Tonight is the first North London Derby of the season. Although it’s only the Carling Cup, with both Arsenal and Tottenham juggling Champions League and Premier League fixtures and therefore certain to rotate, it could be a cracking game at White Hart Lane.
When it comes to predicting the team that Arsene Wenger will put out, it’s best to look at the players that will definitely play and attempting to build a team around it. Despite the manager’s policy to play a second-string team in the Carling Cup, when you look at who this team is comprised of, there is undoubtedly reason to be hopeful if not expectant of the desired result.
In goals Lukasz Fabianski will be given another chance to make some forward steps in his Arsenal career. Wenger’s faith in the Pole is admirable, even if some consider it to be misplaced, so if the end of the season comes around and Fabianski leaves the club it will not be a result of a lack of opportunities. I tend to share the manager’s opinion that Fabianski has great potential but a good performance is paramount here or the supporters will be on his back again.
Johan Djourou will start his first game of the season and is likely to be partnered by Sebastien Squillaci with Thomas Vermaelen back from injury for the weekend. Kieran Gibbs and Emmanuel Eboue are likely to play on the flanks.
Denilson will be the central figure in midfield, joined perhaps by Jack Wilshere and Craig Eastmond. Up front Jay Emmanuel-Thomas and Carlos Vela will be given a start with one of Tomas Rosicky or Samir Nasri likely to take up the third forward position. Alternatively the manager may choose to put the more experienced head of Rosicky or Nasri into midfield and give Wilshere a break from his recent defensive duties and some licence to attack higher up the pitch.
So despite Wenger’s admirable Carling Cup policy, we will play quite a strong team against Spurs.
Personally I am excited to watch Fabianski and Djourou start their first game of the season and am also looking forward to the impact Vela could make given a full 90 minutes. Tottenham will likely play a similar team to ours, featuring some stronger players like Niko Kranjcar, new signing Sandro and Vela’s Mexican teammate Giovanni.
Oh, and due to Spurs’ injury problems William Gallas might be starting. Fun.
One man who may not be present is Wenger himself, who faces a one-match touchline ban for a conduct breach in the game against Sunderland. To be honest I haven’t seen anything of the incident, only read about it on the internet, and I don’t really care enough about it to comment. Managers get touchline bans, it happens and it’s not a big deal and I can’t see how it will impact the game too much not to have Wenger on the sideline against Spurs.
Of course there is a strong possibility that he will choose to take the ban for the much easier game against West Bromwich Albion on the weekend, giving himself more time to inform Pat Rice of the plans for the game and minimising the impact of the ban. Personally I think this is what will happen, rendering the last two paragraphs I have written as rather pointless. Sorry about that.
What is far from pointless is the news that Cesc Fabregas, who tweaked his hamstring while scoring his fluke of a goal against Sunderland, has been confirmed as out for two to three weeks. The verdict means the captain will be touch-and-go for the huge contest against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, but you have to think the medical staff will be working overtime to get him fit for that one. It goes without saying that his presence in the team, both as our captain and best player, could have a huge influence on the result.
As it is, Chelsea is in two weeks and Tottenham is tonight. I have a feeling it’s going to be a really great game, with the derby atmosphere adding a lot more fire than your average first-round Carling Cup tie. A penalty shootout win would be fun, wouldn’t it?
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