Depending on who you ask, Robbie Keane either “kicked off the mind games” or showed that pride cometh before the fall by boasting that Tottenham’s starting XI are as good as Arsenal’s and that they edge Arsenal on the bench. Given that it’s Friday and Le Boss’ press conference hasn’t been released yet, I thought that instead of a match preview, I’d just take Keane up on his challenge and see whether Spuds have managed to stack their Tottenham high enough to reach Arsenal. To do that, I’m taking both teams’ starting XI from their last Premier League match, and looking at those two teams and then delving into the injured reserve. We’ll do as close as we can a side-by-side comparison, see if you agree:
Mannone v. Gomes
Mannone got his Arsenal career off to a cracking start with a spectacular match against Fulham but since then has shown signs of weakness, none more so than his poor handling of Diamanti’s free kick against Wet Hams on Saturday. Throw in the fact that he’s inexperienced and that means he’ll make more of these mistakes and you’d be inclined to think that the edge goes to Gomes, but you’d be wrong.
Gomes does have a lot more experience than Mannone, a lot more experience making clownish mistakes. And while his distribution is stellar, his high claims are poor — which is pretty much the bag on Mannone as well. Gomes’ best quality is his reactions but again, that’s Mannone’s best quality too.
I have to ask myself would I rather have Gomes or Mannone on Saturday? Honestly, I don’t think it would matter much. In 4 Premier League matches Gomes has made just 9 saves, let in 4 goals, and kept 0 clean sheets. Mannone has 5 games, made 19 saves, let in 5 goals, but kept 2 clean sheets. Really, it’s a wash.
Vermaelen v. Bassong
No question, Vermaelen is on 4 goals already and is on the short list for defender of the season. Bassong is a decent player but is second fiddle to Woody or King. 1-0 to the Arsenal.
Gallas v. Woodgate
Two vastly experienced defenders who have played for top level teams and for their country. That said, only one still plays for country and only one still plays for a top team: William Gallas. Plus Gallas already has 3 goals this season, Woody only has 1 GAME. 2-0 to the Arsenal.
Clichy v. Assou-Ekotto
Both players have blazing speed and lung bursting stamina, but Assou-Ekotto has a goal (and it was a good one too) and Clichy does not. In fact, ask most Arsenal supporters and they see Gibbs already pushing Clichy for his spot on the team owing to Gibbs’ superior crossing ability. Despite the fact that Clihy is in the French national team and Assou-Ekotto isn’t, I’m giving the edge here to Spuds, 2-1 to the Arsenal.
Sagna v. Corluka
Tottenham’s 6’3″ Croatian international has impressed hugely at RB and with his size he can slot in at CB, also a goal threat. I love Sagna he’s a defender’s defender and it’s not taking anything away from Sagna to say that Tottenham have the advantage in that spot. Corluka’s just been that good, 2-2 draw.
Song v. Palacios
Tough call here because both players are important to their team in different ways. Palacios is a bit more rangey and Song is a lot more solid and more able to slot in as CB when Vermaelen makes a run forward. So while Palacios is more of a box-to-box player, Song is more of a traditional holding mid. I’m going to go with Song here, just because I love the way that Alex Song has come on this season, 3-2 to the Arsenal.
Diaby v. Huddlestone
No question, I’d pick… neither. 3-2 to the Arsenal.
Fabregas v. Kranjcar
Kranjkar is a fine little player, but I don’t see Barcelona constantly courting him, 4-2 to the Arsenal.
Eboue v. Lennon
“Eboue is the best player on Arsenal” — My friend Alex being cheeky. Look, I love Eboue’s heart, I love his defending, I love that he leaves everything on the field, but Aaron Lennon and his go-faster eyebrows have simply put in an amazing start to the season so much so that he’s pushed Theo Walcott out of the England side, 4-3 to the Arsenal.
Arshavin v. Crouch
Andrei Arshavin is a game winner, Peter Crouch is tall and robotic, 5-3 to the Arsenal.
Robin van Persie v. Robbie Keane
Robin van Persie has 5 goals and 5 assists in 9 games and Robbie Keane has 5 goals and 2 assists in 10 games, and it’s a close call. Robin is currently playing center forward for Arsenal, which is a hugely demanding position and he’s playing the best football of his life in that role. Robbie is playing well this year in his role as second striker, but is overshadowed by the play of Lennon at the moment. Still, I’m giving this one to Robin, his goals/game and assists totals are just slightly higher, 6-3 to Arsenal.
Supposedly, this is where Spuds have an advantage, according to Keane so let’s take a look. Arsenal went to Wet Hams with Silvestre, Almunia, Eduardo, Nasri, Bendtner, Ramsey, and Gibbs on their bench. Tottenham hosted Stoke with Jenas, Cudicini, Dawson, Hutton, Pavlyuchenko, Bale, and Naughton on theirs. I’m giving Cudicini the advantage over Almunia, Jenas the slight advantage over Rambo (experience only), and Silvestre and Dawson are a wash. The rest of Arsenal’s bench is much stronger than Tottenham, hands down. Pavlyuchenko is saying that he’s got psychological issues and put up against the quality of Eduardo the difference is night and day: can you imagine Pav coming back from Eduardo’s broken leg? Nasri alone is better than that entire bench and Bendtner is a great target man. Gibbs is pushing for first team at Arsenal and might get a world cup call up from England while Bale has been exposed as a one trick pony. These two benches aren’t even comparable, 7-3 to the Arsenal.
But what about the infirmary?
It’s true that Tottenham are missing the quality of Luca Modric, who is easily their best player. But I only have one question; would Modric start on this Arsenal team? Ahead of Rosicky? Ahead of Fabregas? Nasri? Arshavin? I don’t think so. I actually rate Rosicky way higher than Modric and then we also have Walcott, Djourou, and Denilson who are all first team starters waiting to get healthy. At keeper, Arsenal #1 Fabianski is out for 3 weeks — Fabianski against Gomes? No question, I’ll take Fabby. Throw in the fact that Vela is pushing for first team starts with his brilliant play and you can see that Arsenal have some serious depth waiting to come back from injury. Who are Spuds eagerly awaiting? Return of the King? Yeah, 8-3 to the Arsenal.
Maybe Robbie Keane is a comedian? Maybe he thought he was “geeing up” the Spuds ahead of tomorrow’s match? Personally, I don’t know but I suspect that Wenger has taped that Article on the inside of every Arsenal player’s locker for the match tomorrow and I suspect that Arsenal will be extra eager to show exactly how much better they are than Tottenham. Because in the end, no matter how tall you stack a pile of Tottenham, it’s still a pile of Tottenham.
The match kicks off tomorrow at 5:45 am PST (because we Americans don’t set our clocks back yet) and is available in the States in glorious High Definition on ESPN2. Right around the same time we should be finding out that we’ve pulled Spurs in the Carling Cup which will afford us an opportunity to show Robbie Keane than not only is the first team better, but our youth team is better than their first team as well. Anyway, stop by tomorrow at 5:15 and join us for the Liveblog won’t you? See you then!