That's me, right behind Walcott, reaching to touch the feet of the gods.

Arsenal v. Tottenham: the common enemy

Preamble

The North London Derby has never had the feel of a real rivalry to me. I understand, logically, that it’s a rivalry but I’m not talking logic, I’m talking feelings.

Chelsea have always felt more like a rival. They poached our players, kicked us around, and beat us indiscriminately. Tottenham have always felt like that little brother who wants to hang out with you but who you ditch to go play with your cool friends in the Champions League.

And of course, I understand that this lack of feeling I had is because I don’t live in London and don’t have to worry about some thugs in white trying to kick my skull in week in and week out. Nor do I have to deal with brothers, cousins, friends, co-workers, cabbies, or any of the other countless wankers that your average London-based Gooner encounters every day. I almost never see a Spurs fan and have never been threatened by one or had one do the adult equivalent of “neener neener” when they win. Chelsea fans, on the other hand, are everywhere and they are the human equivalent of a boil on the ass of sports.

But the last few years this match has had a different feel to it and it’s starting to feel more like a rivalry for me. Maybe it was the trip to Liverpool in a van full of away boys that helped to grow this feeling. They did sing “two-nil and you fucked it up” about a million times along with every other anti-Spurs chant. All of them. Yes, that one too. And so while the seeds of rivalry were planted when Danny Rose scored his wonder goal a few years back, they were watered liberally with chants of winning the League at White Hart Lane.

I will never forget the Wetherspoon’s in Liverpool town center and the woman at  the other table who took all of us Arsenal supporters on with some solo chant about Spurs. I don’t even know what her chant was because before she could finish the first stanza the roar back from the gathered Gooners was deafening. We serenaded her for the better part of an hour.

Seeing what the rivalry meant to those Arsenal fans converted me on the spot. I get it. It will always be a rivalry, even long after they are relegated. So, I’m going into tomorrow’s game with a strong feeling of contempt for our noisy little brothers from down the Lane. Contempt mixed with hope that this match can paper over some of the cracks that threaten to become chasms.

Arsenal are wounded club at the moment. Fractured by all this talk of firing Arsene Wenger. Divided by the incessant battering of “the board”. With fans hammering away at players like Abou Diaby as if he’s ever really counted in any calculations. Ticket prices, season tickets in the clock-end, on and on the list of demands goes.

They want their Arsenal back? Well I want my Arsenal back. The one where 60,000 voices sing in unison “Number one was Perry Groves…” the one where I’m not afraid to voice a dissenting opinion from another Arsenal fan. The one which embraces Arsenal supporters from all over the world. The one where we all laugh, cry, and enjoy the games. You know, the reason we all joined the club in the first place? The games?

And we can get that Arsenal back because it’s only ever and always will only ever be about winning. Start winning games and all of this dissent and anger fades back into background.

I can think of no better time to start that than tomorrow against the old enemy.

What do we think of Tottenham?

Key Players

Theo Walcott v. Jan Vertonghen – You probably don’t know this but Theo Walcott has more Arsenal “caps” than any other player currently in the squad. He has been with Arsenal for 8 years and has 234 appearances in all competitions. Sagna is the second most experienced Arsenal player with 209 apps for the club. It’s kind of incredible when you think about it; Walcott is just 23 years old. I don’t know this for a fact but I feel that no other club in world football would hand a 23 year old 234 appearances.

Walcott played in both North London Derby’s last season, the 2-1 loss at Shite Hart Lane and the 5-2 win at the Grove. In the loss, he was terrible. In the win, he was terrible for the first half and scored a brace in the second. This is a theme with Theo over the last few years, that he can start games cold and warm up to them. Tomorrow, against Spurs, he needs to put in a complete performance.

