Still bothered about what we did not do rightly to end up on the wrong side of Southampton? Well, that was pretty much a weak Arsenal side, and for all its worth, the League Cup can wait till next year, when we probably have got a larger squad. With the Spurs game on Saturday comes the perfect way to erase those memories, and here are irrefutable steps to achieving that.
As is the custom in football, you don’t change a winning team, and more importantly a winning formation. It was greatly joyful to see a reversion to our more natural 4-2-3-1 formation in the last league game which saw Ozil play his best of the season so far. The team must keep that configuration of playing through the mercurial German, allowing him more of the ball in the final third. An addition, though, which should be made will be the unquestionable return of Alexis to the forward line. His sublime free-kick was one of the highlights of our exit from the League Cup and with Younès Kaboul expected to be reckless as usual and fouls sure to abound, his brilliant right-foot will surely be called in to weave some magic.
Keeping the formation wouldn’t mean we keep to the way we played there. For one, Spurs are a tad better than Aston Villa and the Gooners who will cram into the Emirates don’t pay so much just to come and see a drab first thirty minutes. We must raise our game and hit it off from the first blast of Mike Oliver’s whistle, in same fashion as we did last season. Part of raising the game must involve fine-tuning our passing rhythm, which has not the highest pitch yet. Townsend, Lennon, and Chadli are pretty good with running away with stray balls and as much as we can, we could do with avoiding been hit on the break.
- Rage, Raid… Run, Rampage
There are not many games in world football played at a quicker pace than this century old derby, and for us, that could be the key to taking all three points. In actual fact, of the two teams, we have the quicker players in Alexis, Chamberlain and Welbeck. With both teams never inclined to sit back and defend, it is always a game where 22 players are always running around for 90+ minutes. Some moments in the game will definitely require a slower approach to retain possession, especially if we establish a good lead, but when Ozil sees a space, someone must be running into it. Oh, that Walcott was ready!
Mauricio Pochettino will likely play Spurs’ hardest tacklers on Saturday to try out City’s “systematic fouling”, Dembele and Bentaleb likely to be favoured alongside Eriksen. It will be of great importance that we match them inch for inch in covering the central areas of the field. Wenger will have to make his choice not strictly based on technical ability but on awareness and the character that defines the North London derby, in which case a strong argument may be made for Wilshere and Rosicky. Winning the ball back at every possible opportunity must be top priority, and ensuring every area of the field is under the Arsenal control equally crucial. This is that game that will not accommodate tourists.
- Risk, not
While we would love to see sumptuous attacking football for the whole duration of the game, there will be no need to take any unnecessary risks that could end up deciding the game against us. In some matches, we have been guilty of attracting pressure on ourselves, Rosicky’s rash challenge on Tuesday readily coming to mind. No clever touches on the edge of our box, nor Szeczny trying to impress the crowd by nutmeging Adebayor, nor Wilshere poking a finger into Harry Kane’s face. Keep it calm, and play it simple.
- Rewind, Review… Repeat
Maybe a few clips of the consecutive 5-2s will help rouse the boys to get the job done.
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