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Know Your Opponent: A Q&A with The Short Fuse

Let's talk about the North London Derby

Ian Walton/Getty Images

You may remember the Short Fuse as the blog that, for some reason, allowed us to take over the reigns for one day and post tons of articles about Arsenal. For some of our writers, it was their most prolific day in years it was also kind of a fun community building exercise. Now, however, with the North London Derby looming large this weekend, we hate the folks over there again. To further cement that hate, I sat down with pdb and asked him some questions about this Sunday's big match.

Cartilage Free Captain: How is everyone's health over at TSF? Do you need us to take over the blog again?

The Short Fuse: Our health at TSF? Pretty good. I mean, I'm fighting off a small cold, but that's about it. Nobody's been rock climbing recently, and I wear a helmet when I bike to work, so I think we can be takeover-free for a while. We're feeling like we want to return the favor, though, so I hope the CFC staff enjoy the fantastic lasagna dinner we're sending your way!

CFC: How do you think the team will react after the loss to Bayern?  Exhaustion? Snap back into form out of anger?

TSF: Here's the thing about that loss. It was hideous and ugly and horrible, but thanks to injuries, it also featured Gabriel, Joel Campbell and Mathieu Debuchy against arguably the best team on the planet right now, a team whose pride was wounded in London when Arsenal won there a couple weeks ago. Among the fanbase, once the lineup was revealed for this week's game, there wasn't a whole lot of hope of avoiding, well, exactly what happened. Arsene Wenger was uncharacteristically blunt after the game, saying, among other things, that "with a defensive performance like that, you are going nowhere". Which, yeah.

So while I don't expect a snap back into form "out of anger", necessarily, I think that despite the patchwork nature of Wednesday's team, that Arsenal will want to prove that they're better than they showed in Munich. For whatever reason, Arsenal are good at those kinds of reactions - which for me is as dubious a skill as being really good at playing a fantastic recovery golf shot out of a sand trap. Wouldn't it be easier to be better at not playing into the trap in the first place? But anyway, I think Arsenal's heads will be totally right for Sunday.

CFC: On the bright side, without the distraction of the Champions League, Arsenal could actually challenge for the Premier League title this year. Is that your expectation?

TSF: Honestly, I expected Arsenal to challenge for the title AND the Champions League this year (stop snickering at the back, you). So the fact that Arsenal have faltered in the CL (they can still qualify, but they'll need a lot of help to do it) doesn't really alter my expectation of them challenging for the League title. In a year where Chelsea are looking like the Chelsea of 1995-96 (ask your parents, kids! They weren't always good!), and where Manchester United still don't really know which end is up, it is increasingly looking like a two-horse race for the championship. And I like Arsenal's chances.

CFC: How much are Arsenal hurt by the current injury crisis? (And why does this seem to be an active question, perennially?)

TSF: You saw how much it hurt them against Bayern, but in the league, I think Arsenal have the strength to cope. It's not great, but it's doable, particularly with an international break coming up next week. Why this is a perennial question is something I don't have an answer for, unfortunately - Arsenal overhauled their entire physio staff and (reportedly) training methods last year when they brought in German national team physio Shad Forsythe and his well-regarded methodology, but from the outside it is really hard to quantify "results" of something like that. The hope was that Forsythe could keep Arsenal healthier than they have been in recent years, and anecdotally, until recently it seems like he might have been, but I have no idea how to judge whether things are better or worse now than they were three years ago.

It's amazingly frustrating, but it seems to be par for Arsenal's course, so we just roll our eyes and move on when we hear the phrase "Arsenal's (player name) injured, out three weeks" any more. It's just a cost of doing business.

CFC: Arsenal have already beaten Spurs once this year, which unlikely player will score the brace that ensures victory this time around?

TSF: I'm going with Joel Campbell, partly because it's not as unlikely as it seems and partly because even I can't say "Francis Coquelin" with a straight face.

CFC: Seriously, Arsenal are good. What's one thing Spurs can do to take advantage of any weakness in the Arsenal side?

TSF: Come at them. Arsenal, to put it in an old-school English way, don't like it up 'em, and if you can frustrate them off their game, there's a good chance of stealing points. Also, if Koscielny is still out, and if all the other injuries are still injurieson Sunday, Spurs should camp out on the right side of the pitch, for all the freedom they could ever want. 

CFC: Finally, what's your prediction for this match?

TSF: Hmmmm. As it has so many times in recent years, that kinda depends on which Arsenal shows up. If Arsenal are still licking their wounds from Wednesday, it could be a much closer game than I want it to be, but if Let's Put This Right And Get Back To Winning The League Arsenal show up, it should be a win.

Thanks to pdb for being kind enough to answer my stupid questions. I answered his decidedly less stupid and more sincere questions over at the Short Fuse. I can't imagine why you would want to invite more Gunners into your Twitter feed, but in case you're interested you can follow @misterpdb or @theshortfuse.