Thursday, September 13, 2007

Tottenham vs Arsenal: Match Preview

Arsenal's return from an international break will begin this Saturday, September 15, as the gunners face Tottenham at White Heart Lane in the North London derby. The derby between these fierce rivals should be a good game, despite the Spurs abysmal start to the 2007/08 season.

Arsenal have begun the season well, coming into our 5th match tied on points with leaders Liverpool, despite having played a game less than Tottenham, Chelsea, and last years Barclay's Premier League champions, Manchester United. The only 2 points that Arsenal have dropped were due to an error from Jens Lehmann against Blackburn, and otherwise Arsenal have beaten Fulham, high-flying Manchester City, and Portsmouth.

Tottenham, who were supposedly going to challenge an Henry-less Arsenal for a Champions League spot this year, find themselves in 14th place, with only 4 points from 5 games. Arsenal should have an easy time defeating a team which has already lost to Sunderland, Everton, Manchester United, and drawn against Fulham. The only team that the Spurs have managed to beat is arguably the worst team ever to ply their trade in the Premiership, Derby.

Speaking of Derby, this is the first derby of the season for Arsene Wenger's boys, and the outcome here will be important in silencing critics of the young Arsenal squad. It could also be an important game for Martin Jol, as rumor has it that the Tottenham manager will be fired if he fails to win at White Heart Lane on Saturday. Justin Hoyte spoke out on how the players love this game, and the fans do as well, as a drubbing of the Spurs always cheers up an Arsenal fan.

Arsenal will be able to field a fairly complete squad on Saturday, with the only doubts being William Gallas, Emanuel Eboue, and Jens Lehmann. Philippe Senderos will also miss the match due to suspension after his red card in the game against Portsmouth. However, with Gilberto likely to start in a central defensive position and Bacary Sagna returning from injury at right-back, Arsenal shouldn't have too much defensive trouble.

A leaky Tottenham defense which is still missing Ledley King should prove to be Martin Jol's downfall, especially considering the recent scoring spree of Arsenal's midfielders. Jol may be forced to play a not-yet-fit Aaron Lennon in an attempt to score more goals, but I still doubt that Tottenham will score more than 1 goal. Classy Bulgarian Dimitar Berbatov will be the Spurs' greatest threat, but even he will have trouble scoring against an Arsenal defense that has let in only 2 goals in all competitions this season (both coming from Jens Lehmann blunders.)

I would like to see Eduardo start in his first North London derby, but even after scoring 3 international goals for Croatia during the break, I fear that Arsene Wenger may start the hard-working but inconsistent Emanuel Adebayor alongside Robin van Persie instead.

Gael Clichy and Kolo Toure will make up the rest of the defensive line (alongside Gilberto and Sagna). In the midfield, the fabulous Cesc Fabregas will start along with Alex Hleb and Tomas Rosicky. If Gilberto is played as a central defender, I would like to see how Lassana Diarra does in his holding midfield role, and I think it is likely that Wenger will opt to play him over Flamini or Denilson.

Our makeshift back line shouldn't cause any problems if our midfielders and strikers continue to score, and the return of Bacary Sagna will strengthen our defense. The atmosphere of the North London derby will spur on the Spurs though, so while I would like to predict a clean sheet, I would have to guess that the game will end 3-1 in the favor of Arsenal.

Edit: The game did indeed end 3-1. Click here for the Match Review