Make or Break for North London
It is going to be a massive week for the bitter rivals of North London. Heading into the FA Cup semi-finals this weekend, there couldn’t be more contrast in the current fortunes of the two sides.
Spurs have won their last eight games on the bounce and are carrying serious momentum into their clash with Chelsea at Wembley tomorrow. In this run they have banged in 28 goals and conceded just 4. Back in November, Chelsea overcame Spurs at Stamford Bridge 2-1 in a cracker with Spurs comfortably seeing off Antonio Conte’s side 2-0 in the reverse fixture in January. With the title race closer than it has been in months, due to Chelsea’s two losses to Crystal Palace and Manchester United in their last four games, tomorrow’s game takes on a whole new meaning. If Spurs were to come out on top, it could be a huge factor for the remainder of the season. Not only a dent to Chelsea’s confidence, but vitally for Spurs, a continuation of the momentum they are currently soaring on. With a tough game away to Crystal Palace midweek and the North London Derby fixed for the following Sunday a win tomorrow is crucial for Spurs’ confidence. This team needs to show that the capitulation at the end of last season (from the Battle of the Bridge onwards) is behind them and Pochettino will be urging his players to ensure they win at least one trophy this season. With Kane now having ample firepower to help him in the form of Dele and Son, and Eriksen bagging assists for fun Spurs will look to hurt Chelsea from the outset. There also appears to be a resilience to Spurs this year who have gained more points from losing positions this season than any other side. This will be the week that truly shows how far Pochettino has brought his side, both in their football and their mentality.
On the other side of the coin, this week is a chance for Arsenal to save their season. No doubt the #WENGEROUT brigade will be hoping that Arsenal falter in their FA Cup and top 4 pursuits. However, if they were to beat Manchester City this Sunday and go on to lift the trophy would it be enough for Wenger to stay? Arsenal’s last eight games have seen them lose four and draw one – against Manchester City. They sit in sixth on the league table and speculation continues to surround the club regarding the manager and the players. One week we hear that Wenger is going to step down, the next he has a two-year deal on the table. There is no question that Wenger has done an incredible job financially at Arsenal over the last ten years with the Emirates being built and still achieving Champions League Football season after season as well as a sprinkling of FA Cups in that time. All this without regularly spending fortunes of money on players. But is the game finally up? 7 points off 4th (albeit with a game in hand on City) and a massive 14 points adrift of Spurs – 11 should they win that game in hand. With City playing United on Thursday Arsenal will be fervently hoping that City fail to win and to capitalise against Leicester themselves on Wednesday. Rumour continues to shroud the likes of Alexis Sanchez who is being heavily linked with a move away from the Emirates. Sanchez has been Arsenal’s standout performer this year and is the main reason they are still clinging to a chance of a top 4 finish. If they fail to win a trophy and not have Champions League Football next season would Sanchez stay? Unlikely. A huge week ahead for the Gunners as they look to take a big step towards rescuing a disappointing season and more importantly retaining the quality of Alexis Sanchez.
Spurs and Arsenal are miles apart in terms of their current form going into the NLD. Spurs had four players (Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Kyle Walker and Danny Rose) named in the PFA Team of the Year this week with Alexis Sanchez the sole representative for Arsenal. On Sunday 30th April however, the formbook will be thrown out the window. There aren’t many more important games than the derby for both sets of fans. Spurs will be hoping to continue their impressive run whilst Arsenal will be determined to take Spurs’ unbeaten record at White Hart Lane away from them. With Pochettino and Wenger at polar opposites of job security at present, both will be aiming for victory to send a message to fans and rivals alike.
A tough week for the players. A tactical week for the managers.
Make or break for North London.
Written by Andrew Whelan, Fethard on Sea, Wexford