Apr 28th, 2017 by 'holic
Between 1897 and 1903 we made seven visits to the Middlesex marshlands in various minor leagues. The first Football League visit of Arsenal to the neighbours-to-be took place at White Hart Lane on 16th April 1910, some three years before we really wound them up by moving within four miles of them into a stadium with better public transport links. The result that day was a 1-1 draw, McGibbon the Arsenal goalscorer.
This weekend we pay a final visit to the Lane in its current incarnation before the long overdue arrival of the wrecking ball. I suppose many will mourn the loss of the pitch on which we twice won the League title, and indeed those two matches will always hold a special place in the memory. Will this last meeting of the old rivals serve up happy memories also?
It looks likely that St Totteringham’s Day will be postponed (for just a year, you understand) but the Gunners will be keen to avoid a defeat that would confirm it on Sunday. To that end the recent run of three wins could not have been more timely. The change in formation that has coincided with that run may well extend to this fixture, although much will depend on the availability of skipper Laurent Koscielny, rated a 60/40 chance after seemingly hyperextending his knee on Wednesday night.
Skhodran Mustafi remains on the treatment table so Rob Holding and Gabriel should get the nod to partner the hopefully fit French international. That was a winning combination against Manchester City in the FA Cup Final so they should have a degree of confidence and belief. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, rested as a precaution against Leicester in midweek could well return as the right wing-back with the in-form Nacho Monreal on the opposite flank.
The deep-lying pairing is far from obvious and will have to provide a vital barrier to a very aggressive and attack-minded Tottenham engine room. At our place the derby looked to pass Granit Xhaka by, but he has been in good form of late and is likely to retain his place. Will the boss, in his fiftieth North London derby, go for the attack-minded Aaron Ramsey, the defensive option in Francis Coquelin, or the athletic Mohamed Elneny? Your guess is as good as mine.
Surely Mesut Oil and Alexis will support and attempt to prove for whoever is chosen to lead the line. Theo Walcott started on Wednesday but produced little, although his goalscoring record against Tottenham is worth bearing in mind. After his excellent return at Southampton in the FA Cup Danny Welbeck has also struggled to make an impact of late, so it could be that Olivier Giroud is given the chance to add to his tally of goals against the old enemy.
The bitter feelings I had for Tottenham as a young man have mellowed a little of late. Whisper it, but they have played some decent football in the last couple of seasons since the arrival of Pochettino. Perhaps the reason they have had such a good season this time around is due to his insistence that they do not fixate on finishing above the Arsenal for the first time since 1994/5, the season in which George Graham was sacked.
“My challenge or my aim is not to be above Arsenal. My aim is to be above 19 teams and to be first, to be on the top.”
They really would have to ‘Spurs it up’ in order to finish lower than runners-up this season but something similar would have to befall Chelsea if the Premier League trophy doesn’t end up at the bus stop in Fulham in May. There is a sentence that is tough to write, and a sad reflection on what the move to the Grove was supposed to deliver to us. It would appear though that the redevelopment of the condemned dump in N17 will have an effect on the Middlesex club, already facing costs escalating almost out of control.
The ‘holic pound
If you listened to the Bergkamp Wonderland podcast you will know I was more than a little bullish about our prospects. This fixture normally generates goals, and often freak scorelines. I’ll stick by my 2-4 away win, although I accept that comes more from the heart than the head. The bookies have the Arsenal as 7/2 outsiders to beat the odds on hosts, so not surprisingly I have found 90/1 against my fanciful prediction. I’m on it!
If you are going to the swamp on Sunday the police advice is to get to the ground early as there will be increased security. Goodness knows that has long been overlooked at that place. Stay safe, and hopefully enjoy a fine game and a great Arsenal victory.
For the rest of you have a listen to that ABW podcast, embedded below. Oh, and thank you for the very kind comments I have received for my interview with the excellent Layth Yousif for the Islington Gazette. I was lucky to be given the opportunity and I thank Layth for that.
Have a great one, ‘holics.