Saturday, 2 March 2013

Wenger knows the importance -Arsenal's away record -Podolski and Cazorla's disagreement

Morning Gooners

Well we're just a day away from one of our most important games of our season. Whatever way you look at it, we need to leave White Hart Lane with a point. Defeat is not an option in my book.

While our record at their place in the previous four visits has been terrible - we've failed to come away with any points whatsoever - Arsene Wenger's record in these fixtures is very good. Tomorrow he'll go into his 40th north London derby, having won 18 and drawn 17.

He'll set up the players as he usually does and wouldn't reveal to the press whether he's got a specific plan in mind for the home team's main threat Gareth Bale.

Wenger said:
"Sunday is a very important game because it's in the final part of the Premier League season, the outcome will give a big boost to the team who wins it.  
"This is a derby and will be a very intense game, as usual, it is always very tight, always a big fight.  
"If you look at our record in the last 15 or 16 years, it is very good. Of course we want to continue to maintain that record."
How we do that without Bacary Sagna at right back remains to be seen, but I have a suspicion that Aaron Ramsey will play an important part in trying to shackle his countryman. Wenger has been keen to deploy our Welsh midfielder in many of our biggest games this season, often away from his favoured central position and taking on a job for the team.

I would expect the manager to play Carl Jenkinson in place of Sagna at right back and then play Ramsey alongside Mikel Arteta in the deep lying midfield roles. Walcott would then start on the right hand side of our attacking three. That is assuming that Olivier Giroud starts up front.

Abou Diaby said this week the game would be won 90% in the midfield. And I think that is where the manager will gamble. Will he start with Walcott through the middle instead of Giroud - a waste of Walcott's counter-attacking abilities in my opinion - and deploy Ramsey in front of Jenkinson on the right, with Wilshere or Diaby playing alongside Arteta.

The manager has quite a few tactical decisions to make and they could hinge on whether Diaby is fit to play or not.

What we do know is that this season so far we have the best defensive record of any team away from home having conceded just 11 goals. We've kept a joint record five clean sheets, along with Manchester City and Swansea.

Hard to believe that isn't it?

Considering we're told we can't defend as a team and our defenders are useless, this group of players has managed to come away without conceding in 38% of our away games. Where we've been less efficient is in front of goal away from the Grove having scored just 17. Which means we sit fifth in the away from home league table.

As I said before, I think we need to pick up at least a point from tomorrow's game. However two of our star players are in disagreement with one another about how important for our season the result of our trip down the Seven Sisters Road will be on the remainder of our season and our goal to achieve Champions League football.

Santi Cazorla and Lucas Podolski have both spoken about tomorrow's games and this is what they've said:

Cazorla said:
"If we lose it would be a difference of seven points, too big a gap. 
"It’s true we’ve been inconsistent. We didn’t make it through in the Capital One Cup or the FA Cup but our aim is to be in the Champions League and hopefully we’ll improve through the rest of the season. 
"A win at Tottenham would invigorate the whole team. We’re two points away from Chelsea but if we win this we will be one away from Tottenham."
Podolski told the official site:
"I like derbies, it will be a tough match but we want the three points and we have the quality to win there. 
"It is something special when it is a derby, for the fans and for the Club. When you play away at your rivals you must fight for the three points. 
"It is a big game but it will not decide who will play in next season's Champions League. We have 11 matches to go and every match is like a final and we must fight to get into the Champions League next season. This is important to us."
Both players believe we can win there and that's the most important thing. Whether it will make a huge impact on our season remains to be seen. And I'm happy both players know what this game means to the fans. Having both only joined the club in the summer, they already know that there's one game you never want to lose and it's the one tomorrow.

That's it for today. Back with more tomorrow.

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