February 29, 2012 by Andy Brady
When Arsenal hosted Spurs a few days ago, the outcome seemed predictable: In their last two games, Arsenal had all but crashed out of the Champions League after a disastrous performance against AC Milan. This was followed by a disappointing display against Sunderland which led to the end of the Gunners’ FA cup run. Meanwhile, Spurs had demolished Newcastle by a five goal margin, and had rested a few key players in their FA cup draw to Stevenage. It seemed to everyone, including most Arsenal fans, that Spurs would achieve the double against Arsenal this season. It didn’t quite happen that way. Arsenal came out winners in a dominant display, after going down 0-2 after 33 minutes. That one result may have several consequences on the rest of the season for both teams.
From Spurs’ point of view, 3 points in this game would have helped to make up ground on the two Manchester teams leading the table. An ambitious Spurs fan could see a win at the Emirates as a platform for next week’s game against Manchester United; winning both would put Spurs within 2 points of second place. While still in a decent position, they are now closer to fourth than they are to second. With pride on the line for Arsenal and their fans, and the confidence from winning a derby in such a manner, Spurs can expect a challenge for that third place which prior to this game seemed far from realistic. Even Chelsea, who were knocked off of fourth place due to Arsenal’s higher total goals scored this season, cannot be written off in that battle for third place.
The international break has come at an interesting time for both teams. For Tottenham, this break could be what they need to put the defeat behind them in light of the second and third place clashes coming up. International breaks have not been kind to Arsenal, leading to injuries to key players over the last few seasons. However if they are lucky enough to avoid injury, then it will give several first team players not involved in their international teams time to rest, such as Gibbs, Arteta and potentially Koscielny.
Looking ahead to the big matches of the weekend, we can predict that Spurs will have a difficult game against Manchester United at White Hart Lane, especially due to the 1 match ban for Scott Parker after seeing a second yellow against Arsenal. While not without a decent back-up, Scott Parker will be missed in a game in which his attitude and work-rate is needed following a disappointing result. Arsenal will travel to Liverpool who will be full of confidence after picking up their first trophy since the 2006 FA cup. However, for Liverpool, a repeat of Sunday’s performance will likely not be good enough, as they were wasteful in front of goal, and the game went to penalties.
The midweek games following that will be cup competitions for both teams. Spurs will be hosting Stevenage in their FA cup rematch which is a must-win as it is their best hope of a trophy this season. Arsenal will host AC Milan in a game that is almost entirely out of their hands. If Arsenal managed to score five against Spurs when no one expected it, scoring four against Milan is still a possibility. However, a clean sheet will be mandatory and this is highly unlikely, giving Arsenal’s recent defensive frailties.