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July 2021

Ten points from Tottenham – will we overtake our rivals?

By Phil Gregory

From early on this season, it became clear that 2011-12 for Arsenal would be a matter of damage limitation: bed in the numerous new recruits, regroup and push on to secure that vital top four berth, with the title realistically not attainable this year.

The great run we went on after our dire start to the season restored hopes of a respectable finish to the season, and put us within touching distance of the top four, as well as – if we’re frank about this – rivals Tottenham. It has been so long since Tottenham finished above us in the league that maintaining that happy North London balance of power is a seasonal objective in itself. After our great run of games, we closed in substantially on them, and it seemed only a matter of time until Tottenham broke down and we overtook them. Unfortunately it didn’t quite work out that way, and after three consecutive defeats the gap has loomed to ten points from Spurs, and five from fourth place. Clearly, our run of losses is partly our own fault – we were outplayed by United and Swansea – but a crippling injury list had a big role to play too. If we can expect to kick on and close what is substantial gap to the Spurs with over half the season gone, our injury situation needs to improve, and pronto.

The injuries are hitting us hardest in defence, so it makes sense to have a quick look at those first. Kieran Gibbs is a couple of weeks away , but given his injury record and lack of serious game time over the last couple of seasons I’m not convinced he’ll have a big role to play for us during the run in unfortunately. Much more important is the injury to Andre Santos, but Wenger’s recent press conference had the Brazilian two months away from fitness. Being realistic, we’re likely to have our best centreback (Vermaelen) at left back for the majority of the remainder of the campaign. While our defence would be stronger with Vermaelen at centreback, the pairing of Koscielny and Mertesacker are doing well, so we can deal with this situation adequately, but I can’t look at our left back situation and really expect it to improve much over the rest of the season.

Djourou at right back has arguably looked much less comfortable than Vermaelen on the opposite flank, so Sagna or Jenkinson’s returns here would be very welcome. Unfortunately Jenkinson is still three weeks away, with Sagna perhaps two. If the French international can be back in the first team squad in two weeks, that would certainly be a welcome boost and of huge benefit for the run in.

Jack Wilshere should be involved from the end of February, but given the length of his absence expecting the youngster to have a big impact straight away would be foolish. Come late February, when the Champions League and Premier League games are coming thick and fast, another quality player in the middle could be a real help for us though. In the short term, Coquelin and Arteta should be back soon, the latter particularly needed to restore balance to our midfield.

On the whole then, I’m expecting things to stay much as they are on the left hand side of defence, but we’ll be stronger at right back for the run in and in midfield.  Will that be enough to crack the top four, and haul in ten points on Spurs?

Potentially. Tottenham have some very tricky fixtures coming up, so all is not lost just yet. That said we also need to raise our game. Wins away at Bolton and home to Blackburn are absolutely vital if we are to gain the confidence to travel away to revitalised Sunderland side and pick up the spoils. That game is then followed by the Tottenham match at the Emirates, which is undeniably a game we have to win. During that run of games for us, Tottenham travel away to Wigan and Liverpool as well as having to host Newcastle, so we can expect the gap to close somewhat before Spurs are at the Emirates. Ultimately though, it all comes down to getting the results. We’re too far into the season to rely on Spurs continually dropping points, we have to get at least seven points from Bolton, Blackburn and Sunderland. Even then, Spurs could afford to draw at Anfield and beat Newcastle at home to maintain the gap – the points at Wigan are surely virtually guaranteed? – and then they can afford to play for the draw at the Emirates.

A ten point gap is a big number to overturn, but playing Spurs at home gives us an opportunity. Suffice to say, I expect it’ll be clear come to end of February whether we’ll be finishing above our rivals this season.

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43 comments to Ten points from Tottenham – will we overtake our rivals?

  • nicky

    The answer to our season, IMO, rests entirely on the timing of the return of our wounded. It would appear that Arsene Wenger is not disposed to buy during the January Window and for that reason alone the progress of convalescence of our absentees attains vital importance.
    One wonders whether Arsenal’s sick list is greater than other Clubs, ON A REGULAR BASIS. Certainly this season the back division has been sorely hit
    One can only hope that the final 1/3rd of the term will be kinder to the bodies of our men who wear the shirt.

