It seems most appropriate that the abuse debate should come up this week, sandwiched in between games against two of our most bitter rivals in Tottenham and Chelsea. Last Sunday, I must admit, I was one of the many booing Ashley Cole, one of those maybe going a bit further than this. I guarantee you that certain people really do hate Ashley Cole. I do not mean when they enter the football stadiums, I mean that if they saw Cole on the street they would find it hard not to confront him. It is part of the rivalry. When it becomes violence I do not like it, but when it is abuse from the terraces towards an opponent, where is the harm?
I ask you, in what other way can fans express their views towards players? Footballers live in a whole other world to most of us, the only time we get a real link to them is on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. Tottenham are our local rival and the tension over the years has grown and grown. If one of their players fouls one of ours, do the officials and players expect us to sit there in quiet and condemn the tackle in our minds? Of course they do not. Part of creating an intimidating atmosphere at home is the roars from the crowd when the game gets fiesty, it is part of the game.
If someone like Sol Campbell moves from Spurs to Arsenal, what does he expect on his return? There is no way he would ever get a good reception at White Hart Lane again and fair enough. He became a fan’s favourite at Arsenal and a hated one at White Hart Lane. Many Gooners forgave his past after the humiliation he caused towards those in white. How could Tottenham fans let it lie? Come on Sol. The only way they could get at him was abuse from the stands. It is the same with Cole. Did he expect we would welcome him back? Of course we would not. His move to Chelsea was a disgrace, he knew it, we knew it, we were not going to let him off easily. The taunts addressed to him were simply an expression of our frustration.
It felt right to discuss the abuse with the Tottenham match approaching and the Carling Cup draw; and what a draw it was. Dare I say it, it looks to be the easiest draw of the lot. With their leaky defence I can see us getting goals against them. I would just have preferred the first leg to be away. It could well be a repeat of last season’s final if we can overcome Spurs and Everton succumb to Chelsea – we have unifinished business from last season.
Enough of all this: to the match on Saturday. Spurs have won two on the trot now, including a, dare I say it, well fought and admirable performance away at City. It was City’s first defeat at home and they played 80 minutes with 10 men. They will be full of confidence coming into Saturday but this might favour us. Many times they have believed they had the beating of us, only for us to knock them back to Earth. This happened earlier this season when we won 3-1. If we can get a similar result I would be delighted.
I have a feeling Wenger will finally go with what I believe is our best team at full strength:
With Eboue and Walcott out, the 4-4-1-1 formation with Hleb behind Adebayor seems an unlikely option. Now Van Persie is back I hope him and Adebayor can re-kindle the form they showed early in the season. When we went with two up front on Sunday, we looked far more of a threat in front of goal. Van Persie really is dangerous and showed this when he got into so many good positions in a 20 minute cameo. Hleb has been in brilliant form and he can continue this in his free role from the right. Hleb, Rosicky and Fabregas really work well together as they roam across the midfield linking the play together. Rosicky looked so much more comfortable with the two other back for the Chelsea game.
The game will be won tomorrow if every player wins his battle. As I did for the Chelsea game I will look at the big battles in what is a very big game.
Almunia vs Robinson – Both keepers will be very busy and were both in great form in their last match. Almunia made some very good saves against Chelsea and Robinson did the same against City. Two of his saves were some of the best I have seen in a long time. If one keeper can perform better than his opposite number, the game could be decided here.
Toure vs Berbatov – Toure is Arsenal’s rock but Berbatov seems to be back to form just in time. It will be a big test for Toure but if he can keep Berbatov marked tightly and keep him quiet Arsenal may be in business. Toure will look to bring the ball out of defence and start attacks. He may be given this space and hopefully he can exploit it.
Fabregas vs Jenas – These two are the creative players in the centre of the park. Fabregas had a slow return from injury and looked slightly off it last Sunday but by now he will be ready and primed. He has been in great goal scoring form and hopefully he can start this again. Jenas gets up and down the park and has a good shot, he will need to be closed down by Flamini who will give Cesc the freedom he needs.
Clichy vs Lennon – This could be the best battle of them all. Lennon will look to get at Clichy throughout and it will be a tough and interesting test for the Frenchman. Clcihy will look to get forward and I doubt Lennon will want to track him. This may give Clichy a lot of freedom down the flank but Flamini may need to act as cover.
Kaboul vs Adebayor – Adebayor came out on top earlier on this season and he will be confident of doing the same come Saturday, Adebayor will look to hold the ball up well and bring his team mates into play. If Kaboul can limit the supply to the big man he could stop a major part of the Arsenal attack. He will have to dominate at set pieces but he will be a threat when he comes up from the back.