I LOVE A NORTH LONDON DERBY WEEKEND.
The banter on the group chat is firing up. The nerves are starting to jangle. There is a LOT of pride on the line.
Spurs look like title contenders. Jose has made them nasty. They’re well organised, they have the special sauce in Kane and Son that keeps you in contention if you keep them fit, they look very strong.
Arsenal is a mess. Our form has been shocking. Big players have shrunk. Young players have struggled to make headway. Our rookie manager is overseeing a bonfire. Can he tame it? Can he do what the big managers do when the chips are down? Can he shift the narrative on the pitch like he has done off it this week?
As Janan said in the latest podcast, most other managers have a history you can point to, with Mikel, it’s faith-based. North London derbies are about faith. Form is rarely a factor. It’s a crazy moment in time when a concoction of wild elements are slammed together in a Büchner flask, and you hope the end product works to your hypothesis.
Mikel Arteta has a job on his hands. I tried to eke out some good news from Arsenal in the week and there wasn’t much to be had. There have been lots of problems to deal with. Stories leaking from the camp seems to suggest a 1997 style come to jesus meeting. Reporters are saying it was constructive and the path forward was clear.
Thursday night might have been against a nothing team, but for me, those are usually the games you worry about. The fact we landed a dominant performance can only be a positive. The players were aggressive, they were bold, they took chances. We need that vibe to flow into Sunday.
Can that carry through to Sunday? That’s the test. I think it’s amusing reading people demanding we play the same way against Spurs. This is why fans aren’t coaches. We’re going to The Lane to shithouse the master of shithousery and I am ok with that because it’s the only option we have. If City can’t blast Spurs away, we’re not going to. If Chelsea can’t score against them, we’re not going to hit them with a blitz. Setting up to lose to satisfy aesthetics junkies would be the rookiest of errors.
The good news is there’s a high probability we’ll see Thomas Partey. That’s huge for Arsenal. We have lacked a press resistant midfielder with his class. Put him next to Mo Elneny and we speed everything up to the level we need. There’s also a shout for AMN to start after his ripping performance against Rapid. Imagine that, 3 midfielders with legs? Game-changing stuff right there.
I don’t know how we’ll play, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see Lacazette pick up that link-up role against a team he likes to produce again. I think we need an athletic midfield that can pick up the movement of Kane, Son and some of the creators. Højbjerg has been a key player for them this season, it’ll be interesting to see how we deal with him.
This 90 minutes is all about closing the widening gap at the top. It’s a moment for the squad to show there’s a way forward. It’s a game that big teams would eat up. Are we going to be a big team this season? There’s no better moment to find out.
Before you go, I need you to listen to our latest podcast. We welcome Janan Ganesh into the AO fold with our regular Alex. It’s an evergreen podcast. We talk about Arteta, leadership, football strategy, and fixing the creativity issue. It’s a good listen, so put it in your ears and give me a 5* rating on Apple. THANK YOU X