  • River ranger

    A good analysis of what we ga e in front of us. I think if we get through our next few games and the belief starts to pick up again then our chances of a top four finish will be obtainable. With Tottenhams hard games coming up and Harrys troubles there is a likely possibility that it could all be to much for them, but we’ll have to see. If they do come through it better than expected then good for them. If a team wins the big games then I suppose they deserve it. Saying that though with there reliance on Bale and there full backs could be a little risky as a team has to be able to show class and a high level of technical skill to place well in a season. Manu, manc, Chelsea and the gunners all have good technical players where I think tottenham players are not quite technically at that level and rely too much on the speed of there players. Against the top teams it really shows when a team is able to have quality players on the ball, especially in defence. Watching them play you can see the CB don’t have the ball skills and I think this could affect there chances in the big games. Arsenal need to keep believing in there philosophy and playing our brand of football. If our attacking players build some confidence and the crowd actually support the manager and team then we can still finish in an acceptable position. Our football style has changed to some degree this season, but if we can find that character again then I will be a happy. I just hate seeing all the crap spread all over other sites and thinking how it can only do harm to our cause. We need to go out and talk about our clubs philosophy out in arsenal blog land and get the mob back to a supporter base, not a crowd of AAA loonies deluded by tabloid cash grabbing articles. Come on people the Arsene philosophy needs to be found again in our fellow supporters so we can be united again and make our club what it deserves. A club of integrity and class that makes our own players and sends Barcelona back down to the ground. Our players need to know that we believe in the Arsenal way and our youth will bring us success. In Arsene We All Need to Trust. No more division. Please go out and show the masses that our club has got a philosophy worthy of believing in at all times. The fans need to be the ones that show our players that they can succeed this year. Anyway thanks untold. It is the home of the true gooner

  • dandave75

    We should be looking to catch Chelski & forget about the Spuds for this year, they’ll struggle to cope with being in the Champions league & trying for top 4 next season anyway.
    We obviously still have alot of crap in our squad that needs to be shifted (somehow) & we need to get behind the team at the Emirates instead of booing & arguing with each other.

  • Finishing above spurs and CL is a most if we pick winning way where we left

  • Stevie E

    It will be interesting to see how well ‘arry manages the team from behind bars… Truth is though, even if found guilty, he’ll probably just get a gentle slap on the wrist and a “don’t get caught again Future England Manager”.

  • Dan T

    @Stevie E
    I just hope so much he gets a proper punishment. But I agree, the media will shrug it off and say ‘oh good ole Harry, what a little rascal he is’ and this will inevitably have an effect on the sentence.

  • Dan T

    Our 1st team is immense. It’s hard to remember that sometimes as we never see them all play together.

    Can you imagine if we had had only 1-2 players injured on and off for the whole season? We certainly wouldn’t be back in 5th. If spurs had the number of injuries we had they wouldn’t be anywhere near 5th.

  • Arun

    The season is far from over and there is a lot of football to be played but first, we should focus on our games and a string of good results starting this weekend against villa and an away win at milan can really set the tune for the rest of our campaign .
    Off the topic, but interesting comments from mourinho after their draw at camp nou saying that it is ‘impossible’ to win there and he has experienced this with chelsea, inter and now real.

  • JohnW

    We will see, for me I think Chelsea will be the only one leaving the top 4, not us. If fact in three PL games’ time we will know. If only Arsene incorporates Sanchez Watt in the first team in place of Arshavin or Chamack. He could give us that raw drive and hard work, since he will want to impress.

  • bob

    Not that we have any direct power or inside knowledge, but Why no advocacy here to go on record on behalf of a stopgap x-fer window move by AFC – that is, to do what it takes, proactively, to avoid a non-top 4 leading to a loss of 30M and an RvP departure, this leading to _____? Is that edge too far to look over? Right now, on the injury front, it appears from your write-up that too much has to happen too fast to avoid that brink. Do you have a view on this?

  • mike collins

    To answer the question posed-NO.
    But why do we have so many injuries and players who have been injured more times than being fit? Poor transfer selection or poor training methods or bad luck?


