Arsenal vs. Tottenham Hotspur.
Perhaps people are making too much of supposed crisis at both North London clubs, but it is clear that neither side are playing anywhere near to their expected standards.
7th playing 8th, is hardly what either side would have hoped for after eleven games and in truth it is hard to pick with of the teams is struggling more. Arsenal seem to be finding their shooting boots, but defensively they look a mess. Spurs have yet to manage a full 90 minutes of good football and seem to be anything from inept to excellent in the space of 45 minutes, which is a huge frustration.
Arsenal started the season with what appeared to be a solid defensive unit under the new stewardship of Steve Bould, but as the season has progressed, their defence has declined into a generous and witless bunch, that seem riddled with individual errors and also struggle to work as a unit. Thomas Vermaelen has again struggled with consistency, whilst Andre Santos simply doesn't look like a defender. Wenger will hope to have Wojciech Szczesny back in goal for the hapless Vito Mannone, but I also feel this defence isn't really helped by having three technically excellent, but hardly 'Dogs of War' midfielders in front of them. There has been a suggestion that M. Wenger will adopt a three man defensive line-up, but is that an even bigger risk, when so many players have been away on international duty and preparation has been so limited?
For every Arsenal problem, Spurs seem to have just as many. A long line of injuries to key players and a team that as yet haven't grasped the complexities of AVB game plan and seem too be getting more confused by the minute. In our managers defence, he wasn't allowed or able to bring in his main summer targets and also have never had a full strength squad to call upon, so it is harsh to be overly critical of a man who seems to have definite ideas, but perhaps doesn't have the players at his disposal to implement them. Based on that if he better to revert back to a way of playing that we know his players understand and have achieved success with?
Of course that formation hardly brought us glory at The Emirates last season as we grabbed inglorious defeat from the jaws of a memorable victory. The capitulation of that 5-2 defeat still haunts many, but I hope the Tottenham players who played that day will use the experience to gain some revenge and heap more pressure of our beloved neighbours. I have a feeling that Arsenal are struggling for confidence at home, with two wins and two draws from their five games, but aside from a 6-1 thrashing of Southampton, there hasn't been much to boast about. As usual, there is plenty of possession, but also a lack of cutting edge and also a fragility at the back that Wenger simply doesn't seem able to sort. Though Arsenal can beat anyone on their day, you also feel more than ever that if you take the game to them, you have a great chance of rolling them over.
The big question is, whether Spurs can raise that tempo to force Arsenal back and to make mistakes, equally if we play too offensively are we leaving ourselves vulnerable to a quick Arsenal attack and also their movement in midfield? I would like to see AVB go with both Defoe (if fit) and Adebayor and the difference between winning or losing this might well be who can control the middle of the pitch. Will Spurs playing two wide men stretch Arsenal or will we be over-run in the middle if we play two strikers and two wingers? As is often the case, it will all depend on which team shows up and can force their will on the other side. To be honest, I have absolutely no idea which team, if either that will be.
I have a feeling that both managers would take a draw here. Not losing might well be the key to at least not cranking the pressure up another notch. You do however feel that Spurs could take a narrow away defeat better than Arsenal take a home one. However flimsy an excuse, could it be easier to excuse losing with so many key injuries and so early in a managers reign than for a team that seem to be slowly but surely losing pace with the teams that they competed with for so long to slide further away from the top four places, let alone the top of the table...