This time last year Arsenal went to White Hart Lane in the semi-final of the Carling Cup. Wenger gambled with his youngsters and we went 2-0 down before half time. It seemed an uphill task for us to comeback but nothing phases this young side and they fought brilliantly to come back to 2-2 and maybe could and should have won the game.
That result provided a springboard for the second leg and we brought them back to the Emirates with an advantage and a psychological advantage. We dominated the game but due to our wastefulness in front of goal Spurs took it to extra time. Wenger called on the experience on the bench and we were able to finish them off. This year, the youngsters are a year younger, many of them played in the final and will want to go one better and win the competition this year. The first step to this is winning this double header.
Last year the tie should have been finished in 90 minutes but we missed too many chances. This year however we have a man in lethal form. Eduardo has scored 6 goals in his last 4 games and his 4 goals in this season’s Carling Cup has shown his pedigree. It is amazing to think he is one behind our top scorer Adebayor in all competitions and this is amazing after he has hardly played in the first team before January. Wenger’s 6 month settling in period seems to have worked, again!
Spurs have conceded 11 goals in 5 games and this tells us something. Tomorrow we will be up against a leakiy defence and with someone like Eduardo in our team we can take real advantage of this. 5 of the goals came from set pieces which shows another key weakness. We saw in the Premier League games this season that they are susceptible from corners and free kicks. Our first goal in the 3-1 win came from a free kick which Adebayor headed home. Our winner at home came from some slack marking that gave Bendtner the room to head home the winner. We have Senderos, Djourou and Diaby to add height to our attack in this area and we have to make these count.
They may have conceded an awful lot of goals but they have scored 15 goals in their last 5 games, an average of 3 goals per game. This shows us that the defence has a key role to play tomorrow night. Spurs are a threat going forward as they showed at the Emirates a month ago and in particular Dimitar Berbatov who is going through a real purple patch. He has scored of the 15 goals and played a big part in an awful lot of the others. He will need to watched carefully throughout and we cannot afford to grant him space similar to that he got in the last game against Spurs.
In the Carling Cup so far it has been Senderos and Song at centre back but with Song at the African Cup of Nations I was interested to see what Wenger would do. He had two options: 1. Bring in Gallas to add experience to the back four or 2. Bring in Djourou now he is back from loan. Personally, I would have played Gallas as it would have been good to have an old head amongst a very young defence. It seems however Wenger has opted for Djourou:
“Johan Djourou and Phillippe Senderos will start” Arsene Wenger (arsenal.com)
Wenger has once again opted for the youngster over experience. Djourou has come back from regular first team football and Wenger will want to play him as well. Him and Senderos have played together at full international level and know each other’s games. They will have to work together to keep Tottenham out and Djourou has shown promise before. Now is a massive chance to show it. Senderos is prone to the odd error and with Berbatov a player likely to punish this, Djourou will need to be concentrating 100%, same goes for Big Phil.
Justin Hoyte and Armand Traore will have a difficult job against Malbranque and Lennon. Lennon is one of the best wingers in the league and has tormented many a left back. Traore has shown real promise in this competition and put in some great performances. However, on Sunday he was awful, there is no other word for it. It will not encourage many gooners but I think the pitch did not help. Both full backs will need to try and force the wingers back towards their own goal.
Theo Walcott will probably start on the right – illness prevented him starting at Blackburn – and he needs to get at Lee. He is at his best when he is positive and tries to beat his man. He will need to track back and help Hoyte at times though. Full backs can often get isolated 2 vs 1 and our wide midfield players have a job defending our goal as well. Diaby did not do this on Sunday and left Traore against his man and the full back at times. Diaby needs to be told how important that job is, especially with Lennon up against Traore.
There will be a real battle in the centre of midfield with Jermaine Jenas and Zokora up against Diarra and Denilson. Diarra was awesome in the last round and hopefully he can repeat this level of performance. The Diarra situation is up in the air and if we want to keep him we must play him. I have stressed the importance of keeping him as he can be a real big player for us in the near future. He needs to get in and around Jenas to stifle the attacking threat and if he can dictate the tempo and win this battle it could be key. Denilson can hopefully be given freedom if Diarra plays well and he can be a real creative source.
I have touched on Edaurdo’s lethal finishing and eye for goal. We have seen it at Everton, Blackburn and Burnley in which he has grabbed 5 goals. In all of these he has played with Bendtner and their partnership seems to be blossoming well. Edaurdo is important, we all know that, but the Dane has a big job tomorrow. Spurs have had big strikers cause them problems and Bendtner will need to dominate the aerial battle and create space for Eduardo to do his stuff. He has the ability to punish teams if given the chance and he is a massive threat at set pieces. He will need to improve his performance from Sunday but if he gets another goal (or two) I will be happy.
Van Persie is fit Wenger has revealed. About time, it’s been so bloody long. He was a doubt around mid February and has been out for around a month. He will be on the bench it seems. The same goes for Rosicky and Fabregas who were rested completely for the Burnley game. Wenger will more than likely call on their experience at some point. Whether this is to change the game in our favour or close it out, that will depend on the job the team does up until they are called upon.
Subs: Mannone, Gilberto, Rosicky, Fabregas, Van Persie