  • DC

    The problem Arsene has is what does he do with those players who will be coming back in the next few weeks if he buys or loans a player in now? There is no guarantee that that new player will hit the ground running, like Arshavin did when he first came, as that player is unlikely to have been playing much at his parent club. I would’ve have liked to get Gotze this Jan but he’s injured now for at least 3 months so there’s the uncertainty in a nutshell.
    The back 4 for the rest of the season should be: Coquelin/Gibbs/Santos at left back; Verm & Kos in the centre with Mertesaker and Miquel as back up (and Djourou &!Squilacci only if absolutely necessary); Sagna/Jenkinson/Coquelin/Yennaris at right back. Pace and strength is essential centrally and pace and work-rate on the flanks.
    The midfield has several options but what is essential is that there is pace, strength, creation and quickness of thought in the pass. Wilshere and Arteta will be indispensable in this. Song is just too slow and cumbersome and is better just maintaining the holding role as Makalele used to do for Chel$ki! The wingers (Ox/Theo/Gervinho/Ryo) need to have pace and work-rate to help-out their fullbacks by tracking back.
    The Arshavin problem can be improved upon by playing him in the old Bergkamp role centrally just behind the front striker,i.e. RVP/Henry (and Chamahk/Park if absolutely necessary) . There his lack of fitness will not be as exposed but the side can benefit from his undeniable technical and finishing ability (which I’m sure he’ll regain with confidence and support).
    That’s my 2 cents on this matter for what it’s worth.

  • @mike,
    Poor refereeing results in too many tackles that cause minor injuries, which lead to major injuries and because we have so many major injuries players come back not entirely fit, and the cycle starts again.

  • DC

    Oh, and finishing above the Spuds would be ideal but not the be all and end all. They should be used as a yard-stick to motivate and try to catch! For me personally, it’s Chel$ki that I’d like to relegated to 3rd place in the London rankings! It would be wonderful schadenfreude to see Juan Mata regret his decision and watch John Terry sob like a baby again! I’m sure Anton Ferdinand would love to see that too!

  • Stroller

    If you look at it objectively it has to be said that the Spuds look less vulnerable than us lately. The way that we capitulated against Fulham and Swansea will encourage other teams until we can put together a decent run of results. Right now it would appear it’s Chelsea who we should be looking at as they have more discernable problems than Spurs, but they do have an owner who is more likely to throw money at them than we do.

  • DC

    Rumours are abound that Jan Vertonghen (I think that’s how you spell it?) may be joining us this transfer window! Have you heard anything and what kind of defender is he? Is he of the same mould as Verm and does he have pace and strength?

  • RedGooner

    I think from what I have watched this year I would say no we wont overhaul Spurs.
    The club seem to be doing all the right things but maybe in the wrong way. I agree completely with the youth policy but we have an over reliance on it when it comes to a league as physical as the EPL and I think it does have an impact on injuries.
    The same with wages of some of these players we possibly paid them to much and its making it difficult to off load the velas, denilsons, bentdners of our world hence holding back cash we could have reinvested.

    Having said that we are the first team to try and do things right and its a learning curve.

    I cant see Yossi been kept on I think its a one year loan deal but if we can offload some the players Arsen cleary isnt interested in it would be nice to buy someone decent and that would be midfield sortened out.
    Defence I would like to see a centre back bought that can cover as right full back like Vermallen does on the left with maybe Squillachi gone and Djorouh as hes not versatile enough and will never be considered better than the centre backs we have.

    My only concern with Arsenal is the relliance with robin upfront if we were lucky to release the strikers AW knows isnt making the transition to the EPL etc and find someone to share the work load then great.

    We aint far off from having a really good squad again if some small changes are made… and 1 year out of 1000 behind the spuds wont kill me or any other Arsenal supporter.

    All you can do though is support the team thats on the field and none of that crap witnessed last weekend with the booing If your willing to take the good times you have to be willing to take the bad as well. Its a marriage isnt it !!! well 30 years on it feels like one 🙂

  • Really, i don’t know why we should be bothered about finishing above them damned Spuds when we’re not even sure of clinching that fourth spot.