After I realized that Theo is Arsenal’s most capped player I had a bit of an existential crisis: which player at Arsenal is instilling the love for the club into the hearts of new boys Poldi, Giroud, and Cazorla? Walcott? I suppose he could be that guy in his own way, he does stay the longest after matches and applaud the fans, but he just doesn’t strike me as the type of player who would take Poldi aside and do what Adams did to Lee Dixon before his first derby:

This was my first north London derby and I actually remember the build-up more than the contest itself. I’d been at Highbury nine months but I was taken aback when, in the dressing room, the local boys – Tony Adams, Paul Davis, David Rocastle and Michael Thomas – practically pinned me up against the wall and said: “Now listen here, you outsider from Stoke. Tonight is what being an Arsenal player is all about… ” Crikey, it was terrifying and, although we conceded a couple, it had the desired affect and we pulled off a famous victory at White Hart Lane.

I can’t see anyone at the club right now doing that to anyone else.

Tactically, though, Walcott and Sagna are going to be crucial tomorrow. Andre Villas-Boas has been playing Jan Vertonghen as left back in the last few games. Vertonghen is not very comfortable in the position and AVB is compounding the problem by playing a high pressing game allowing speedy runners space to operate behind the defense. Sound familiar?

I would be surprised if AVB pressed Arsenal tomorrow because the formula that works against Arsenal is to sit back and hit on the counter, or try to get a goal off a corner and free kicks. But if he does, this could be a big game for Theo Walcott.

On the other side of the coin, Vertonghen has a pretty deadly long throw and is impressive in the air when Spurs give him the chance. He could provide a set play threat.

Olivier Giroud v. Steven Caulker - Giroud is in a run of good form of late, getting himself into great positions and subsequently taking over the shooter’s duty from Cazorla.  The result is 4 goals in the last 4 Arsenal matches. He’s also working very hard in other areas of the pitch, providing an outlet for Arsenal when they sit deep and need to hoof the ball out, playing defense on set plays, and providing a threat for Arsenal against teams who sit deep against the Gunners.

Giroud is also forming quite the partnership with Theo Walcott and when the Englishman plays wide the crosses come thick and fast. I’d like to see some of the other Arsenal midfielders start to play off Giroud more. If they could catch the knack for Giroud’s knockdowns that could be a key to opening up Spurs if they opt for the deeper formation.

Meanwhile, Caulker is coming off a tough game for England against Zlatan who basically manhandled him for 75 minutes and, if available, Giroud will give Caulker another physical game. The young Englishman is physically imposing and does win a lot of headers and so the aerial battles between those two will be particularly interesting.

On the other end of the field, I watched Caulker score on Man City and for England and he is a real threat from set plays. I have no doubt that regardless of the formation and tactics used during the run of play, on every dead ball situation Spurs will be trying to get the ball onto Caulker’s head.

Szczesny v. Adebayor - Emmanuel Adebayor only ever plays well against his former employers and since Arsenal are a former employer he will be up up up for this game. Andre Villas-Boas is already talking him up publicly but that’s the thing about Adebayor, you just never know what will work to motivate him and AVB’s quotes might just make him feel good enough that he’ll revert to being King of the Grifters.

When Adebayor’s on point he can be one of the best strikers in the League. He’s a threat from set plays, holds the ball up well, can drop deep and start the attack, has a great finish, and is deceptively quick on counter attacks. When he wants to be.

Szczesny has a late test but I suspect he’ll pass and be fit to play. That’s great news for Arsenal, not because Mannone was horrible but rather, because he has a bit of mojo on Adebayor. Last year before the away fixture, Szczesny publicly said that he knew how to handle Adebayor and that during practice he would routinely shut Adebayor down. Arsenal lost that match 2-1 but at one point Adebayor had a one-v-one with Szczesny and the Arsenal keeper actually faked Adebayor into making a move the way he wanted and collected the ball from him. It was the lone bright spot of that game.

Szczesny is also different from Manone in that he will add some aerial presence to the Gunners on set plays, which we have already covered will be a major mode of attack for Spurs.

