Spurs Preview: Win Or Bust
Where are Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen when you need them. The Arsenal villagers are trapped, they need a rescue that only Hollywood can provide, courtesy of The Magnificent Seven. Or at least that is how you would perceive the situation if you based your views purely on the back pages.
The emotional rollercoaster of the 2010/11 campaign continues. Arsenal are tantalisingly close to a breakthrough in the title race yet their recent form suggests that the necessary wins are going to be hard fought. That is how you would expect matters to be at this stage of the season but this run-in is testing the credentials of all.
Tonight epitomises that. Tottenham are fighting for a Champions League spot, conscious that Liverpool are closing the gap on fifth place at the same time. A draw might be good enough for them but it is not for Arsenal as they seek to close the gap to the top to four points and keep Chelsea at bay.
This is a position that Arsenal ought not to occupy. Unbeaten in the Premier League since December, the reality is that they should be clear of Manchester United or at the very least level on points. Too many draws in recent games have left them holding on to United’s coattails. Yet before the season started they were told that the top four place so cherished would not be theirs.
Being regularly dismissed by all and sundry is nothing unusual. It is par for the course for the squad and has been during ‘the barren years without a trophy‘. We are told that some will not be able to really celebrate the title if it is won by Arsenal this season because it will have been due to someone else’s inconsistency.
Rubbish; it’s because the staunch critics have backed themselves into such a tight corner that to celebrate too much would display mammoth hypocrisy.
The manager has been under pressure in recent days – for the whole season perhaps – for not letting the players shoulder the blame. The managers who last in their jobs do not publicly criticise individuals to sate media desires. The same media are first to jump on a bandwagon to relieve the incumbent of his role.
This squad we are told do not criticise each other, do not know how to handle criticism. This is all media talk for there is evidence from a number of players that they are frank and honest with each other.
Robin van Persie was first to step up to the mark, demanding an improvement to the defending in an interview with ATVO. Sunday was another instance of a lead being dropped, less points accrued than should have been,
This has happened too often, in my opinion. If you look at our history, when we are in front, when we are safe, when we have the three points in our pocket, we do concede goals.
Some of them are silly goals, which we have to work on. We have to stay positive, but we really have to look at it because it is almost criminal to give away points like that.
You cannot argue with the honesty of the assessment. The players should have addressed the problem by now but have apparently not done so. The same mistakes are not being made by the same individuals. It is a collective problem which makes it harder to deal with. Yet this is why Arsène and his staff are well paid: to solve them.
The problem though has two solutions; short and long term. Six games to win and hope United drop points in one more theirs. Longer term, well, deal with that in the Summer.
van Persie emphasised the positives of having a big game in the immediate aftermath of Liverpool, a view both supported and contradicted by last Winter’s fixtures.
Maybe it is a good thing we play them this quick after a game like Sunday because we can make things right – there is no better way than [winning] at White Hart Lane
I always say it is in these bigger games where you become a man, and it is up to us to show that.
Personally, I think the positive from this will be a restoration (of sorts) of the belief and confidence which has been recently missing. When goals are conceded it is apparent that heads drop.
So to this evening. The run-in is going to see an almost full squad to choose from for the manager. Thomas Vermaelen still continues in the reserves whilst others are omitted from the squad despite returning to fitness. This is apparently, “choice” according to Wenger.
He also noted that Diaby and Denilson returning gives him the chance to rotate Jack Wilshere. Despite tiredness, I would suggest that this is a mistake since the youngster has been the most consistent midfielder this season.
For this evening, minor tinkering around the edges to Sunday’s team I suspect with Song and Sagna returning. Other than that, it is a choice between Arshavin and Walcott. I would put the England man in, ensuring that Tottenham have to be wary of their left hand side pushing forward too much.
The line-up I expect Wenger to go with:
Szczesny; Sagna, Koscielny, Djourou, Clichy; Fabregas, Song, Wilshere; Walcott, van Persie, Nasri
A win is all that matters. All that counts. It does not matter if the winning goal comes as a deflection off the referee’s backside in the centre circle and loops into the Tottenham net. Three points or bust.
Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it. ’til Tomorrow.