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The Very Tiny Totts v Arsenal

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By Phil Gregory.

The Liverpool game was a big, big disappointment. A draw against Liverpool is no bad thing even given their relative fall from grace, so the result in itself is not the end of the world. The manner of the defeat is what stings. Going from title race surely over, to three points in the bag and back again wasn’t the most pleasant of experiences and the manner of their second penalty just makes it all the harder to take. It’s too easy to just blame Eboue and go along with the mainstream, it’s much harder to look at it objectively, judge it on what actually happened and stick by your own opinion. Walter did exactly that in his ref review, and points out that it wasn’t a penalty (Lucas fouled Eboue!) and that we missed out on a couple of other calls.  That’s why it stings so much. The old adage is that the league table never lies… I’ll let you make your own mind up on that one.

Anyway, we have Tottenham up now and we head into this game that, having lost the first tie Tottenham have a chance to do the double over us for the first time in… erm, I think Arsenal historian Tony will have to field that one, I was only born in 1989! Even with United drawing last night, I just can’t see us winning the title this year, it just seems that we’ve been shot in the foot by referees too many times. Don’t get me wrong, there are a few times we’ve done it to ourselves, but we’ve done that less than a Manchester United side who can’t win away. What matters for me this season is winning the North London Derby and beating United at home. If we can’t win the league, then let’s at least get a bit of pride back in the side with a couple of important wins.

In that regard, the injury situation is looking up. Sagna is expected to be back, which would give us a first choice back four bar Vermaelen. Similarly available are Almunia and Denilson, with the latter an option to come in for Wilshere given the word “burnout” has started to be used about the youngster. Almunia’s return is no bad thing, offering us an experienced bench option, but with Szcznesy fit again we could well have seen the last of Almunia in an Arsenal shirt. The new absentee is Rosicky, who is ill, but was unlikely to have started anyway.

Szcznesy

Sagna Djourou Koscielny Clichy

Song Wilshere

Fabregas

Walcott Van Persie Nasri

There are a few question marks around the team for this game. Szcznesy will remain between the sticks and if fit, Sagna will be the only change to the back four. After coming on late in the second half, Song will hopefully start against Spurs but the question is more who will start next to him. Wilshere is right up there at the top of the season appearances list for Arsenal this year and he was substituted in the Liverpool game with signs of fatigue. If he’s exhausted, there is no reason to start him in this game as he simply won’t perform. That said, if deemed sufficiently rested, will he start and then be rested for the following fixture with United’s visit in mind? That to me seems a more plausible outcome.

Further forward, Fabregas will play as the most advanced central midfielder behind Van Persie in the central striker’s role. Out wide it will probably be Nasri and Walcott. Nasri’s lack of goals is a concern in recent weeks. Admittedly he offers a lot in terms of build-up play but with him not really offering assists he needs to be producing goals.

In terms of tactics, Wenger pinpointed Bale and Van Der Vaart as Tottenham’s key men. Van Der Vaart has been vital for Tottenham with their strikers offering very few goals. Crouch has four in 28 Premier League appearances and Defoe has dropped out of the starting line-up, contributing only two goals this season. The Dutchman on the other hand has provided ten goals in 22 appearances, a record a centre forward would be pleased with.

Crouch’s partnership with Van Der Vaart has meant the breakup of Tottenham’s traditional “little and large” (probably better referred to as a target man with a pacey striker). The logic behind that partnership was simple: teams don’t want Crouch winning headers in the box so play a high line, which leaves space in behind for Defoe to exploit. Now however, Tottenham don’t have someone up front exploiting that space, and a high defensive line reduces the space between the opposition’s midfield and defence nicely, exactly where Van Der Vaart likes to operate. That said, they play with a pair of pacey wingers who will take advantage of the space in behind, so the set-up still works nicely.

That’s the risk then: in trying to limit Crouch’s impact, we leave ourselves vulnerable to their pace out wide. There’s not much that can be done really, though we are fortunate in that we have quick fullbacks who won’t be left behind by Bale and Lennon.