Monkey v. Sagnamaelen - Gareth Bale is a one trick monkey, but he’s exceptionally good at that trick. Not the kick and rush, the dive. In fact, every player on Spurs are a bunch of diving cheats. Against Man City they spent more time collectively rolling around on the ground pretending to be injured than they did playing actual football.

When they do play football, Bale runs at people. AVB will probably give him the freedom to run on either side of the pitch and get crosses in to Adebayor. It will be interesting to see how forward Sagna will be able to get and whether Spurs use Bale to attack Sagna or Vermaelen. Conventional wisdom has Bale on the left but Villas-Boas was once a team scout so he will be fully aware of what tactics work best against Arsenal and right now teams are getting a lot of joy down Arsenal’s left.

Wilshere is peerless - Forget about formations, 4-3-3, 3-5-2, blah blah blah. The only thing I’m thinking about is the fact that Jack Wilshere has been a Gunner since he was nine years old. If there is anyone at Arsenal who knows what this rivalry means it’s him. And Arsenal need Jack in this game.

Arsenal need Jack to be there to support Arteta if Spurs try to man mark him out of the game. To support Cazorla if Spurs send wave after wave of midfield destroyers after him (Sandro in particular). To provide some drive to the midfield when the team start to look sluggish. To carry the ball past a defender and create some havoc in their lines.

This will be Jack’s toughest test in an Arsenal shirt for the last two years.

Referee tomorrow is Howard Melton Webb 

I will be posting some numbers over at Arseblog News in a bit.

Qq

 

53 thoughts on “Arsenal v. Tottenham: the common enemy

  1. +4 Vote -1 Vote +1jacob

    this is our chance! everybody needs to understand not only can we beat the spurs but if we do we move above them and hopefully a few other teams. the leader in the arsenal squad right now is Sagna and i know he can lead us to victory like he did last season. i can’t wait because i know we can win this tomorrow and push on for the tittle.

  2. -18 Vote -1 Vote +1ross

    No actually you muppet have no evidence that I have no life. I actually am a very sucessful man that does enormous work for charity. You on the other hand cleary from your ‘blog’ show that you have no real idea of the ral value of the rivalry between spurs and Arsenal and your pathetic attempts to identify you as a real Arsenal supporter clearer show that there is No other possibility that you can be anything else other tha a loser

    1. +9 Vote -1 Vote +1Tim Post author

      True, we have no evidence to disprove that you are successful. I suppose you could be wildly successful at, say, giving strangers blow jobs. I also have no evidence to disprove that.

      Congratulations on your success.

      1. +14 Vote -1 Vote +1Shard

        You actually have evidence to support your theory. As a Spurs fan, kissing the badge entails sucking a cock.

  3. +6 Vote -1 Vote +1crazeemunky

    i was about to post a comment on how scary it would be if other teams read your blog since you so keenly dissect and analyse all the elements of the arsenal pre-match.

    then someone like ross shows up and i breathe a sigh of relief that the internet is still mainly plebeian.

    1. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1jacob

      i must apologize for saying you dont have a life. your resent comments have shown me what a great life you have.

  4. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1Matt

    Interestingly: Minneapolis is CRAWLING with Spurs fans. I am not kidding. You cannot swing a dead cat in this town without hitting an idiot wearing a Spurs kit…

    AND THEY ARE AWFUL PEOPLE. I HATE ALL OF THEM. UPPITY ASSHOLES THE LOT OF THEM. I want nothing more than for them to lose ALL OF THE TIME.

    One example: when Arsenal are playing on a Saturday and Spurs are playing on a Sunday, Tottenham fans will show up at the Pub anyway to cheer for whatever team Arsenal happen to playing. It drives me bonkers.

    Chelsea fans, for the most part, are few and far between, unless they happen to be in a cup final of course.

  5. +5 Vote -1 Vote +1Shard

    Oh no. Melonhead Melton? Oh well. How Tottenham play depends on whether AVB is practical or an idealist. We spanked Chelsea and made John Terry eat grass, because they played a high line and tried to press us. Will he do the same with Spurs?