    We should just focus on getting as many points as we can and hope for the best.

  • dan

    3rd it will B.

  • Mandy dodd

    We can catch the spuds, but we need players back. We will soon have some very fresh players, and hoping rvp stays fit. The spuds have had hardly any to their best players. As the season goes on and fatigue strikes, they may be due one or two. Think modric, bale and Parker have only missed a couple games, do not think ade has missed anything, and even the injury prone vdv has held up relatively well.
    We have been beset with problems all season, spurs have had none, until last weekend, will be interesting how they reac to that.

  • Jitty

    Who cares?

    Did anyone catch the fixed game at Stoke?

  • Adam
    I reckon Arsene should give this kid a run out He has been with Arsenal since 2004 is a left sided player Knows the way we play, For me he is less of a risk than an unknown loan signing. Anyway I believe Miguel was an unused sub againt united.

  • bjtgooner

    A top four finish should be our first priority, I don’t think we should worry too much about the Spuds just now, the important next step is to start winning the next few games, get our confidence back and then get on a good run.

    I think the team overall has done very well coping with the injuries, lets hope from now on we get stronger as players start to come back.

  • DC

    Mandy Dodd,
    The lack of injuries has indeed blessed the tiny totts and the loan of Adebayor from Citeh is something that I think should be completely outlawed! Arguably he has assisted the Spuds’ in their good season thus far and has disadvantaged all of Citeh’s other title-contending rivals. Loan deals of such players should not be permitted within the same league as the parent club. Loans within the same league as the parent club should only be permitted for youth and younger players (as Arsene has said today)!
    Incidentally, reports out today say that Bale, Parker and Kaboul are doubtful for their FA Cup tie! I hope that’s the beginning of the rocky road in their season!

  • Mandy dodd

    Agree on loans dc, I know we have benny but that policy is flawed. Interesting about the spuds potential absentees, could be genuine, a lack of respect for their opponents, lack of worry about the fa cup or just caution. But I saw the reaction of the spuds after the citeh game, let’s say they were not on a high.
    As posted, we just need to start winning. Starting against villa, a win, and who knows, something could open up for us, or with our luck, we get drawn at OT or Anfield, but still a win is paramount, also concerned Ecks team kick us, maybe he wants the murdoch/ arry/ hytner/ Hansen/ Adrian durham put up bounty to take rvp out for the season. Hope we get a strong ref, but more chance of me scoring the winning goal.

  • Pat

    About injuries – one of Walter’s contributions to discussion in the earlier article about injuries (where we once again are top of the league) seems to hit the nail on the head. Better refereeing – as in Spain, Germany and other countries – stopping more fouls allows skilful players to play without getting injured. Several people have recently described how commentators in other countries watching English football expect fouls to be called frequently when the English referees fail to call them.

  • Gooner Gal

    @ Phil, good article. I will be disappointed if we are unable to celebrate st totteringham’s day this season, but I am though more concerned like others who have commented, about us grabbing a CL spot full stop.

    @ River ranger – I like the cut of your jib! good post.

    @ Woolwich – agreed.

    @ Mandy Dodd, it’s true, – I certainly am not wishing injuries on any players, but I have no idea why people are so quick to make declarations about the success of the Spuds. And the quality of their team, they have just been very fortunate compared to us this season. Their first team is definately not superior to ours.

    @ Jitty, no I didn’t. What makes you think it was a fix then?

  • Gooner Gal

    @ Pat, the refereeing in England has reached an all time low. Not only have they failed to manage games so that behaviour does get out of hand and prevent season ending injuries (or worse) they have now taken it upon themselves to determine the outcome or in the very least, give certain teams a ‘leg up’ in games week in week out this season in the most brazen fashion for a while. It needs reform as the diparity in decision making game to game of what is acceptable and what isn’t is getting silly. The intergrity of the English game is being eroded.

  • bjtgooner

    @Gooner Gal

    I agree that the standard of refereeing is at an all time low. Further, I could not understand why the FA have chosen not to discipline Crouch for his recent eye gouge on a WBA player.
    Strangely, Coruch’s team – Stoke were recently noted as doing rather well from referee decisions, consequently they are mid table rather than were they should be – close to the relegation zone. Coincidence?

