So, our ugly inbred cousins from down the road in the semi final. Again. You knew it as soon as they were two of the teams in the last four. We only ever seem to play them in semi finals of cup competitions. I doubt a Spurs vs Arsenal final at Wembley would ever be allowed to happen. At least that’s what my dad tells me. The police rigged the draw, or something. Ideal scenario in this tie is to get the semi final over as a contest in this first leg. Put it reasonably beyond doubt. Then we can lose 1-0 at the lane, get rid of the pressure of not having lost to them in 85 years, and still have safe passage to the final, where we’ll no doubt play Chelsea. I doubt it’ll be that cut and dried though. I expect we’ll take a slim lead down the road and face a tough second leg. They will be determined not to get embarrassed by our reserve team two years running, and Ramos will be eager to register his first result that isn’t a loss against Wenger as manager of Spurs or Sevilla. A main priority will be to not concede, to avoid the rather odd rule of away goals counting after extra time in the second leg biting us in a couple of weeks time.
Since most recently losing to Arsenal, Tottenham have won two, drawn one and lost one, scoring fourteen goals in the process. Berbatov is still playing for a move, so we’ll need to keep him quiet and not allow him to add to his tally of six goals in three games. We’ve now won seven of our last eight games since our last loss, which isn’t a bad reaction. I didn’t particularly see the point of the commentators discussing the possibility of Arsenal winning four trophies this year. As if beating Burnley in the FA Cup third round somehow makes it more likely that we’re going to beat United in the league, Chelsea in the league cup, and AC Milan in the Champions League. Of course it would be wonderful, but we’re just going to start getting hyped up again until the next time we lose to someone like Middlesbrough or Sevilla, when we’ll suddenly only be pretender’s to United’s deserved throne again.
In the last twenty years or so, we’ve faced Spurs in the semi finals of cup competitions five times, winning four of them. I don’t think we’ve drawn them at any other stage of a competition for a long time, but there’s only so far back I can be bothered to check. It’s been nearly fifteen years since they last beat us at home. Arsene’s personal unbeaten home record against them includes ten victories and three draws.
Toure, Eboue and Song are now long gone. Other than that everyone’s available really. Adebayor and Hleb both had niggles before the Burnley game, but I expect they’ll be available to start if Wenger chooses to utilise them. Ade might be on the bench, and then if we need a goal, he can come on and near guarantee us one. He’s only failed to score against Spurs once in his Arsenal career. And he set up our only goal in that game. Van Persie is back in the squad after his injury.
Last season in the first leg of the semi final, the only first team players used were Fabregas and Toure. In the second leg, it was Toure and Adebayor, although Rosicky, Clichy and Fabregas came on later in the game. I expect we’ll see similar on Wednesday, a young side with a few of the experienced players to help. There’s no midweek game after the Birmingham league game at the weekend, so Arsene can get away with playing a few first teamers in both if he wishes. Rosicky, Fabregas and Clichy are maybe the more likely candidates. Flamini might come back into the squad after his suspension. Bendtner and Eduardo will probably keep their places upfront, with Walcott on the right if he’s able to start. Diarra is almost certain to start, unless there’s been some behind the scenes stuff. I can guess whatever team I damn well please, there’ll be a news article tomorrow ruling out half the players I select.
Subs: Lehmann, Gilberto, Fabregas, Diaby, van Persie.
Kaboul, Rocha, Bale, Assou-Ekotto and Gardner definitely miss out for Spurs. Bent might return to the squad. I hope he’s fit to start, his finishing against us at Three Point Lane was pure comedy. Huddlestone is suspended after his vicious headbutt in the FA Cup game against Reading. Heh. Didier Zokora is at the African Nations Cup. Team will be very close to the below.