04 March 2016

Wenger in, Wenger out; let's just hope for a North London knockout!

It's been a generation since a North London Derby has been as pregnant with meaning as this one is. Not since 1993 has so much ridden on the result of this one. Much as we'd like to comfort ourselves with the fact that those twenty years and change reflect just how much better we've been than our noisome neighbours, we face a cold, hard truth and might be staring an uglier one straight in the face: Tottenham are, at least for now, better than we are. We are reeling from two consecutive defeats and are three points off their pace. Forget St. Totteringham's Day for the moment. Our season is on the line.

I wouldn't mind a bit more of that Michael Oliver magic...
I'm rarely one for hyperbole, but this is one of the biggest matches in recent history. Win, and we keep alive our hopes of winning the Prem. Lose, and we not only have to stave off challenges from Man City, Man U, and West Ham to stay in the top four, we may very well witness the end of an era. Should we lose at White Hart Lane, we might very well have to confront the end of Arsène Wenger's tenure. While it's true that we could still win a third consecutive FA Cup (an historic accomplishment), finishing below Tottenham and outside the top-four could signal an ignominious end to a man so synonymous with the club that a fair few still believe that the club takes its name from him.

As to the action on the pitch, we'll arrive without Koscielny or Čech, ominous signs indeed. Čech picked up a niggle on that last-gasp grasp at an equaliser against Swansea, having to sprint back to his own goal after joining the fray in front of Fabianski. We will have to pin our slender hopes of victory on the rather-broad shoulders of Ospina while hoping that Mertesacker and Gabriel can find some chemistry. It's a bit unsettling to point out that Tottenham have scored 49 goals, just behind Leicester's 51, and seem to have finally wedded that firepower to their stubborn defense, a league-best 22 goals conceded.

We have our work cut out for us.

Tottenham's most significant injury is to Jan Vertonghen, but, if anything, they seem to have stiffened in his absence. Any references to Thomas Vermaelen are to be ignored. Toby Alderweireld has quietly emerged as one of the Prem's best centre-backs, and he and Lloris will dare us to find a way to score, something we've struggled to do in recent weeks. If anyone in our squad can find his scoring boots, this would be the time. Someone, anyone, has to rise up and find some kind of form for this fixture and for the run-in. Giroud. Alexis. Walcott. Welbeck. The goals have got to come from someone.

If we stagger to a third-straight defeat, I—well, I don't want to have to finish that sentence. It's time for our lads to lay it all on the line. Leave it all on the pitch. Leave no questions unanswered. In other words, smash those Spuds.

LAST 3
Arsenal 1-1 Tottenham (08.11.2015)
Tottenham 1-2 Arsenal (23.09.2015)
Tottenham 2-1 Arsenal (07.02.2015)

FACTFILE
We first clashed in 1909, a 1-0 win for Woolwich Arsenal.
Arsenal have scored at least one goal in each of our last five visits to White Hart Lane.
Arsenal have not finished below Tottenham since 1995.

INJURIES
Čech, Kosielny, Cazorla, Wilshere, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Arteta and Rosický have all been ruled out.

POSSIBLE STARTING XI
Ospina; Monreal, Gabriel, Mertesacker, Bellerín; Coquelin, Ramsey; Alexis, Özil, Campbell; Giroud.

This one is too tense to predict; expect Tottenham to defend doggedly in search of a draw. However, I don't think they can cope with the pressure of being "favorites".

PREDICTION
Tottenham 1-2 Arsenal.

Enough from me, though. What are your thoughts? Get down to the comments-section to share yours...