    Tim, I get exactly what you mean about the Spurs rivalry. I had the exact same feelings about them before I went over to London and visited Arsenal pubs and went to games. It wasn’t quite a road trip to Liverpool, but it was enough to turn it into a real rivalry. For me to get it.. Spurs’ annual proclamations of how this year they’ll finish above Arsenal have gotten annoying enough because they display no shame when they get it wrong every year.

    Great blog, and a great passionate buildup. My only worry is that the last time you built up a match so passionately was before we went to the Red Mancs. We all know how that ended. Hopefully this team will be more up for it against Spurs. We have to win this. We beat them last year and it sparked a turnaround (I WAS THERE!! Had to get that in :) ) To expect another turnaround would be too much, but we have to win. We will win. Regardless of the referee, regardless of Monkeyboy and Greedybayor, and regardless of the divisions in the fanbase. We are the Arsenal.

  6. +3 Vote -1 Vote +11NilToTheArsenal

    I couldn’t care less that it’s the North London Derby. More than anything, I’m just really willing the club to acquit themselves properly and desperately hoping for the 3 points.

    Just f$%king show up lads and remember the words of Sir Paul:

    “When you gotta got a job to do you gotta do it well
    You gotta to give the other fella HELLLL!…”

    Anybody seen “Skyfall” yet? I hear it’s excellent.

    1. Vote -1 Vote +1Cliffy

      There is WestHam Vs Stoke coming up on Monday…just push your imagination with Kevin Nolan as Daniel Craig..

  7. Vote -1 Vote +1dano328

    Why am I not seeing speculation about a January move for a DM? Since AW gambled and lost on the health of Diaby, and our dip started since his departure, I can’t understand why a physical MF would not be priority #1. Maybe it is and they are keeping quiet. That position, a versatile FB, and experienced GK are much more important than attackers, IMO.

    Also, can one of our RBs, play on the left ?

  8. +4 Vote -1 Vote +1jax

    I used to go to school with plenty of Spurs supporters (come from Highgate) and they’re not a bad crowd really. Most stayed friends for many years, but for every ten good ones you get a complete nob like Ross. Stats tell the truth and they’re nowhere near success wise over the years, and right now are probably our equal, but destined to finish behind us as usual. It’s the natural order of North London football teams.

  9. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1Cliffy

    Build-up perfecto…!

    Webb and was biased towards ManU last week…and he was refreeing Chelsea Vs Liverpool…I am sure he will push for a draw…and be fair to both sides…Give Bale a penalty for a dive and red-card Sandro…

    If Arsenal are wounded…spurs are even more..They are coming on the back of three straight defeats in Premier league against City, Wigan and Norwich…and want to get back into their early season form the peak of which had seen them take 3 points from Old Trafford…They need the points more…if not as much as us…expect a tight fight…

    I am keen to see what role Dempsey will play in the game…Per got to win his headers…neat and clean..everytime..

  10. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Ssinderias

    I did have contact with a Scum fan, an old guy who came up behind me last October at Peet’s Coffee, tapped me on the shoulder and said “My team beat your team.” I tried to be gracious but he was a jerk full of jerky smirks, etc. He was probably channeling Clive Allen since the whole “Arsene Wenger didn’t shake my hand” spectacle that morning. I haven’t run into him since, definitely hoped I’d see him after our February win this year, but oh well. He is probably related to Ross in the earlier comments. Classless old bastard.

    In the natural order of life and football, Arsenal will always end the season above the Spuds. Let’s kick the Scum back to the cesspool they originated from. Let’s bring the passion, let’s show our class. Come on Arsenal!

