There is something incomprehensible about the North London Derby. Emotionally it's a mess. It has the potential to make you feel incredible and it can also leave you in the corner, rocking backwards and forwards, muttering words of despair and despondency. It's a paradoxical headache of an experience. You want to be there or watch it but at the same time it's practically unwatchable because all you can focus on is not losing. Please for the love of all things Lilywhite....DO NOT LOSE.
Okay. I need to compose myself. The season will be four league games old come this Sunday and this particular game feels like it's too early in what is still a fledgling season. Yet Spurs seem to be harbouring more long term issues going into the away day at the Emirates. Mauricio Pochettino's squad is having, for want of a less dramatic word, a crisis of sorts. We have ourselves a curious case of an identity crisis.
If you take our league form from last season and meld it into this seasons stuttering start, then it's worrying. Consider the outstanding statistics and form tables of the more aggressive, pressing, swarming Poch Spurs of recent seasons. Solid home and away. Now look at the last 15 games played and scratch your head in the realisation that we're second from bottom in that fabled form table.
Are burnt-out? What caused the problems last season? What's amplified them since the summer? Are we going to be okay come Sunday afternoon?
Last season was tinged with echoes of irony. Our worst season in terms of style and output under Poch and yet CL finalists and countless iconic moments we'll never forget. But we arguably lost our league discipline in-amongst all the glory of our European games. There was talk of our gaffer leaving. Talk continues around the futures of Eriksen, Alderweireld and now even Vertonghen. Jan sporting a bruised eye that is fuelling conspiracy and in-house fall outs and fighting. What has happened to our famed togetherness and team synergy?
Poch has admitted there are problems. Hinted that players are unsettled. After a bright pre-season, Spurs have still not reignited their form but are we being overly critical? What with it being just three games (and ignoring the poor form of last season)?
New blood has been injected but it's too early for it to flow through the veins and pump us with high octane adrenaline. Ndombele missed the Newcastle game. Lo Celso is far from 100% fitness. Sessegnon is injured. Add to it the Vertonghen conundrum, sat on the sidelines looking glum and Sanchez struggling for positional awareness alongside Toby and it's no surprise this is possibly the worst preparation for the NLD.
Our lack of invention, what with Eriksen wanting away and yet still being the only creative link we are having to rely on from the bench is a detrimental to the rebuild of confidence we require. The Newcastle performance was dire stuff. The lack of movement, the lack of width, the lack of Harry Kane touches.
Arsenal, having been torn apart by Liverpool, will still fancy their chances because, well, they put everything into wanting to win to paper over their own cracks that tend to appear like clockwork regardless of any 4-2 'players hanging out of a car celebrating' aftermaths they proudly display to deflect attention until they end up in 5th spot again.
Last season, we didn't look up for it. That's criminal in a game of this ilk. Form does go out of the window for sure, but if you can't mix quality in with the blood and thunder raw emotions the supporters demand - then you're going to come up short.
Arsenal have new players in Pepe and Ceballos to give them a bounce. But they also have David Luiz at the back. As good as they can be going forward, they remain suspect at the back. Tottenham with an identity would, should wipe the floor with them. But Spurs have too often under performed against them. So the question is simple. Ignoring possible formations and tactics of containment and counter attacks - the only trait required on the day is character.
Does Poch, for the greater good, look for a Jan and Toby partnership, ignoring the naughty step? Does Eriksen start to give us that required vision from midfield? Will Dele be available so that our movement and space invading improves tenfold? Will Spurs look for less narrow nonsense and more wicked width with a keen eye on Son to shine a little brighter than he did on his return last Sunday? Will Ndombele return (edit: no sadly not) and partner Sissoko? Eric Dier is injured. KWP is injured. Christ. Does Winks play and pray that the players ahead of him give him an alternative option to a sideways pass? Can Kane bully their backline and not be bullied out of space and time? Luiz gives me hope.
It seems like the obstacles in our way are self-fulfilling prophecies of doubt. Spurs have to break the habit of beating themselves to then get beaten by them lot down the road. It's a long season ahead. It's a testing time for all involved. But there should be no ready made excuses and yet there's a half a dozen I've entertained in this preview.
Emotionally, I'm still a mess. If I could cover my eyes and my ears and skip the game altogether and just see a positive result, I'd take that than having to endure 90 odd minutes of absolute torture. The NLD. Incomprehensible as ever.