Having much better things to do on a Saturday evening than watch Sp*rs, I wonder if my frame of mind going into today’s game is a little different from those who subjected themselves to the game at Anfield last night.
They dropped points, not as many as we might have liked and certainly not as many as Liverpool fans would have liked either, but the dropping is a positive thing. The derby was always going to be relevant and the result gives us an opportunity today to open up a gap ahead of that game.
It’s a chance we have to make the most of as Leeds come to town today and the reality of this season is that you cant take anything for granted. Winnable games are lost, difficult games are won, but if you want to be in the top four at the end of the season, you have no real margin for error at this point of the campaign.
Mikel Arteta himself, not usually one for grand statements beyond the job at hand, called it ‘the defining moment of the season’ and he’s not wrong. Every point is precious, and while I don’t think we should be thinking this way, when I said there’s no real margin for error, going into the derby with a four point lead gives you just that, which makes today so very important. The flip side, of course, is that there is the potential to seal the deal at White Hart Lane, which would be very nice indeed.
I’m sure all of you have run the numbers and explored the various permutations, but first and foremost we have to do our job today against a Leeds side that sit just two points outside the relegation zone. On them, Mikel Arteta says:
It’s a lot to play for and obviously, the situation that they are in, they are going to show how much they want to get out of that zone as quickly as possible.
On the one hand, you can say it’s always tough against a team that is fighting for survival, and that’s true. On the other, there’s usually a good reason why they find themselves down that end of the table. If you were looking at a rival facing a team battling relegation, you’d be thinking ‘Well, this is going to be easy against relegation fodder’, but it doesn’t work like that when it’s your own game. I don’t think the Arsenal players will be expecting anything other than a really difficult game from a team that will scrap for everything, and we’ve got to be ready for that.
In terms of our team news, I don’t see much in the way of change. If Ben White is available and not putting himself at risk for the derby, he might return, but if there’s a doubt, I think we’ll be cautious with him. There’s an ideal scenario as to how these next couple of games play out, but also one where we’re looking at the points from the last two fixtures as necessary, so that has to factor into that decision today. He might be badly needed against Newcastle and Everton.
In his continued absence (if that is the case) Rob Holding should continue and the rest of the side will probably be the same as the one that started against West Ham, unless the manager has a joker up his sleeve. Quite what that could be, beyond possibly doing something else at left-back and the interchange of Gabriel Martinelli and Emile Smith Rowe, I don’t really know. He’ll have seen the players in training this week, so whatever he decides for this one is fair enough.
As ever, it feels like the first goal will be important. For us an early one would settle nerves, and contribute to what I hope will be an already good atmosphere inside the stadium. Scoring first has been a defining aspect of our wins this season, so let’s hope we can get ourselves ahead, then build on that.
What more is there to say? It’s a big game at a big moment of the season, so let’s hope we can deliver and continue the push for a top four finish. Win. Win ugly. Win lucky. However it happens, it doesn’t matter. Just win.
Come on you reds!
Final bit today: good luck to the Arsenal Women who face West Ham away in their final game of the season before the men play. If they win, and if Chelsea drop points to Man Utd, the title will be theirs.
Right, time for some breakfast, a dog walk, and I’ll catch you later for the game.