Spur’s weakness is in midfield. By playing two up front plus two wingers, they don’t have anyone who gets involved in build-up play bar Van Der Vaart (and he’s pretty lazy defensively). With three in the midfield plus Nasri who is great on the ball we should boss possession despite playing away, which will work as a defensive strategy.

On the whole, tactics will only tell part of the story. Will the team be down after the Liverpool game, or will they be motivated by the earlier defeat by Spurs and seeks to make amends? I suspect the answer to that question will probably have as big a role in defining the winner as anything else. 1-0 to the Arsenal for me

RefWatch – Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal (20/04/2011 19:45)

The TinyTotts – what do these footballers have in common

Untold Arsenal Index

History of Arsenal including the series on the failures of Herbert Chapman

Making the Arsenal – the book of Arsenal death and rebirth

31 comments to The Very Tiny Totts v Arsenal

  • Wrenny

    Wenger has said that Almunia and Denilson are available, but won’t be in the squad. No big surprise on Denilson now that Diaby and Ramsey are fit, but Almunia is interesting. Does that mean Lehmann has moved ahead of him in the pecking order?

    Regarding the team, I think Wilshere will be rested and Diaby plays. Wilshere’s looking tired and Diaby’s had two very good games against Blackpool and Liverpool, he’s sharp and on good form so it shouldn’t hurt our play to have him in for Jack.

    Our biggest problem this season has been breaking down parked buses, which explains why our away record is so much better than our home form. The spuds certainly won’t sit deep against us, so there should be plenty of chances coming our way. We have to make sure we take them, and are intelligent at the back. With an almost full-strength side I’m quietly confident of a win tonight.

  • slim

    Well it’s definitely been a tough few weeks for all Gooners but I’ve gotta disagree with you abt us having no chance Phil. Sure, it’s a long shot but if we could only just win against United, they’ll be very vulnerable indeed. Especially since Chelsea’d be in with a shout when they play each other.

  • MoreFire!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Wrenny

    I am so happy to hear someone raise the problem of breaking down parked buses at the Emirates and at Old Trafford. I believe Wenger does not realise how costly it is not to have a special tactic for the parked bus. This year the PARKED BUS has cost Arsenal the league and undermined the best way record in the league. Every club has figured out how not to lose points to Arsenal at the Emirates. United have dropped only two points at home and Arsenal at 12 very costly points. Breaking down the bus is so important that it should play a crucial role in the summer transfer strategy for Arsenal. To break down the bus I believe you need to have a presence in the box when the crosses come in. You need two strikers that are very good in the air permanently positioned inside the box so that every cross becomes a 50-50 ball instead of the current 10-90. The rest of the numbers can be made up with players ruching into the box to put pressure on the erratic defenders. There will be no pressure on the defence from a parked bus, so a midfielder can be sacrificed to add to the strike force. This should be done at the beginning of the game instead of doing this switch towards the end of a tedious draw. it shoud be done at the beginning of the match to force an opening Arsenal goal which will force the parked bus to attack, thus opening the game up and improving Arsenal’s chance of scoring a second goal. GAME OVER!!!!!!!!!!

  • JohnW

    No Phil! Even if we win, I think our tiny brothers will nick at least one. I also thin we will score since they also seem not to know how to defend. The more likely result is a draw, if they can’t play for themselves, they will manage to play atleast for Ferguson, believe me.

  • gooner80

    I feel spurs wont win this game but a draw is no good to us, Alan Smith made a good point we need to be in contention come the ~UTD game, Man U looked scared the other night, and boy do they have some games coming up, I saw the whites of UTD eyes and they are scared, we cant give them breathing space

  • Yommex

    How come nobody is saying United are chokers? If that result had been got by Arsenal, the entire dailies would be agog with how lily or chicken-livered Arsenal players are and that they could not put up a fight. I think Arsenal should crank up the pressure now and get United to self-destruct. Winning our game against Tottenham will see them begin to consider which of the two competitions should be a priority. They are playing Everton next (a draw) then the first leg of the CL S/F against Schalke – the second leg of which they are most likely to take more seriously than their match against Arsenal once they lose the first leg which I think will happen.

