This week’s View From The Enemy comes from the excellent SpursOdyssey website which has been going for even longer than JustArsenal and is well worth a visit if you want to know what’s going on with our biggest rival. So congrats to Paul Smith for his dedication. In this preview, he talks about Tottenham’s previous encounters with our new signings and the effect they have had on results, especially Aubameyang. Read on and enjoy…
Spurs know all about Aubameyang
Spurs know all about Arsenal’s January signing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, having faced him and his goal scoring prowess four times in European competition in recent years. In March and April 2016, the Gabonese International (who will not be seen in Russia this summer) was part of the Dortmund side which destroyed us 3-0 at home and beat us 2-1 at White Hart Lane in the Europa League Round of 16. He scored once in the 3-0 and twice at The Lane. This season Aubameyang has still being scoring well for the German side, but he had his disagreements and had been suspended by the club for missing training before one of our games. Spurs also fared better despite his presence, winning at home and away this season in The Champions League. Aubameyang did score in our 2-1 away win.
Another high profile January signing, who came to Arsenal as part of the Sanchez move to Old Trafford, was Henrikh Mkhitaryan – another gifted International, who has the misfortune to play for a country (Armenia) who also haven’t made it to this summer’s World Cup. Mkhitaryan was generally given short shrift by Jose Mourinho, but he was also a prominent member of that 2015 Dortmund side which convincingly beat Spurs. Mkhitaryan did score the United goal in a 1-0 victory over Spurs at Old Trafford in December 2016. Hopefully Mauricio Pochettino and his team have learnt enough about both players to neutralise them tomorrow.
Arsenal were in good scoring form last week but hardly tested by an Everton side who lost 4-0 to us last month and 5-1 at The Emirates last Saturday. Arsene Wenger’s side might be in good scoring form at home at the moment, before and after the arrival of the former Dortmund stars, but their recent away Premier League form has been poor with two defeats and a draw, which has led to them losing ground on Spurs. Before their draw at West Brom just after Christmas the “Gooners” had been level on points with Spurs. Now they are four points behind and even a win will not improve their sixth place.
Arsenal have lost their last two away league games, and they were games they’d be expected to win against two sides (Bournemouth and Swansea) involved in the tight battle to avoid the drop this season.
This match has as high a profile as you could wish for from any “North” London Derby (Spurs fans should always put the “North” in inverted commas due to the origin of the opposition). A win would give us 7 points from three tough fixtures, and would put us in the top four at least until Monday and perhaps for longer. A win would make us odds on favourites to finish above our near rivals for a second successive season. Mr Wenger would then surely have to consider concentrating upon the Europa League path to the Champions League – just like Mourinho’s men last season.
Let’s not count chickens though, as anything could happen in such a hotly contested game. Whilst we seem to be in a cycle where both teams generally dominate in their respective home league games in these fixtures, it’s not that long since Arsenal won at The Lane. There was a league cup game in September 2015 and a home league defeat for Spurs in March 2014. It will be 8 years this year since we won the only game we have won at The Emirates with our previous Premier League away win as long ago as May 1993. Then, as now, Arsenal had a Cup Final to prepare for, although that was the FA Cup, and this year by beating Chelsea in the semi-final they have made it to a Wembley Carabao Cup Final meeting with Manchester City. There might be some away fans crowing about that, what with their three FA Cup wins in the last four seasons.
Harry Kane was on the bench on Wednesday night for the FA Cup replay against Newport, but was not used, so he – and most of those who will represent Spurs tomorrow – will be as fresh as any of the Arsenal players who have a had a full week off since their last game. Harry has scored 6 of his 100 Premier League goals against Arsenal, 4 of which have come in our last three home league games against our near rivals. Last year he converted a penalty after being fouled by Gabriel, after Dele Alli had put us into the lead in the 55th minute. They were two quick-fire goals which sealed victory AND a Premier League finish above Arsenal for the first time in 22 years.
Perhaps the most memorable Kane goal against Arsenal came two years ago after Dele had back-heeled a pass and Harry (sporting a mask to protect a facial injury) scored with a magnificent right foot curler. That game finished 2-2. The year before Harry had scored both our goals in a 2-1 win and he was well and truly established on the map as a high quality (and quantity!) goal scorer.
In his press conference this week Arsene Wenger was asked a question about Dele Alli’s booking for simulation last week, and in a not particularly well disguised dig at both Dele and Kane (who was also accused of diving by Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk), Wenger said, “I remember there were tremendous cases here when foreign players did it but I must say the English players have learned very quickly and they might even be the masters now.” This is all a bit rich coming from the man who employed Pires a few years ago, and of course Thierry Henry who clearly cheated The Republic of Ireland out of World Cup qualification with a handball in 2009.
Wenger does recognise and appreciate Harry Kane’s undoubted skill and quality, and this game is going to be a battle between two sides with fine attacking quality. The deciding factor could be the strength and quality of the defence, and I make Spurs superior in that regard, especially now that Toby Alderweireld is back. Jan Vertonghen, Mousa Dembele and Eric Dier are all rested, as is Davinson Sanchez. With his fully fit squad does Mauricio Pochettino play 4-2-3-1 or 3-4-3? I have a feeling that with Juventus coming up on Tuesday, we will have 4 at the back, and either Alderweireld or Sanchez will be held back. We’ll see.
Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Cech is a doubt for this game, due to a calf injury sustained last week, but otherwise Arsenal could also have a fully fit squad with the exception of the unfortunate Santi Cazorla, who has not been able to play since October 2016 as I reported in my preview of this season’s away game. Cazorla’s injury could be career-ending.
Despite Arsenal’s optimism about a trip to Wembley where they do have a good record, I am feeling optimistic about Spurs and have predicted a win by the same scoreline as we had in the first official meeting between the two sides at Wembley. That was the 1991 FA Cup semi-final, and famous 3-1 featuring Gazza, Lineker and more! Despite the lunchtime kick-off tomorrow’s game is actually on BT SPORT, so at least TV viewers will be spared the comments of Sky co-commentator Alan Smith who scored the Arsenal goal in that ’91 game. There will be a massive crowd tomorrow, but because of “restricted” general sale rules I doubt we will see a full house, or a new Premier League record. I’ll be there and I can’t wait!
Match referee Anthony Taylor is well established on the Premier League circuit these days and has had charge of 17 Premier League games out of the 26 played so far. These include two Spurs games – both defeats – at home to Chelsea and away to Leicester, so it is time for him to break this season’s “Spurs” duck! According to my records, this is Mr Taylor’s first “North” London Derby game.
Tottenham’s last six games at Wembley…..