Hey, it's North London Derby week! This snuck up on me quickly. I hollered at Ted Harwood, the manager of Arsenal blog The Short Fuse on the instant messaging machine earlier today. Below is our conversation about Arsenal and what their deal is going into the match. You can find my answers to his questions about Tottenham right here.
Kevin McCauley: Before we start talking about football, what are you listening to at work today? I'm bumping that Kendrick Lamar.
Theodore Harwood: I'm listening to old Tangerine Dream. I want to be into that Kendrick Lamar, but it hasn't grabbed me yet.
Kevin McCauley: I had to look up Tangerine Dream on Wikipedia because that's how uncool I am. Okay, football! So, first up, some Arsenal team news. It's good! What happened to the 'Arsenal DNA' meme? Only Kieran Gibbs is confirmed out, while Abou Diaby has his perpetual slight knock. Where did this newfound health come from, and cool is this for y'all?
Theodore Harwood: I don't know where all the new health came from. I'm a little worried about it still, because Arsene Wenger is using his young players a lot and not rotating very much (especially in the case of Jack Wilshere), but the club tracks their usage very carefully. I'd like to think we could rotate at least in the midfield some, especially now that Tomas Rosicky is back. Otherwise, I'm totally cool with it.
Kevin McCauley: Speaking of Tomas Rosicky, he looked good in his recent cameo appearance. Meanwhile, Santi Cazorla's form has dropped off from the beginning of the season. Perhaps the derby isn't the time to make a dramatic switch, but is it time to start thinking about giving Rosicky a start over Cazorla in a Premier League game?
Theodore Harwood: Yes. And I'm not sure that the NLD isn't a good time, actually, given how Rosicky played in the one a year ago this time. It's possible to start both of them, with Santi on the left, although that means that you basically sacrifice Lukas Podolski, which I don't think will happen. But yes, at some point, Santi's going to need another rest. He's looking a little sluggish.
Kevin McCauley: I also think that Rosicky's a bit more creative and risky with his passing than Cazorla. He's a bit more willing to be the hero or the goat, it seems, and I think Arsenal need that.
Theodore Harwood: I'd agree; one thing that has been noticeably lacking from Arsenal this year is creativity in the attack. Santi was mistakenly believed to be another Cesc, and while he has wonderful technique, he's not as ambitious in his passing. Rosicky is, and I'd welcome that kind of risk-taking from time to time. Arsenal's ability to break down defenses at times has relied on dribbling and driving runs from Wilshere or someone like Chamberlain or Diaby, but that has the disadvantage of leaving space. Wilshere playing the hero can be great, but it mostly leaves holes.
Kevin McCauley: Wilshere can play the hero if there's someone with a bit of athleticism behind him (an imaginary disciplined and healthy Diaby), but it's probably not something he should be doing if he's one of your pivot players. Speaking of, Wilshere has been brilliant lately, but I can't help but think he's just been the most brilliant of the link-up players and Arsenal are kind of a team full of brilliant link-up players. Who's going to create goals on Sunday, provided that Spurs are the good version of Spurs and don't Spurs things up?
Theodore Harwood: I think Arsenal are going to need to play a bit more quickly than they have been (which is stating the obvious). It's weird, and possibly wrong, but sometimes I feel like Giroud is the most ambitious attacker Arsenal have. He's always trying 1-2s and outrageous lofted passes. That's probably not a good thing, and if Santi, Theo, and Podolski are dialed in, he won't have to. If Arsenal are passing it around with no penetration, though, I'd hope to see Rosicky come in after about an hour. Knowing Wenger, it'll be Ramsey, though.
Kevin McCauley: Perhaps just because it was good strategy at the time and perhaps because he was preparing for Madrid, Alex Ferguson deployed Phil Jones as a defensive midfielder to slow down Gareth Bale, and it worked to an extent. I don't expect Wenger to make a big change in formation for the specific purpose of keying in on one guy, but what adjustments (if any) do you see Wenger making to stifle the new centrally-based and superhuman version of Bale?
Theodore Harwood: Given that the only time I've seen dramatic tactical adjustments pre-game by Wenger was the 2-1 win over Barcelona in the Champions League, I'm not sure that he's going to do anything dramatic. If Diaby can go (huge if there), he might start him next to Arteta and tell him to try to hang with Bale. What seems more likely, though, is Arsenal setting up as normal and Gareth Bale just running at the central defenders all day--I mean, last week, Aston Villa had like 15 viable counterattacks against us, so. Arsenal's defenders are going to have to be A+, and the midfield will need to press effectively.
Kevin McCauley: It sounds like you are not confident about getting a good result out of this match.
Theodore Harwood: Well, I'm mostly worried about Bale running all over. Spurs have had issues of their own defending at times--it took Bale to beat West Ham on Monday--and I think that Arsenal will be able to score. I think Tottenham are a bit more of the form team right now, but I think that Arsenal maybe are more solid 1 to 11 at the moment. It could get kind of buck. Like, 5-4 buck.
Kevin McCauley: I might spend 90 minutes in the fetal position, sobbing, but I'm sure a 5-4 game would be fun for everyone else.
Theodore Harwood: I'll probably be jittering from coffee. I might throw a shoe.
I'm looking forward to this game. We'll have some other interactions with TSF between today and the Derby.