Early Tottenham Thoughts
A decent weekend for Arsenal as Manchester United unexpectedly dropped points at Blackburn. That result gives Arsenal a little warning as Ewood Park has been a bit of a graveyard this season for the top six with only Manchester City coming away with maximum points. It is much the same as the visit to St Andrews, a win was entirely possible yet a draw the result as with the other sides.
The outcome of the next two fixtures for Chelsea and Arsenal will go a long way to deciding the eventual resting place of the title. No matter what hopes we have of Jack Wilshere scoring the winning goal for Bolton at Stamford Bridge tomorrow, anything but a convincing home victory will be a surprise. Bolton are probably safe from relegation and have other fixtures where they will be targetting the required points to ensure their Premier League survival.
It seems unlikely that they would field a reserve side but with upcoming fixtures at Stoke and at home to Portsmouth, Owen Coyle may decide that tomorrow is as good a time as any to rest some players. Scoring goals is their problem, none in the last three at Everton or home to Villa and Manchester United. Having been trounced 4-0 at The Reebok by Chelsea earlier in the season, the latter’s visit to White Hart Lane at the weekend assumes greater importance for Arsenal.
Chelsea has the title to lose. Arsenal can only win their last five games and hope for the best. That is very much the attitude of the players, Nicklas Bendtner the latest to reaffirm that position.
White Hart Lane sees two teams come into the game on the back of defeats in cup competitions. It is a question of who reacts the better. Arsenal has had a week to get over the defeat in the Nou Camp and may benefit from that rest, mentally as well as physically. Three points takes Arsenal 2nd, one ahead of Manchester United. With their goal difference being vastly superior, the points advantage will be crucial in finishing above them. Tottenham seem set for Europe next season with 6th place set for a Europa League spot following Manchester United’s Carling Cup win and more likely, 7th as well should Chelsea win the FA Cup by the 500 goal margin that the media expects them to. Even if Portsmouth do triumph, their dubious finanicial standing may preclude them from taking their place in the Europa League.
Tottenham, of course, want 4th spot but that seems unlikely. Their game in hand over Manchester City is this week; they have the tougher run-in and have to go to Eastlands for their penultimate game. Defeat tomorrow may be the pin which totally deflates the balloon.
Robin van Persie is being pencilled in for a return by the media, presumably based on the comments in Colin Lewin’s recent interview as opposed to anything tangible from the manager.
Even if van Persie makes the squad, and that must surely be debatable, he is going to be warming the bench, presumably Arsene would be hoping that the match can be won before sending the Dutchman into the fray. Alex Song and Sol Campbell are the two whom the manager will be placing more reliance on returning.
It will presumably be Campbell’s last North London derby, age catching up with his career. However, Wenger has told the defender to take it one game at a time with regard to a new contract but there is merit in retaining him, irrespective of others, for the Carling Cup next season. This would allow Wenger to have experience at the heart of the defence whilst ‘blooding’ those younger and inexperienced centre backs such as Bartley and, should he return from loan, Nordtveit.