|Rosický makes the founds after scoring last February. Adebayor watches and wonders what could’ve been…|
This game just cannot arrive soon enough. I’m pacing, drumming my fingers, checking my watch. It’s worse than that syndrome when you’re hungry and check the fridge, then the pantry, and then the fridge hoping that something has magically changed. Such is the magic of expectation. I had to try to sate myself on today’s matches, but nothing all that great happened from an Arsenal point of view. Everton defeated Reading handily, Liverpool looks ready to defeat Wigan (up 2-0 30 minutes in), and Chelsea, despite their increasingly shambolic situation, eked out a win over West Brom thanks to a goal from some chap we barely deigned to bid for in January. So it goes.
How to stop Bale? That is the question on everyone’s minds. Like many, I’ll admit to worrying about Bale’s form. With Sagna out, our right flank is that much more vulnerable. There’s an outside chance that Koscielny will be available. However, the player who fills in at right back is not the Alpha or the Omega of the plan to stop Bale. Instead, the key (in my mind) is midfield, and the key to that key is Tomas Rosický -not that he’s some kind of defensive dynamo, but his pace, motion, and doggedness might be just enough to disrupt Spurs’ midfield and push them further back on their heels so that he, Wilshere, Cazorla, and Arteta can control possession. The longer it takes for attacks to develop, the more impatient Spurs’ fans will get, and the more the pressure on them will grow.
For all of the talk of the form Bale is in, the flip-side to this coin is that it intensifies the pressure he will face to deliver on the talk. It’s not at a level of Joe Dimaggio’s hitting streak, or the Invincible’s undefeated streak (always worth a quick mention), but each time Bale takes the field, everyone expects a goal. If he doesn’t score, talk takes a turn–maybe he’s not as great as his recent form suggests and so on. Therefore, we should deter him and harass Parker and the rest. The more ragged and impatient they start to feel, the more their nerves may start to fray, and they will press and end up doing something reckless or irresponsible, hopefully creating openings that we can exploit. At the risk of sounding crazy, if we can pilfer a goal before Spurs can…well, a boy can dream, can’t he?
It may be ‘beneath’ our position in this derby to point out that we come in as underdogs, but this reflects the fact that all of the pressure is on them to perform. They’re at home, they’re undefeated in the Prem since December, they apparently possess a Ronaldo-esque scorer, and we’re stumbling from fixture to fixture, mere shadows of our former selves. In the words of Gimli, “certainty of death? Small chance of success? what we are waiting for?” Oh yeah–Spurs are the Orcs. We’re the guardians of goodness and nobility and all of that. Sure, it feels like there are a lot of factors working against us. Maybe that’s an unfamiliar position to be in, especially against Tottenham. However, I like this. There are few things I enjoy more than to waltz into a rival’s house, elbow him to the ground, and take what’s mine. I certainly be on the field on Sunday, but I’ll be channeling each ounce of determination and passion and love of this game towards our boys, and I know full-well that each of you will as well. Game on.