With Diaby joining Fabregas on the treatment table, Denilson and Song will start for Arsenal in central midfield while for Spurs, the signing of Robbie Keane has posed Harry Redknapp the question of whether to play a 4-4-2 or 4-4-1-1.
Arsenal are in some form of late, having gone ten games unbeaten in the league but the feeling still remains that the Gunners are yet to play to their full potential. “We are a bit less creative but that is linked to confidence,” says manager Arsene Wenger. “I’m sure that this team is ready to score goals now.”
Against West Ham Denilson was given greater attacking reigns and although he failed to find a breakthrough, the experience will hopefully give him greater confidence to demand the ball and be more expansive in his passing. It will be interesting to see whether Wenger deploys Denilson as the more advanced central midfielder as Alex Song is not well known for his playmaking abilities.
Matches against Aston Villa and Everton have also seen the Gunners not retain possession as well as they have done in the past as such opposition take the game to the Arsenal midfield. With Ramsey the only other option in central midfield it is a relatively inexperienced partnership but the expectations remain the same. Spurs on the other hand have signed Palacios and have the option whether to recall Jenas to partner Zokora but in terms of dominating the game, it is hard to say with great confidence who has the stronger central midfield line-up. Because of this neither side will be out of the game therefore the quality of the forwards and indeed the defenders should decide who wins. And it is Arsenal who are stronger overall.
Harry Redknapp has a choice to make between a 4-4-2 or a 4-4-1-1 but the naming of Robbie Keane as captain means the Irishman is certain to play upfront. However as displayed at Liverpool, the forward is not very effective on his own therefore may be partnered by Bent or Pavlyuchenko. Keane is no doubt a talented player; one with great movement so it is slightly strange things didn’t work out at Liverpool. Maybe he wasn’t suited to leading the line and linking up play, preferring to play off a central striker.
Tottenham’s success relies on whether Modric makes maximum impact and such impact cannot be made in a 4-4-2. Playing Modric as the playmaker, Spurs have had greater success and if he plays in such a way needs to be supported by players of similar skill when he roams around the pitch. It seems like Redknapp will start with two strikers which means it will be as a sacrifice of some defensive stability and also creativity.
With two forwards, both teams are likely to play the direct ball up field on plenty of occasions. Arsenal had joy from set pieces last time the sides met as Gallas and Silvestre both scored headers while defensively and in goal, Spurs look weak. Arsenal should have too much quality but we all said that last time round…
Arsenal Likely Line Up (4-4-2)
Sagna – Gallas – Djourou – Clichy
Eboue – Song – Denilson – Nasri
Adebayor – Van Persie
Subs from: Fabianski, Toure, Gibbs, Ramsey, Vela, Bendtner, Wilshere, Arshavin
Tottenham Hotspur Likely Line Up (4-4-2)
Chimbonda – Woodgate – Dawson – Assou-Ekotto
Lennon – Jenas – Zokora – Modric
Pavlyuchenko – R. Keane (c)
Subs from: Gomes, Corluka, Bale, Palacios, Campbell, Bent, , Taarabt, Rocha, Giovani Dos Santos, Alnwick,
Form Guide: Arsenal (5th) W12 D7 L5= 43 points Tottenham (16th): W6 D6 L12= 24 points
Prediction: Tottenham Hotspur 1-3 Arsenal