The North London Derby Returns To Wembley…

Preview of the early afternoon Premier League match away to Spurs

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Celebrations from the 4-2 win back in early December… Will there be more today?

The usual five talking points ahead of today’s Premier League fixture at Wembley against Tottenham.

Crucial to avoid defeat?
I’ll start with the text of an email I received from Gooner contributor Ian Henry yesterday…
Spurs could be on the slide; crucial to avoid defeat on Saturday and next Sunday. If we assume that, in the normal course of events, the top 6 are going beat most, if not all, of the matches they have to play against the lower teams, the title and the order of the four going for 3rd and 4th will come down to matches between the top six. In that regard, Arsenal, Liverpool, Man City and Chelsea have two matches against other top six sides, while Spurs and United have three. Arsenal might be lucky in that we have our two in our next two games, getting them out of the way while in good-ish form. After that, the other crucial games are:
March 31 – Liverpool v Spuds
April 14 – Liverpool v Chavs
April 20 – City v Spuds
April 24 – Utd v City
And April 28 – Utd v Chavs

Mind the gap?
Tottenham’s two defeats against Burnley and Chelsea have meant that, with Arsenal winning against Southampton and Bournemouth, the gap between the two clubs has narrowed from ten points to four. It’s a huge incentive for Unai Emery’s team to go for the win. It’s been a while since Arsenal did win away at Spurs in the League, the last occasion being back in 2014. Aside from a League Cup victory in 2015 (with both goals from Mathieu Flamini) trips to the noisy neighbours have not been good ones in recent seasons. Still, it’s a derby right? Like trying to predict where the ball will land in the roulette wheel of a casino online, no one can tell you what’s going to happen. It’s about time Arsenal got something from this fixture though.

Forget Rotation
With the game in Rennes not until Thursday, I believe we will see what Unai Emery considers his strongest possible eleven start at Wembley. One of the reasons for this would be that, given the choice, Arsenal would probably prefer to qualify for the Champions League through Premier League position than a cup win. How so? Because they’d get a significantly better slice of the Champions League UK TV pot that way. So Emery is not going to start thinking about prioritizing the Europa League unless he is convinced his team will not make fourth place at a minimum. So don’t expect the see Mesut Ozil for one, and it would be a surprise if both Aubameyang and Lacazette did not start. As for the rest of the line-up, a lot will depend on the head coach’s chosen formation. I suspect he will go for three at the back, so we’ll see three from Koscielny, Sokratis, Mustafi and Monreal at the back, with Kolasinac at left wing back, and Maitland-Niles or Lichtsteiner on the right. Xhaka and Torreira in the middle with the in-form Mkhitaryan getting the nod over Iwobi to partner the two strikers..

Time for another Wembley win
After winning nine games on the trot at Wembley (albeit two via a penalty shoot-out) between 2013 and 2017, last year was not so good for Arsenal at the national stadium. They visited twice in February 2018 and lost both times – to Spurs in the league and Manchester City in the final of the Carabao Cup. At least we’ve moved into March this year! This may be the final time the Gunners face Spurs at Wembley for a long time. The 25 year gap after the 1993 FA Cup semi-final was only broken because Pochettino’s team were playing their home league matches there. So let’s hope that the memories of today’s visit are good ones given nobody knows when the two sides will face each other at the iconic venue again.

Happy Birthday Dame Maria Petri
One of Arsenal’s most loyal supporters celebrated her 80th birthday yesterday, and was featured in the programme for the game against Bournemouth last Wednesday evening. Step forward Dame Maria Petri, she of the red coat and the “Come… on… you… Gunners!” chant heard from the front row of club level on the west stand at home matches. Unless she has been given a seat in the Directors Box by the club, she’s normally allocated a seat in the front row of the away section so she does not have to stand up to watch the match. Let’s hope the Spurs fans show some respect for our Octogenarian supporter and that she doesn’t get caught up in any trouble outside.

Sorry, but how can you predict this one? It’s a North London derby. If it was at the Emirates, you’d have good reason for confidence. But it isn’t, and even before 2014 and that Tomas Rosicky inspired 1-0 win, Arsenal’s record at the Lane was patchy. Still, let’s call in the law of averages. Spurs haven’t drawn a top flight match for 32 games. It’s about time. 1-1 is a popular prediction and if you offered that to me now I’d happily take it. One thing I can’t bring myself to do is predict a home win. Let’s hope the away section doesn’t have to experience that.

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    Mar 2, 2019, 19:44 #113340

    We woz robbed!! Poor finishing from Laca & abysmal ref & lino. Dick was right to start Laca as he is banned from the Rennes matches. Right team selections. It's about time that Iwobi & Mikki started receiving due recognition for their abilities & sheer effort. World class save from Leno. The red card was very, very harsh as Lucas nicked the ball & Rose's follow through caused the impact. However, there seems to be a proper resolve in this team & I am starting to feel they are capable of adjusting their game to cope with his absence.

  2. mbg

    Mar 2, 2019, 18:16 #113339

    Good game played really well, defended well too (apart from the pen) deserved to win we really did it was a badly taken pen things are looking up we're starting to get it together, very dissapointing but better than being beat, onwards and upwards.

  3. John F

    Mar 2, 2019, 17:32 #113338

    I would of taken a point before hand but it now feels like a defeat.Offside for their penalty and terrible penalty by Auba which really should of been a retake due to encroachment.A point more then my mystic Meg calculation allowed for this game means we are now on track for 4th providing we beat Utd.Spuds the title contenders have City and Liverpool away and are now dragged into the 4th place battle which is a bonus.

  4. markymark

    Mar 2, 2019, 17:25 #113337

    Arsenal will have to take every ounce of that frustration and take it out on UTD. This feels a bit Chelsea away to me. It also suggests Auba might have a temperament problem exposed at the very highest level . The way he took his chance against Bournemouth midweek was sublime. Today the ridiculous . Anyway it sort of shows where we are on a good week. Knocking around with the top 5 teams

  5. Bard

    Mar 2, 2019, 17:12 #113336

    A real missed opportunity. A terrible penalty. I suspect it will prove costly in the run in. You cant let those sorts of opportunities go at the top level. It's all about fine margins. Dick will be fuming.

  6. The Man From UNCLE

    Mar 2, 2019, 15:53 #113335

    If Mustafi don't push Keane he has a free header on goal, yes OK annoying not to win but a solid defensive display and who wouldn't have taken a draw beforehand? I think the pen was their only shot on target the whole 2nd half. Torreira banned for three games (how can you appeal a tackle like that? Mind you Rose's foot in Leno gut just as bad - yellow card WTF) so I guess we see Mr Suarez before too much longer.

  7. Paulo75

    Mar 2, 2019, 15:46 #113334

    So frustrating not to win that. Thought we played well and looked comfortable at the back. Decent game plan from the Boss but offside swiftly followed by a brainless push by Mustafi and the good work was undone. Less said about Aubameyangs penalty the better - no power, poor placement. Two points dropped which is a shame after one our better performances away from home. Surprised to see Torreira start on the bench, am I right in thinking a straight red can’t be appealed?

  8. Cyril

    Mar 2, 2019, 08:15 #113333

    Congratulations and huge respect to Maria. I have seen her once at the Arsenal and huge smiles from her. What a great supporter and person. I predict a 2-2 today. There should a few goals and I actually want to play Ozil. For me, a class performance from him today would be a catalyst to have an excellent end to the season. If he doesn’t play, we have a real problem here. In chess, you don’t bring your queen out to dominate the board and then pop the piece back and leave it sitting there. Let him prove the doubters wrong today!