Sp*rs preview: get your cannons out

Right then, a North London derby to contend with today.

As we know, Bacary Sagna is missing and the manager has to make a decision about Abou Diaby’s fitness. I suspect that despite saying he’d pay no special attention to Gareth Bale that our line-up today does consider the threat of the Welshman. I could be entirely wrong – it has been known – but I think he’ll use Aaron Ramsey to do it.

Putting his own Welshman in midfield will give him the energy and work rate that might be needed against a player who is not really going to hug the left hand touchline. I don’t think we have to worry about Carl Jenkinson facing Bale, he’s going to be much more central. Nullifying him means not letting him on to his left foot and closing him down quickly; precisely what West Ham didn’t do the other night.

It sounds simple but it’ll be hard work which is why I think he’ll use a player with a fantastic engine. We’ll see. That said, I do agree with the manager that it’s more down to us than anything else. It’s foolish to suggest we’re not aware of the threat of Bale, and their other great players like … erm … Anderton … but it will ultimately boil down to how we play. And if we can cut out the self-destructive nonsense we’re so fond of I think we’ve got a great chance of a good result.

We have players who can hurt them. Walcott likes a goal, Santi’s in good form, Giroud is due one and Podolski (although I think he’ll probably start on the bench) has got some important ones this season. We have a midfield that’s capable too, and as long as we don’t switch off, or see the keeper channel his inner Fabmunia, then I think we’ll be fine.

I’ll admit, I’d take a draw. I think it’d be a decent result. With 10 games left to go there’s plenty of time to overhaul them, the most important thing is that we don’t let them get any further ahead. Of course the idea of Arsenal playing for a draw is ludicrous. We’re not capable of doing that, it’s not in our nature, nor that of the manager, and he’s going to send out to try and win the game as he always does. But he’s right when he says:

The game on Sunday will have a psychological importance for the rest of the season.

Win it and we’ll put the shits up them because they’ve been here before and they know what happens. Even if we draw they’ll be looking over their shoulders, knowing they blew a much bigger lead last season and it’ll get on top of them, I’m sure of it. Lose, however, and they might feel they’ve gotten a monkey off their back (not Bale). I think there’s still enough time and points left for a loss not to be 100% critical but it’d certainly make life very difficult. The last thing we want to do is give them the illusion they’re worth anything.

Twice Arsene Wenger has faced Andre Vilas Boas as manager, twice we’ve smashed five goals past them. Will that make him a bit cautious today? Will he tug at his beard and worry about the threat Arsenal pose from an attacking point of view? I don’t think so. Both teams will be going it for it today, it’s the only way we know how to play, and as I said it’s all down to us. Stay solid at the back and I think we’ve got more than enough to hurt them.

We tend not to make life that easy for ourselves though, and it may well be a game that we have to dig very deep to get something from. At the end of the day, the players need to remember who they’re facing and play accordingly. Nothing less than 100% will do, and as I’ve always said, a cannon is far superior to a chicken on a basketball. And this is definitely a game we can get the right result from.

Come on you reds.

In other news, there’s a report in today’s Telegraph suggesting we may be the subject of a big offer from a Middle East consortium who buy out the current shareholders, pay off our debts, make all the transfers in the world and do everything anybody ever wanted football club owners to do. A ‘source’ said:

Arsenal is at a pivotal position at the moment. The fear is that the club is facing a cycle of decline like Liverpool. From our point of view it is the perfect moment to make this bid because at this moment in time you can still genuinely justify this extraordinary valuation on the club.

Quite how much truth there is in this we just don’t know. If you pushed me I’d say that it’s probably almost completely a load of old bollocks and the timing of it is suspicious to say the least. That said, if people are prepared to pump billions into no-mark, shitheel clubs like Chelsea and Man City then it’s no surprise that Arsenal would be a target. There’s no doubt this story is a consequence of our rather dysfunctional ownership structure, where the two largest shareholders exist in an 80s style cold-war bubble. This is JFK and Khrushchev, not Reagan and Gorbachev. That’s never, ever going to change, and as long as it goes on I think these stories will exist.

For now, it’s just a report, we’ll have to wait and see if anyone will really put their money where their mouth is. But if they do, they might want to lay off with the comparisons to Liverpool. We might be struggling by our own high standards, but it’s not 20+ years since we won the league.

Obviously, everyone will be watching later, Sunday kick-offs make it easy, but feel free to join us on the live blog all the same. Check back later for a post with all the info or you can bookmark the default live blog page.

We’ve also set up a Twitter account @arseblog_live which will provide important updates like goals, cards, substitutions, half-time and full time scores. If you follow that and enable SMS notifications via Twitter, you can get those updates sent directly to your phone.

And if you fancy a flutter, Paddy Power will give you a £20 free bet if you sign up and bet £10. Simply click here to register.

And that’s that for now. Time for breakfast, more coffee, then some chicken smashing. Until later.


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