of what could be St. Totteringham’s day. The signs, if you believe in them, have been ominous. The Tinies have lost some key players to injuries and suspensions and were worked for over two hours on a heavy pitch. The only thing that can see them through is adrenaline, although as an Arsenal fan I should never discount a gift from one of our players.
When the teams met at the Emirates it was a third v fourth encounter. Since then Arsenal have gone on towards a title challenge despite various injuries, horrendous tackles and shocking refereeing. The neighbours have had a stop start season and are hanging in the race for fourth due to uncharacteristically poor form of their challengers.
Now we are at a stage of the season where the form book doesn’t always matter and results can be decided on the day. An Arsenal side shorn of half the first team regulars needs to step up and take the three points we need.
The Tinies came to the Emirates with a big man upfront and a simple plan of hoofing it to him at every opportunity. Arsenal did a great job of winning the second ball and that left the visitors without a single meaningful attack in the whole game.
We can expect the Totts to work hard, close down any space, and generally make it difficult for us to move the ball. Their main attacking threats will be through Crouch and with some shots from distance. I’m quite worried about the lack of news about Song’s fitness. He was really crucial to us winning the second ball at the Emirates and I’m not sure we have anyone else who can do just as good a job.
Bale can be another big player for them down the left and it’ll be an interesting tussle if he goes up against childhood buddy Walcott.
From an Arsenal point of view, we need a faster tempo than what we’ve seen in the last few weeks. Hopefully the rest would have done everyone some good and we will come out all guns blazing. If we fail to keep the speed of our passing high then the Tinies get a better chance of closing us down and after that it becomes more of a midfield battle.
The back five should be obvious, although some might be tempted to pick Eboue ahead of Sagna. In the midfield we should have the same three who started at the Camp Nou. I am assuming Song isn’t fit for this game. Update: Song is definitely out for two games.
Up front there could be a role for Robin van Persie but I’m not sure he will start. In case he is on the bench we might actually have the same starting eleven that started in Barcelona except Campbell in for Silvestre.
The team is likely to be,
Almunia; Sagna, Campbell, Vermaelen, Clichy; Denilson, Nasri, Diaby; Walcott, Bendtner, Rosicky.
We need to move on from a difficult night in Spain. The difference on that night was the best player in the world and the Tinies, sadly for them, don’t have anyone close to that class. If we win this, Chelsea will be worried.