Good Wednesday Gooners in this is the week leading to the North London Derby!
A very brief conversation I had yesterday with our dear Dave (@goonerdave66) and his consequent article inspired me for this week’s blog. The question I have been asking myself is this: Is Tottenham at White Hart Lane a big away game, like Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City and Liverpool?
As much as I don’t like saying so I am afraid that it is!
Spurs have drastically improved in recent weeks and are now two points behind ad breathing down our necks. They are unbeaten in the past nine games in the league and banged five goals past Champions elect Chelsea at the Lane. We should be worried but the the question is how much will Arsène Wenger be worried by this Tottenham team? I guess the line-up on Saturday will tell.
With Alexis Sanchez and hopefully Danny Welbeck both available after their injuries, Theo Walcott and Mesut Özil back to good form and Santi Cazorla virtually undroppable, it is going to be very interesting to see who will start the match.
Dave suggested we should not start both Mesut Özil and Theo Walcott because – that’s my guess – it would mean being exposed defensively, something I agree with.
So, who would you pick if you had to choose?
I guess it depends on the game you want to play: managers are often split in two sections, those who imagine a game where his team controls the ball and those who elaborate a plan where the ball isn’t really a priority. Arsène and I obviously belong to the former category, however the Frenchman showed 3 weeks ago that he can be flexible enough to adapt to the latter – something I can’t do.
For that reason, I would replace Theo Walcott with Alexis Sanchez because I do believe we need the calming presence of Mesut Özil.The German knows how to keep hold of the ball and slow down the play, if necessary; with Spurs likely to go for a high-tempo approach, having someone able to break our opponents’ rhythm will be just great.
With Mesut Özil, Santi Cazorla, Aaron Ramsey and Alexis Sanchez all together on the pitch, we will be able to come away from Spurs’ pressure with tidy, sharp passes like we successfully managed to do against Manchester City.
That huge amount of talent in the middle of the park would allow us to frustrate our opponents’ pressure and tire them – only to knock them down as the game goes on.
In the German, we have both our best defensive and offensive weapon available – why should we put him on the bench?
Among many qualities Theo Walcott has, ball retention is not one of his finest; for this reason, he should be used off the bench – if needed – and be replaced by someone whose quick feet could elude tight marking that Rose, Walker, Mason and Paulinho are likely to adopt.
Keep hold of the ball, force their midfield to run around the park and use Olivier Giroud as a wandering focal point to find channels where Alexis, Özil, Cazorla or Ramsey can hurt our neighbors.
That’s the perfect plan.
If instead Arsène decides to sit back and wait rely on counter attack, he will need Theo Walcott more than any other player: give him a yard and you’ll never catch up, you can kiss him goodbye and collect the ball at the back of the net.
Having Theo Walcott and Alexis Sanchez on each flank would allow Francis Coquelin, Santi Cazorla and Aaron Ramsey to have a more conservative approach, focus on intercepting the ball well into their third and launch the counter with a long, quick ball behind Tottenham defensive line; it doesn’t need to be accurate or whatever, just kick it somewhere in the last 35 yards and you are almost 100% sure that either Theo or Alexis will be first on the ball.
It also sounds like a good plan but will our defensive line cope with the pressure?
As much as I back Hector Bellerín, Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny and Nacho Monreal, I am not ready for another stressful, anxious afternoon.
Will we see this set-up on Saturday, it will mean that Arsène Wenger is treating Tottenham away like any other big away day or will he start with Mesut Özil and a more attacking-minded line-up, he’ll keep thinking that Spurs are just another minor Club in London we can overplay easily.
Which is the mere truth, by the way 🙂