Good morning from Islington, and it’s North London derby day.
Mikel Arteta was giving nothing away regarding the availability of players over whom there’s a post-Interlull question mark. Thomas Partey, Oleksandr Zinchenko, Kieran Tierney, Takehiro Tomiyasu – when asked about them, he said:
They are part of the team.
I checked the training pictures, none of them are in there, but I’m assuming this is Arteta’s doing: he just does not want to give anything away to the opposition, and the true extent of the fitness of these players will be known at 11.30am when the team news drops. I’m hoping all of them will be available.
If they are, the manager has a couple of decisions to make I guess, and who he plays at left back might be a very important one today. I think Zinchenko is a better player technically than Tierney, and operating in that hybrid inside role he could bring a lot to the way we play the game today. One way of avoiding the dangers of the opposition is to have the ball as much as possible. I do wonder if Tierney might be best for today though, because there will be times when Sp*rs win it and look to set their forwards free – this is what they’re good at – and the Scotsman is the better defender.
Like much of today, it’s about finding that balance. We’re at home, the crowd will be up for it, and the onus will be on us to go and win the game. Except that suits them down to the ground. They’ll be happy enough to stay organised and compact, then look to transition when it breaks down, playing to the strengths of their front three. No doubt there have been many training ground conversations about this, the players will not be unaware, and I’m sure that will have played some part in the preparations.
What happened in the last derby isn’t necessarily relevant to this one, but I hope it still rankles in-house. Perhaps our approach should have been different that day, a touch more conservative, but the end to last season was painful and while the motivation this season is to do better overall, some revenge today would be very welcome.
Last season’s back four at their place was Cedric, Rob Holding, Gabriel, and a not fully fit Tomiyasu at left back. Today’s is likely to be much, much stronger. If Thomas Partey is available, he’d replace Mohamed Elneny in that line-up, while Gabriel Jesus up front adds another dimension to our attack – and that’s no criticism of Eddie Nketiah who did pretty well at the end of last season.
This is definitely a different Arsenal in terms of the line-up, assuming we’re not beset by fitness issues, and I think it’s a different Arsenal in terms of confidence, belief and the way we’re playing. These games are just so hard to predict, as ever the first goal is so important, and while we can all recognise the strengths of the opposition, if we can play the way we’re capable of, I think this is a game we can win.
Arteta says of the game at White Hart Lane last May:
It is a different context. We went into that game with many different circumstances in terms of players that were available to play that game, and what happened during the game. You take the lesson, you learn from it and you move on.
And there were lessons to be learned. Some of them we’ve addressed in the transfer market, but some can only be addressed on the pitch today. Let’s hope we can do that, because this is probably our biggest test so far this season, and with Liverpool next weekend, it’d be a big confidence boost if we took all three points.
Right, 12.30 kick off. I need coffee and some breakfast. See some of you pre/post-game, I hope. There’s a preview podcast below if you have time this morning too.
Come on you reds!