Once more into the fray
Once more into the fray
Into the last good fight I'll ever know
Live and die on this day
Live and die on this day
- Joe Carnahan
North London derby, in the cup, away. All the ingredients for more misery and heartache and...ah, hold up a second. Screw that. It's the cup. It's a one off. It's us and them. There isn't a single reason to not want this clash to play out with the usual blood and thunder - just less of the red cards and the capitulations. Nervous? You can't possibly not be - on either side - it's the only fuel that can aid you getting through the experience. It's one of those games where you wish you could transport yourself to the end of it as long as you have a guarantee of a win.
The obvious desire (of this game outside of the isolation it lives in as do or die for supporters) is for it to be used as further evidence of what skills Tim Sherwood possesses and how well he can man-manage players in terms of motivating them for occasions like this.
It's a one off. Unlikely either side will be weakened (aside from missing players due to injury - although with Arsenal wishing to retain their top spot in the league they might rest players via the bench). Unlikely either side will take the game lightly. Might be an open game. Maybe Tim will surprise us with shock containment tactics and punish Arsenal on the counter. Who knows? We're usually subject to the reverse of that. As long as it doesn't end 5-2 to them, right?
Here's the obvious stuff if you're on the look out for that aforementioned evidence.
Emmanuel Adebayor will need to channel his aggression and avoid another mind melt. Will be interesting to see how focused he is on playing with conviction for Spurs rather than attempting to further solidify vendettas.
The midfield will need to be combative to ease pressure of possession, because we all know how zippy they are with the ball and allowing them time on it without pressing and hassling will only end in tears.
Defence can attempt to invite them to attack and then dig in and break but would rather we don't repeat the lopsided attempt we shaped up with away to Manchester United. The left flank is imperative. Both flanks in fact can't be left without cover. Arsenal will overlap to their hearts content. Might be the same team that started at Old Trafford but the manner in which we protect the midfield and fight for the ball will have to be more crisp. Our defending, for the most part, has hardly been cohesive thanks to the high line and the repair work implemented since its retirement. Inviting them is hardly an option.
We'll be looking towards Christian Eriksen and the the front two for more of the same relentless movement we've had since expression was released back into the wild.
Can't say much more than that because I'm not sat in Tim's head and can't second guess his strategy on the day. We have players returning to the squad (Defoe, Townsend, Holtby) with Sandro, Vertonghen, Paulinho, Sigurdsson, Naughton and the forever broken Kaboul missing. Woe is us. So it's likely to be the same side fresh from the 2-1 Manc win. We can hardly rotate for the sake of it thanks to those missing players.
Also, this being the beginnings of Sherwood's tenure, every game counts as a further step towards the recognition he'll want for turning our fortunes (and style) around.
Occasions like this are also more about the psychology of the players.
Arsene Wenger has instilled an arrogance and self belief that worked wonders for his side, comfortably when they had a squad jam packed of world class players, bullying their way to titles with technically perfect push and run football (the copy cats). That self belief is there in part because Wenger is still there but there is no doubting they retain a certain level of fragility. The crux is, so do we. Which is why when taking leads there we've had them blown away.
Will this game be yet another catalyst?
For us, for sure. Not the end of the world if we lost aside from the obvious gut wrenching feeling of disdain for everything birthed from the sewage works of Plumstead. Would also led to a good healthy test of Sherwood's resolve with how we react after a soul destroying defeat. They're all soul destroying against this lot.
If we won, it will cement more trust and faith with Sherwood and be used a spring board for momentum in the league. Arsenal are clear favourites, we're the underdogs. Arguably this clash has seen us on equal footing in prior encounters recently, with predictions hard to make in the build up. Our wobble and their form would point to a home advantage by some distance.
Nothing to lose? There's always one thing that is unbearable to lose. Pride. It's the hope that kills you and if it doesn't it will come mighty close.
Regardless of all the narratives, just beating them will do. Whatever happens after that isn't really relevant until we move on past the aftermath.