    1. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Cliffy

      What a day to score the first goal…!!!!
      So Walcott did pull the Germans aside and give them the talk… :)

  11. +3 Vote -1 Vote +1ctpa

    Thank you Mr. Adebayor. You finally got the red card you’ve deserved from stepping on RVP’s face in front of that asshole of a referee Clattebnberg. Picked the wrong referee this time to be stupid in front of. The real question is what game McManaman watching? That was a red card foul all day, every day if you don’t have blinders on.

    I’m not going to get all ecstatic about being up 3-1 on a 10 man team because we should be up by that and even more. Until that red card, we were just decent down 0-1. We were playing 4-5-1 at home, what was up with that? The movement for the Sp***s goal looked like a ice hockey odd man rush as Mertesacker was totally lost and Vermaelen was ball watching as Adebayor swept in the rebound. You had another week another team figuring out that playing a man on Arteta will blunt the Arsenal attack. Until that red card, Cazorla was the invisible man again.

  12. +3 Vote -1 Vote +1ctpa

    Walcott scores and so all 4 of our offensive players get their goals.

    Are the Sp**s fans doing the Poznan, no they’re are just leaving.

  13. +4 Vote -1 Vote +1ctpa

    Nice to see Henry back but I would have preferred he were still with a NY Red Bulls team in the cup hunt.

    Darke and McManaman making excuses for their over the top Arsenal criticism. Compared to Robson, they are light weights.

  14. Vote -1 Vote +11NilToTheArsenal

    Yes, that felt REALLY good. I think a lot of us have breathed a huge collective sigh of relief that the club CAN actually deliver the goods (3 points) when they are there for the taking.

    Lots of commenters will pounce on the negatives (of which there were more than a few), but for me, this is a such a good day.On top of which Chelsea and Everton put icing on the the cake and and Man U may follow (although with 10 minutes left as I write this, I should know better!)

    MOTM: Theo Walcott. He’s been immense these past few weeks.

  15. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Skyranger

    For fuck sake sign Walcott . If you don:t , in my mind the managenent need a serious kick up the arse with a spitfire , all eight guns blazing!!!!!!

  16. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1Adam

    They played incredibly today, with real flair. We’ve missed that for a few weeks. Conceding stupid goals is still passing me off. Even though we won, I’d rather 3-0, than 5-2, Tbh.

  17. +5 Vote -1 Vote +1Tee Song

    I’ll take these days anytime, thank you. Win the North London Derby and see at least five of the teams ahead of us lose.

    As for those deluded tot fans who will claim they’d won but for Adeba-whore’s stupidity, well that’s what you get with him. Ever since Wenger coaxed ONE world class season from him, his greed, egotism, laziness, and all around cuntishness have risen to the surface like pus from a boil, ready to pop at any moment. You wanted him, so you get to clean up after him when he shits all over you. Couldn’t have asked for a better match.

  18. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1ctpa

    Every week the anti-Arsenalists are quick to point out how many points we are from the top. Will they change that to how much closer we are today? I won’t hold my breath.

    Adebayor’s problem today was that he needed to get his tackle waist high where Webb would not have seen it. Thank goodness Cazorla presents a shorter target area.

    Amazing that all managers sing from the same hymn book which says the player meant no harm with their red cards foul.

    One win is all it takes to feel good about Arsenal again.

  19. Vote -1 Vote +1Londoncalling12

    Late I know but I have been busy.
    I was there; naturally. It was rather good…but must confess not as great as Feb 12. I am so loving Theo at the moment, then again I love all Arsenal players as long as they play in the Red & White.

    Champions League on Wednesday, I may write something about it depending on how late I get home after the evening game.

    P.S. At the end of the game yesterday… Thomas V was the only player who walked straight to the tunnel immediately. Something is afoot me think.
    xx

  20. Vote -1 Vote +1ctpa

    Hangeland straight red for a 2 footed tackle that I thought harsh because he seemed to be trying to keep the studs pointed down while making the tackle. Lip reading Probert said, it was 2 footed to Hangeland. Now we’ll see the offense might of Sunderland.

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