“I’ll be watching it on Sky, Dad. Will you have the radio on?”
“Not on your nelly, son. I’ll tune in afterwards hoping for a pleasant surprise.”
I can’t blame the ‘holicdad. Let’s face it, ever since the draw was made we have all had that nagging little doubt, or maybe more, that the side we are likely to put out at White Hart Lane in the Carling Cup will need some good fortune to progress. Don’t deny it. You know you have.
This is a North London derby like few others. The clubs traded semi-final triumphs in the tournament in 2006 and 2007. I don’t think I will ever forget the way we ribbed them when the kids took us to a Cardiff Final in 2006, but the magic was well and truly gone just a year later in the dvd’s within hours contest at the Lane.
There is talk that the neighbours will rotate three or four players themselves, but remain determined to put out a side that will give them possibly their best chance of qualifying for Europa League football next season. With injuries already biting deep into his senior squad there is now little doubt that Arsene will once again turn to his best youngsters in what is certain to be a hostile atmosphere, with a strong bench as back-up should they be required.
We can anticipate Fabianski appearing in goal. At least he has the motivation of needing to show his critics just why he is so highly regarded at Shenley. A likely back four would see Eastmond and Gibbs promoted as full-backs, although I would not be surprised to see a blend of youth and experience in the middle. If Vermaelen is certain to be fit for the weekend I’ll expect to see Djourou and Squillaci paired.
Denilson needs some match practice, and would relish the opportunity to build on a couple of recent cameos from the start. Henri Lansbury could be a good partner for the Brazilian with a free role perhaps for Tomas Rosicky behind Jay Emmanuel Thomas. Emmanuel Eboue and Carlos Vela could provide the support on the flanks.
I have heard Marouane Chamakh making his case to play in his first North London derby, and I have heard those who have also pleaded for his inclusion. I cannot accept that would be sensible, seeing as how he is our only fit and proven leader of the line, and with a Premiership trip to the bus stop in Fulham less than a fortnight away.
Whatever side the visitors pick will need thick skins and some good fortune if they are to avoid what we have long regarded as unthinkable, two consecutive defeats to the wheeler-dealing ‘Arry Trotter would tax the patience. I think we underestimate the effect the atmosphere could have on the home team, unaccustomed as they are to starting this fixture as favourites.
I was reading on Twitter this morning (sorry, can’t remember who) that whoever wins this match will be lording it afterwards, while whoever loses will say it was a meaningless contest, and that is probably how it will pan out. There is a degree of truth in it, but come on now. This is the derby, no matter what those in the north-west might say.
I was born Arsenal, with an Arsenal father, Arsenal uncles, a Tottenham grandfather, and one Tottenham uncle. This contest will always be far more than meaningless, but the best celebrations will be reserved for the Premiership meetings, and particularly this season as we celebrate fifty years of Tottenham landing not one League title. What a couple of anniversary knees-ups we will have later in the season.
The ‘holic pound? Carlos Vela is looking like he could be starting a run of scoring when required, and I’ll have some of the 5/2 available for him to score at anytime in the match, from sportingbet.
If you are one of the lucky ones with a ticket, don’t forget to put some waterproof footwear on. The intellectually-challenged, shadow-dwelling, jealous knuckle-draggers at the other end of Seven Sisters have long since flooded the High Road with drool. ‘Frothing at the mouth’ they claim, but we know the truth.
“YOU ONLY COME TO SEE THE ARSENAL!”
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