After a hectic festive schedule, both Arsenal and Spurs were probably hoping for a lower league side at home in the F.A. Cup 3rd Round. A high intensity and close run North London derby was probably not what either of them wanted.
Yet both sets of players and supporters ought to be excited by the prospect of a North London derby- and a little terrified too. Since Tim Sherwood took over at Spurs, they’ve adopted a 4-4-2 approach which suggests this could be another open game.
However, the approach at Old Trafford was slightly more nuanced than the ‘just fackin run araaand a bit’ philosophy some people (me) have previously accused him of.
Sherwood adopted a pair of destroyers in central midfield at Old Trafford on New Year’s Day, with the aim of soaking up United pressure before utilising Eriksen and Lennon on the wings on the counter. It was a strategy that worked well.
Arsenal meanwhile defeated Cardiff with force of will. They struggled however without a central striker with presence and aerial ability and that’s a problem they will have to face again tomorrow, with Giroud and Bendtner both unavailable.
Mesut Ozil trained today which suggests he may be available to inject much needed creativity into the side. For all the talk of Arsenal’s needs up top, Giroud, Bendtner, Podolski and Walcott have all been on the scoresheet over Christmas.
I expect Wenger to persist with Podolski as a central striker, with Walcott playing pretty much as a strike partner, albeit one that drifts in from the right. Podolski likes the left hand side and his combination play in front of the centre backs could help Ozil and Cazorla find the space to feed Walcott’s runs. Either way, you feel that two of Ozil, Rosicky and Cazorla will need to play to make Arsenal’s front line function.
Arsene Wenger thinks Tottenham are a more adventurous side these days and expects them to be full of attacking threat on Saturday.
‘First of all they have lost one big game against Liverpool but if you look at their overall record since the start of the season, it isn’t bad,’ Wenger told Arsenal’s official website.
‘I’m not surprised that Tottenham can win football games. They won at Manchester United but Man United this season, even if I think Tottenham played very well, are a bit more vulnerable. They took advantage well of that because they played at a good pace going forward.
‘They are more adventurous. With Soldado and Adebayor [up front], they have found a balance – at the moment that suits the team well. They always looked dangerous at Man United and that’s certainly the pair that we’ll have to keep quiet.’
Meanwhile Spurs boss Tim Sherwood says his side will be looking to win at the Emirates. ‘We`ll treat the game with the respect it deserves and approach it to win. We know how much it means to the fans.’
‘Arsenal have surprised everyone this season. You have to give them credit. They`ve got on a roll and play some fantastic football. We`ll try to get our offensive players on the ball as much as we can and we feel we can cause them some problems.’
‘This club has great history and tradition in the FA Cup and we hope to continue that by winning at the Emirates.
‘It`s the biggest game for any Tottenham person and the manager particularly. If we manage to win at the Emirates, it would be the pinnacle.’
Arsenal Team News:
Arsenal have lost Nicklas Bendtner to an ankle injury obtained seconds after he smashed home the opener against Cardiff. Olivier Giroud was recovering well from his own ankle injury, but is 90% out according to the manager, as he is the latest in a very long line of Arsenal players to suffer a sickness bug this season.
Mesut Ozil had a fitness test on a shoulder injury on Friday and trained normally. Alex Oxlade Chamberlain (knee), Aaron Ramsey (thigh), Yaya Sanogo (back) and Kieran Gibbs (calf) are all out.
Arsenal (from): Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Koscielny, Rosicky, Arteta, Podolski, Wilshere, Ozil, Walcott, Monreal, S.Cazorla, Flamini, Fabianski, Jenkinson, Ryo, Gnabry, Zelalem.
Player to watch: Theo Walcott
Spurs have persisted with a high defensive line under Tim Sherwood and if they do so again tomorrow, Theo Walcott could potentially cause them problems.
Podolski played nominally as the central striker against Cardiff, but it was clear he was there for his combination play, Theo was considered the main target for the final ball and I suspect that will be the case again against Spurs. If Ozil is passed fit, it makes the option all the more presentable.
Tottenham Hotspur Team News:
Emmanuel Adebayor is fit for Spurs, having been stretchered off with cramp against Manchester United. However, Erik Lamela (thigh), Kyle Naughton (hamstring), Paulinho (ankle), Gylfi Sigurdsson (calf) and Jan Verthongen (ankle) are all absent.
Sandro and Younes Kaboul will return to training next week and therefore will also be unavailable. Andros Townsend and Jermain Defoe return.
Tottenham Hotspur (from): Walker, Rose, Chiriches, Lennon, Soldado, Adebayor, Holtby, Townsend, Defoe, Dembele, Dawson, Chadli, Eriksen, Friedel, Lloris, Fryers, Kane.
Player to watch: Emmanuel Adebayor
Unfortunately we are in the 2/5ths of the year that Adebayor seems to actually give a ****. That being the case, he’s one of the more dangerous strikers in the Premier League.
Surely he will fancy another chance of scoring at the Emirates, where he already has two goals. Last season his temper got the better of him, but you’d suspect that not even Adebayor would be so stupid as to repeat the mistake this time.
Match Facts & Stats
The last three F.A. Cup meetings between the clubs have been semi finals. With Spurs prevailing at Wembley in 1991, Arsenal exacting revenge at the same venue in 1993 and Arsenal winning 2-1 at Old Trafford in 2001.
The referee will be Mark Clattenburg.
Neither team will be happy with a 2-2 draw and a replay. Walcott and Arteta for Arsenal, Adebayor and Soldado for Spurs.
Emmanuel Adebayor plays against his old club.
Arsenal have won their last three home games against Spurs.
Spurs have won their last 5 away games in all competitions.
The last three games between these sides at the Emirates have produced 15 goals and 2 red cards.
Arsenal haven’t scored a first half goal since Theo Walcott’s effort at Manchester City.
Arsenal play Aston Villa away. The date of that game is incumbent on the result of this one. In principle it’s next Monday night at 8pm. If this is a draw, it will move to next Sunday at midday. Slow handclap for the TV companies there. F*****g morons.
Spurs are at home to Crsytal Palace next Saturday.