The North London Derby: Mind the gap
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The North London Derby: Mind the gap
Arsenal head into the North London Derby looking to cut Tottenham’s lead to just a single point. Throw Chelsea into the mix as well, and once again it looks like it will end up being a real scrap for those top-four positions. Barring an absolute miracle in Munich, Wenger’s eight trophy-less years are sure to extend to nine, so the minimum target for the Gunners this year has to be Champions League qualification. They’re on a fairly decent run at the moment in the league (28 points from their last 36), so whether they can take that form to White Hart Lane on Sunday remains to be seen. Wenger has never finished below Spurs in the league and says:
“The game on Sunday will have a psychological importance for the rest of the season, of course.
“The outcome will give a big boost to the team who wins it, of course. But the winner will not necessarily finish higher at the end of the season. There’s still 10 games to go. In 10 games, a lot can happen.”
Spurs on the other hand are flying at the moment. Gareth Bale has been in devastating form this season, and with 15 goals already he is surely one of the front-runners for the Player of the Year. Additionally, AVB seems to have settled in quite well, and finally has Tottenham playing to the potential we all know they possess. He’ll be looking to Bale to fire them to another win and extend the gap to seven points:
“He’s proved that in different fixtures against different opposition, European included,” said AVB.
“He’s going to be a major threat in the game. You can’t allow him any kind of space. He can turn up in different places, unsettles opponents with his pace, his power his technique. Hopefully we can see him continue on this level of form and can continue to be decisive.”
Jenkinson/Monreal vs Gareth Bale: Depending on where Bale ends up playing, he will most likely come up against both Arsenal full-backs throughout the game. There’s been a lot of talk about Jenkinson being ready to take the mantle from Sagna, and Sunday provides him with probably his sternest test to date. The Frenchman is out injured, and is also likely to move on in the summer, so Jenkinson’s performance against Spurs will be of massive importance for his future. On the contrary, Monreal was brought in to provide stiff competition to Gibbs, and the Spaniard appears to be a more composed footballer. Again its early days in his Arsenal career, and we will surely get a better indication of his ability when he lines up against the Welsh whiz kid, Gareth Bale.
Jack Wilshere vs Scott Parker: A former England captain comes up against a future one. Both players will understand that the result of this game will hinge on how the teams perform in the middle of the park. Parker will be tasked with the responsibility of cutting down Wilshere’s marauding runs from midfield, and will also have to make sure he doesn’t get the time to pick out those delightful through balls to Theo & co.
It is setup to be a real attacking, free flowing type of game. Both teams will be desperate for a win in their quest for Champions League qualification, but I’m guessing neither of them would be too disappointed with a draw. Spurs look like the more complete team at the moment and will also have the added benefit of playing at their home turf. However, they’ve been on the receiving of back-to-back 5-2 thrashings at the hands of Arsenal, so it really goes to show that form doesn’t count for much in local derbies. The Gunners also boast the best away defensive record in the league, so Tottenham should be expecting a real battle on the pitch. I’m backing Arsenal to win by a goal, and eventually leapfrog Spurs to clinch the final top-four slot.