  • bob

    I with you in spirit, but when you say basically that if we can get through the next few weeks we’ll be Ok, well that’s been my point. The next few weeks while we wait for the injured to return, and for them to return to form, can be a make it or break it time. In sum, what about these next few weeks if – without immediate reinforcement – we drop points while waiting for Wilshere/Sagna/whomever to save the day. (Santos is out another 2 months, as you probably know.) There are lots of rational reasons not to make a x-fer move and they all add up to a very big gamble that you seem to be willing to take on. Is it a big gamble to buy in the x-fer and hope it helps at striker, creative midfield or fullback – well, yes. But imo, doing nothing is a far bigger risk of losing 4th place than immediately bringing in a difference-maker (however pricey) to at least try hard to not lose further ground. Again, missing out on 4th place is losing RvP and 30M. If it were your decision, would you really take the gamble of standing pat?

  • elkieno

    ‘x-fer market is not a shop’ to quote someone we know well. You cant just go and say I want him, him and him. The only people available in January are people like Tevez (no thanks), other blokes who have hardly played this year for whatever reason, players that are not match fit or unreliable, do we want them at our club? Spend big for someone who is only a stop gap and might not even work for that?
    By the time any player arrives, settles in and gets some game time, our 1st choices will be back and we wasted millions or something.
    Ups and downs is what football is all about so let the ride take you where ever we go. I do hope we get offload all the crap taking a spot and wages!
    Onwards and upwards!

  • WalterBroeckx

    I remember Santos being very unlucky in his first game for us and he needed some time to adapt to the club. once he did I thought he did a great job and I liked him a lot. His skill and also some agression at times when needed. Damn I miss him… as does the team

  • The sad thing is that I’m not even advocating refereeing to a standard considered acceptable for the CL, just to the standard that a match between two mid-table teams is done.
    The whole officiating ‘problem’ handicaps the national side more than anyone wants to let on. The only positive aspect is that English “flair” players who can cope with it (of which we are assembling a decent side’s worth) are then almost impossible to dispossess at European and international level.

  • @Adam,
    I can only guess that his lack of stature and the way he plays as a result (he’s seriously quick and tenacious) aren’t yet suited to the PL. Not too many teams will want to field a twenty year old leftback who won’t win much in the air and relies on his pace and commitment to get the ball back.

  • DC

    I agree, it is a gamble but I’d take it nevertheless. As Elkieno has intimated in his post, getting anyone in the January window from Europe’s top leagues would mean you buy someone who is not wanted and invariably hasn’t been playing much football! It’s always better to get players from the leagues that are complete (i.e. MLS, Russian, etc). If times do get desperate, the loan players, which include Vela, could be called upon.
    Just as another point of the uncertainty; Kalou, whom we were apparently linked with at the beginning of Jan picked up a hamstring injury at the African Cup. So I guess if you decide to pay your money then you take your luck!
    We will be fine with the players we have and we will finish top 4 at the expense of Chel$ki!

  • GoonerVance

    Positives….Rosicky looked strong, Oxlade is the REAL Walcott, Koscielny is a rock at the back, RVP, Yennaris and Conquelin (while healthy) have proven they can come in and contribute to the first team.

    Negatives….I don’t know what position Ramsey is supposed to be playing, Song is forced to turn into creator in the midfield because he is our best passer (who would have thunk it?), Arshavin should not play on the wing (too far from goal, can’t handle defensive responsibility of position, is a better creative passer than Song so play AA in the middle behind RVP), Walcott is just inconsistent and takes too many shots (3 goals to 51 shots taken this season. that’s almost double the amount of shots as Arshavin in about the same number of appearances)

    Injuries have been a problem no doubt, and Tottenham have had to deal with shallow injury problems, while Arsenal injuries have gone 2 or 3 players deep at full back. Arsenal is too vulnerable on the wing and we suffer against teams with great wing player. Inversely, Arsenal only have 1 decent wing player ATM and that’s Oxlade. There is no full back play, so without the overlap it makes Arsenal even more predictable and easy to disrupt by clogging up the middle.

