Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Asking The Enemy

It's North London Derby time and once again we find are title chances all but over heading into this fixture. Last season we lost 2-1 and we failed to recover until the final game of the season v Fulham. Let's hope this isn't another case of deja vu.

We are coming off the back of a catastrophic last 2 minutes v Liverpool and this sides ability to rise to a challenge is once again in question. The referee did get the decision right but AW refuses to accept that fact and who knows what the players made of all that. We still haven't managed to win more than 3 games in the Premier League all season and although we are unbeaten in the league since December 13th we find ourselves 6 points behind United. The sooner players and management start taking responsibility seriously we might just start seriously competing for major honours.

Anyway, enough rambling. This week see's a view from a different perspective. Sometimes we get a little lost in our on world of issues at Arsenal so I decided to ask a few questions of Sp@rs supporter Andrew King.

MJ: First of all, a little bio on you.
AK: 27, lawyer, Hertfordshire. Dad was a Spurs fan so inflicted upon me! First game when 6, 0-0 draw v QPR in 1990. First real memory is of FA Cup triumph the following summer, including THAT goal.

MJ: I know they always say form goes out of the window for a derby game but what sort of form are you bringing into this fixture?
AK: Not good. We took 9 points from Bolton and from trips either side to Blackburn and Sunderland which seemed to set us up nicely for the season run-in. However, since that famous victory in Milan, we've only taken 6 points from a very winnable 15 as well as exiting the Champions League. Of most concern is that in the 8 games since the San Siro, we've fired 5 blanks.

MJ: What areas of strength and weakness (if any) do you see in this current Arsenal side?
AK: As always with Wenger's Arsenal sides, going forward, you can be a joy to watch. Plenty of creativity and although Nasri's form has dropped off since Christmas, Robin van Persie cannot seem to stop scoring. As for weaknesses, same old same old it seems. Szczesny looks a decent prospect but is very raw and will make plenty of mistakes as the Carling Cup Final showed. In Vermaelen's absence, you seem to have a soft centre that teams can exploit.

MJ: What areas of strength and weakness (if any) do you see in your side?
AK: We have built up a strong midfield with plenty of creativity. The difficulty for Harry will be striking the right balance when they are all fit. Our approach was far too gung-ho when we came to the Emirates earlier in the season and we paid for that by going 2 down before half time. Luka Modric has had a superb season and seems to get better each week. Defensively, we are much stronger these days. Weaknesses? A lot of talk has been made of our strikers which has clearly been the biggest problem of our season. The biggest frustration is that these scored bucket loads last season to fire us to 4th. In the interest of fairness, I have to point a finger at our goalkeeper too.

MJ: How do you see this impacting the game?
AK: For us, it depends on how we respond to elimination from the Champions League. This is the ideal game to get our season re-started. The Lane will be rocking on Wednesday and if Harry can get the players focused on the race for 4th, we'll have a decent chance of taking the points. Wenger rarely loses a NLD and has never lost both in a season. Even if your title challenge is now over, there's 2nd place, pride and revenge for the Emirates to play for.

MJ: Your strikers have been largely of the non-striking variety lately, so what is your likeliest route to goal on Wednesday?
AK: Down the flanks. We need to get Bale and Lennon on the ball and running at your fullbacks. Van der Vaart returning to form would also help!

MJ: What do you see as the key battle/s ahead of the NLD?
AK: If the game is tight, it will be won in central midfield. Wenger will presumably play 5 and I expect Harry to match that with Van der Vaart playing off Crouch, a little further forward. Fabregas and Wilshere will see a lot of the ball and we can't let them dictate play. Huddlestone is only just back from injury and was off the pace against Madrid so I would like to see Sandro in there alongside Luka, in an attempt to frustrate and break up your play. Van Persie v Dawson is the other key battle for me. RvP likes scoring against us and we need Dawson to play as we know he can.

MJ: Finally, what's your score prediction for Wednesday?
AK: I am hoping for a cracker but feel it may be tight, with few goals. 1-1.

I'd like to thank Andy for his contribution and you can follow him on twitter @ajk_thfc (especially if we win, feel free to take the piss).

Personally I think we'll win this one, they are very vulnerable at the back and as Andy said midfield will be key and Cesc can win that, even with a dodgy hamstring. RVP can't possibly be as poor as he was yesterday and usually does well in this game. A win would certainly get a feel good factor back amongst the team heading into our remaining games and our challenge of consolidating 2nd place.

Here's to an enjoyable Wednesday night and for those attending, good luck!

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