  • Dark Prince

    An early goal will be crucial for Arsenal.

  • walter

    Myself in a mode of utter neutrality. An attempt. Short after the game.

    A result that brings both team not much when you look at the league table but I must say this was the best advertisement you can think for football. Two teams both trying to win the game.

    How much I would have liked us to win this game I think the draw was a fair result after a good game of football.
    The second goal from Tottenham just before half time made the difference I think. Szczesny couldn’t see the ball coming and this was a real lucky goal in fact.
    Both teams could have scored the winning goal. So at the end of the day a fair result.

    And now I will go back to the Arsenal mode: Damned.

  • gooner80

    A neutrals game

    our home form has cost us BIG time

  • jayj

    Chokers Chokers Chokers Chokers Chokers Chokers Chokers Chokers Chokers, how many times does this surrender a lead, why do we have a 2nd rate backline even spurs managed to hold on in the 2nd half, what was Song doing trying to play hte ball in our 18yrd box, Djourou my 5yr old has better ball retension, is there no communication how on eart can we lift anything with these muppets. Fuck me how the fuck can you predict on 1 nil to the Arsenal, you must be a crack head they cant defend for shit.

  • walter

    Jayj, I think they will like you comment on another blog.

  • jayj

    Walter
    So your saying in no manner or form can we criticise this team?

  • jayj

    Gotta give it to you Walter at least you try and DEFEND you beloved Arsenal!!!

  • walter

    Read my post ‘being to honest, Jayj.
    And then look at how Szczesny did it today. I think Jens has told him how to do it or he has read it over here.
    That was criticising in a positive way. Or an attempt.

    Now Jens has to tell him how not to dive to rash in the feet at times. Oops.. maybe Jens isn’t the best to explain this.

    But this was more a mistake from Sagna who got caught on the wrong side so he had to come out and then such things happen.

    See, it aint that difficult.

  • jayj

    Walter
    Point made however looking from another angle Arsenal cant defend, we cant keep on going like this. Years have gone by and not just this season, mistake after mistake we dont need a keeper Szczesny is good enough. We need defenders and DM look at the other teams they dont leave the backline exposed like we do and our backline expose our keeper – He was MAN of the match.

  • Mandy dodd

    Jayj you saying the beloved arsenal is not yours as well?

  • gooner80

    I have just heard the biggest load of crap on YOUR ON SKY SPORTs the phone in. jayj you should phone in

    I think spurs were lucky I know they had a few chances BUT THE HUDDLESTON SHOT, THE VAN DER VAART SHOT 9/10 THESE SHOTS WOULDNT GO IN. I think we have our No1 keeper, I have now witnessed Diaby play 3 good games I bet he is injured.

    imo at home theo needs to be playing upfront in a 4-4-2

  • jayj

    Gooner80
    I wont waste my money and yes I do love my Arsenal, it frustrating season after season watching this team implode.
    Why cant the team iron out the issue/problems which have been seen for many seasons now, is there an issue? do not have a top manager with finances? have we been punching above our weight all this time?

    I’d love some responses.

  • Mandy dodd

    If you love your arsenal you will watch them that’s what’s called being a fan

  • jayj

    Mandy dodd

    your correct but you also want them to win, losing is an option but not from winning position.

  • gooner80

    all you have to do is look at the cost of our first 11 compared to : chelsea, man city, manu,spurs, aston villa, sunderland, we compete against in some cases 1/4 billion squads. teams our spending their way to the title and there is more teams doing it.

    @Jayj i think every arsenal fan has come to point where you cant sit on the fence, thi blog is not for the average man in the street who listens to what the sun says, I think you need to see the bigger issues

  • WalterBroeckx

    I have written some food for thought Jayj in a new article. Come back tomorrow if you want. Off to bed now.

