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Arsenal go to war with Tottenham at The Emirates.

The first MEGA game since fans have been allowed back in the ground.

The first game of this season that truly, truly counts.

This is a cup final, there is no doubt about it, the boys have to show up.

On paper, it’s quite simple for me. Arsenal have a better team, Spurs have better individual talent.

Moura, Alli, Kane and Son are going to be problematic. Kane can kill you from anywhere, he lacks pace, but he’s one of the sharpest strikers in the game. Son is lethal on the counter, we know what a Kane ball over the top can do to Arsenal. All of those players love playing against Arsenal. You can know about their qualities and still not be able to do anything about it.

Spurs have been dreadful this season. They are still a low margins operation in big games. They had 2 shots on target against Chelsea last week despite a good run in the first half. They totally collapsed in the second half, Chelsea created 14 shots, 10 on target. They were awful against Palace, managing just 2 attempts all game. I thought they were second best against Wolves and City.

… but you know how it goes. Form doesn’t count, it’s about who shows up on the day. Today, it simply has to be us.

There are some things we’re looking for.

Granit Xhaka is weirdly splitting fans down the middle. For me, he’s out the side currently because he did two stupid things concurrently. Since he’s been absent, we’ve won all our games. I’d prefer to have Sambi starting out there. He moves the ball faster, he’s more aggressive with his passing, and he’s more mobile.

I don’t think there’s really a debate on which keeper we want out there. But this is a big one. Doing bits against Burnley was huge for him, but that’s bread and butter. What we want to know is how does he do under the bright lights of a derby game? More shots to deal with, more pressure, better oppo. This game is massive for his season.

It’s also a big game for Ben White. The ‘he gets bullied’ narrative was binned against Burnley, and made to look a little laughable as Ivan Toney dominated against Liverpool’s defenders yesterday… but he needs a complete game. We want to see elite passing, we don’t want him putting others under pressure, and we’d like to see some leadership. On the Brentford story, are we at the point now where we can say they are a bit good? Liverpool’s best team conceded 3. We lost with 9 players on the outpatient list. You always want to win, but it’s pretty clear they are no whipping boys this season.

Outside that, we have to look to our big names to bring home the bacon. Auba needs to keep running, because the goals will come. Odegaard, who is one of the best pressers in the league currently, needs to lead and show us the special sauce he has. Finally, we need our wide players to show up with shots on target today. ESR, Pepe, and Saka need to bring the levels up.

This is also a special one for the fans, who have been excellent all season. We need to tear the roof down for this one. Encourage the players, make them feel special, and make loads of noise all game. We’ll be doing out bit on the site. I honestly can’t believe I have to say it, but if you are in the comments here sniping at Arsenal on a NLD day, you’ll go in the bin. No one wants to read it. This is an Arsenal blog, if you behave like a rival fan, you’ll be moved on.

Back to some more context. If we win today, we’d be 5 points off top of the table Liverpool. United lost to Villa, Liverpool dropped points to Burnley. The MIGHTY Leicester, the team with the biggest fan club going because they make Champ Man signings… drew to Burnley. The Premier League is outrageously strong this season, it’ll be close between the teams below City and Liverpool. Let’s hope we can keep pressure on the chasing pack.

Ok, that’s me done for now. Tune in for an OTW podcast right after the game.




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