    This is not completely anyone’s fault, but the frustration caused by the annual series of unfortunate events brings out the crazy in anyone. The old and wise might have the patience to deal with it, but the young passionate fan does not and we deal with things emotionally a bit different from the older Arsenal fans.

  • Tasos

    Its going to be difficult, Spurs have amassed a good group of players and 10 points is a big enough cushion for them should they endure any winter wobbles. Added to that they do not have any European distractions and the size of our task takes an improbable look.

    If a top four finish is to be achieved this season then I believe our focus and efforts may be best utilised trying to overhaul Chelsea, they do look vulnerable at the moment although the problem here will be how much money Mr Abramovich decides to throw at it and how many players they sign during this window.

    Hoping our opponents will fall short is all well and good but we still need to win our own games and Arsenal are desperate for their better players return from injury in order for us to regain some momentum in the league.

    As for signing any players, the transfer window appears quite all over Europe, hardly any big names have moved anywhere and so I believe Arsenal might be best to channel their efforts in trying to coax the best out of the talent we undoubtedly have in our squad, with the biggest of those challenges helping a certain Russian find his mojo.

  • John L

    our aim should be chelsea. they arent playing great, and they are dropping points against some of the lower teams. so the five point gap there is very realistic.
    i think tottenham have been playing well this season, added a level of consistency to their play and adebayor has helped them up front. they wont push for the title, but i think they are very likely to be playing CL next term. (and you know what who cares? we have a much stronger position in the long term, on and off the pitch, and they know it)

    this season was always about fourth place in my book. we have a lot of work in the summer i believe.

    a) offload players: i believe that there are about ten players that need to be assessed. (some currently on loan) i dont think that we need sell them all, but i think there needs to be some serious discussions as to the future of a number of players.

    b) consolidate the squad: frimpong, miguel, coquelin, AOC and a few others need to be fully elevated to the first team. get good preparation in the summer as part of the first team. told of the expectations and backed by arsenal in full. these players along with our other young first teamers represent the future, some are the first graduates of a long term plan, and i believe in them.

    c) sign: with the right players sold, and the right players promoted from within, we only need one or two signings. we will have money for wages freed up so we ought to be able to get the player we want and need.

    having said all of this, it will make our summer much easier if we can look forward to CL. It is imperative that EVERYONE get behind the squad and manager. its okay to be frustrated, but please SUPPORT!!
    its in times like these that the team need us! i dont think we gooners have been ‘playing’ as well as we could this season….

  • Gooner Gal

    @ bjtgooner, I think the FA have decided to support Pulis as a favour to Ferguson in transition. I think Pulis was advised to get in some half decent players and to have a go at playing a bit of football as other clubs were begining to (rightly) protest that someone should be held responsible for the increasingly physical game that Stoke deployed, which resulted in many injuries to their opposition.

    I noted last year that on too many occaisions, Pulis was able to make tactical changes whilst the opposition was forced into an unplanned, rushed change due to a rough tackle made by a Stoke player. I also still think they are given the benefit of the doubt in 50/50 challenges which we wouldn’t get, but I have certainly noticed an improvement, which is why I was a bit suprised by the behaviour of Crouch last week.

  • bjtgooner

    @Gooner Gal

    Thanks for you comments.

  • bob

    Elkieno and DC,
    Sorry, but it is dire now – and that pricey gamble could mean stopping a set of losses that will mean too many points to make up for a top for. So, “take the ride” Elkieno? Well, let’s pray that the ride you are willing to allow for doesn’t mean a loss of 30M and goodbye to the tandem of RvP/Dein the Lesser. Your celestial calm is as unnerving to me as my desire for a gamble must be to you. Too bad we’re at a crossroads, but we are.

  • Sam

    Sorry But I find this article( albeit a good one) to be a bit like one we see on Spuds site.Our main aim should be CL spot and not overtaking a particular team.Thats Spuds mentality and thats why they will always remain in our shadows!!!
    Gunner for Life!!!!

  • Mahdain

    hey guys do you know who the ref is for tomorrow?