  • jayj

    Gooner80
    I’m no white van man and the sun is not my bible, I understand what your saying with regards to finances playing a major role however we always come short this time of the season and we cant keep turning our back to the problems which are our achilles.

  • Mandy dodd

    Yes we all want them to win. They tried this evening effort could not be faulted. is it just me or was rvp onside? We are so close it is painful so I guess frustration can be understandable. Our progress can only be judged at the end of the season. We have made mistakes this season but also discovered gems. You can judge us on who we have lost points to but look at who we have beaten. I feel another big scalp before the season ends whether it will be enough remains to be seen.This result is worse for spurs than us but the media will not be saying that!

  • gooner80

    RVP WAS ON SIDE
    but they can be hard to call.

    @jayj
    personally i feel our problems have stemmed since we changed from a 4-4-2 to a 4-5-1 and 4-3-3 against the lesser teams we shouldnt be playing one striker, imO wenger bench marks what he thinks is the best team. I feel clichy and sagna do the job of wingers so we dont need theo and nas playing there, cole and lauren used to get forward to make up the numbers, ATM we end up going box to boxand I feel we are now crating less chances, and I feel our 4-3-3 is just a 4-5-1 anyone noticed how much theos shooting has improved

  • Mandy dodd

    Agree 80. Also thing we struggle when song gets a booking in the first hour or so which let’s face it is quite often we can lose out in mf against good teams when this happens. Overall think we have some mental block on keeping leads these days which better defensive coaching could breed more confidence and improve things. Maybe we need to come from behind to win games?

  • Mandy dodd

    Do not want to go into aaa stuff on here but did anyone else notice wenger does not look so well?

  • RedGooner

    I dont get it 3 all in a derby can happen BUT when the feck are we gonna get a break with Refs ….Robin was well on side.
    You cant give offside for been nearly offside you either are or are not.
    One fecking season of no stupid big decisions would be nice and yes I think we done enough to win it.

  • Abhishek Kumar

    Even I would like to add a defensive coach. Not just a knee jerk reaction but watching the last few games, I think that a good defensive coach can help us a lot.

    A great game though and since I am not from London, I can safely say that I love watching Spurs game more than united and Chelsea.

  • Dark Prince

    There are many issues which have to be resolved.

    Firstly, we have start to win those 2nd balls in the middle of the park. We hardly won any of them. Especially in the 2nd half, after Diaby was substituted, our midfield domination was reduced. Our players need to get their heads in their during aerial battle in the middle of the pitch. Only wilshere seemed to be doin that.

    Secondly, when we already know that we’re not good at winning the 2nd ball then why does Szczesny kicks out the ball the long way?? We lose possession that way and invite the opposition to attack more.

    Also the major issue is about pressing. Our opponents have started to consistently use the pressing game to retain possession high in our own half. Ystrday Clichy was not given enough space and he sent out long balls quite often. I dont know whether Wenger sees this or not but many teams have started using it as a successful tactic against us. It has happened many times that we should already be adapted to it. But still we haven’t.

    Last but not least, the pressure factor is most important. Why is it that our defence always succumbs to pressure?? We simply cant handle pressure. We dont know how to retain balls when the opponent presses and in pressure send out the long balls which we cant collect and eventually lands in the opposition feet which invites more pressure. Its like a lose-lose situation for us and a win-win situation for opponents. Why haven’t we adapted to this for such a long time??

    By now almost every epl team knows that we cant maintain discipline when the opponent indulges in a pressing game. They also know that wont win the 2nd ball in the middle of the park. Plus they also know that our defence during set plays and crosses sucks. Even Spurs’s 2nd goal was indirectly bcoz of a set play. The problem is that we’re not learnin. We’re not adapting.

  • walter

    After going from heaven to hell in extra extra time on sunday the team had a good first half.
    Tottenham had a whole week to prepare themselves for this game so were a bit fresher in the second half.
    Was RVP on side? Damned… will be seeing it back today for my review.