Put Toughness Over Technique BY Dan Smith
Your best players are not necessarily the right players. If I asked you who you really rely on to roll up their sleeves today against Tottenham and fight for the shirt, I would insist that list is short?
Who can you honestly trust this week in training to be hurting, and who cares enough about the badge to insist to their teammates that they cannot let Tottenham rub our faces into the mud?
It’s a reminder yet again of the lack of leaders we have.
Talent-wise, of course you consider the finishing ability of a Aubameyang, or the set piece delivery of a Willian. Yet the North London Derby takes a certain characteristic. Arteta wouldn’t be brave enough to do it but I would give preference to the few mentally tough players over technique.
Not one player, even our captain, could complain if they were dropped for this fixture. Most teams who had produced the last three performances we did wouldn’t keep repeating the same line up.
Jose loves beating us more than anyone else and trust me his squad are not fearing us. Tottenham have just put out two vintage Jose masterclasses at home to Man City and at Chelsea, so they will confidently believe they can out-think us.
Therefore it might be worth something different just to keep them guessing…
Ironically, In terms of trusting individuals to fight for the shirt, a Torreira, Guendouzi and Sokratis would have been perfect for this occasion. If nothing else, you never doubt that any will give 100 percent. The trio, though, can’t be selected, a questionable decision given we are 14th.
Players who are often derided like Elneny, Mustafi and Kolasinac I would actually consider, as they don’t get intimidated easily and you can trust their work rate.
Xhaka is often an easy scapegoat but I have faith in him for these type of fixtures as he doesn’t shy away from things. Even if he gives away possession (which he often does), he will still demand the ball and attempt a Hollywood pass.
Obviously, our academy graduates should understand the depth of feeling against Tottenham and the meaning of this fixture, but in my opinion Willock and Nelson are yet to prove in the League they are good enough for this level.
In the semi Final and Final of the FA Cup, Maitland-Niles proved he can follow a specific tactical instruction. For a one off I would play him in front of Bellerin to protect our full back, who often gets targeted.
As for up front.
Lacazette is more important than Auba simply due to his work rate. Both have not been clinical in front of goal, but even when Laca is poor he guarantees a certain amount of graft. Our skipper on the other hand if he’s not scoring is invisible, like we are down to 10 men.
From last Christmas to the end of the season, Arteta had his striker pressing from the front and even tracking back.
Since his new contract we simply pick Auba on reputation, not based on anything he’s done this season.
When he got his pay rise, he spoke about following in the footsteps of a Adams, Wright or Henry (lines Adidas wrote for him). Why Auba will never be a legend is; those names, no matter the form of the team, you wouldn’t doubt if they would show up for the Tottenham Derby.
Arsene Wenger always said the sign of a great player was not what they did when the team were doing well, but what do you do when things are going wrong..
My XI (Assuming Partey is not fit)
Gabriel Luiz Tierney
Maitland-Niles Xhaka Elneny Auba
Who would you pick to play against Tottenham?