Welcome to Talking Heads.
Before and after every first-team fixture, our co-commentator and an Arsenal blogger will have their say on the game.
Arsenal took on Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League on Sunday and our Talking Heads for this game were Arsenal Player commentator Dan Roebuck and Andrew Allen from The Arsenal Collective.
DAN ROEBUCK, ARSENAL PLAYER COMMENTATOR
For 35 minutes Arsenal were completely in control of this match. Their passing was crisp, their movement was sharp, they pressed well without the ball and, frankly, Spurs were not in the game. So it's all the more frustrating that all that good work went out of the window in the space of three minutes.
By failing to press the player in possession for each goal, Arsenal allowed Sigurdsson and then Parker to slide balls through to Bale and Lennon respectively. It was made easy for them when it should have been nigh on impossible.
Even then I thought Arsenal could get a draw - Spurs have thrown away plenty of leads in derby matches - but for all their patient probing, Arsène Wenger's team lacked penetration. Too often the ball ended up wide, the cross came in and Spurs defended comfortably.
I am still quietly confident that Arsenal will finish in the top four because they have two teams to chase and it only takes one of them to slip up. But they have to be clinical in attack and keep their concentration when they haven't got the ball.
Well, what a game this could be. Tottenham won last time the sides met in N17, but since then Arsenal have triumphed 5-2 on two separate occasions. I think that will give them confidence and belief going into this game.
It's important they start quickly and prevent the hosts from getting on the front foot. Arsenal have conceded early goals in big games this season, including in this season's derby fixture at the Emirates, so they have to buck that trend.
Arsenal's form players are Jack Wilshere and Santi Cazorla and they will need to find space and time so they can pick out the runs of Theo Walcott. I think Theo will start through the centre with maybe Aaron Ramsey brought into the midfield so he can double up on the in-form Gareth Bale with Carl Jenkinson.
There have been 39 goals in the last eight games between the sides, and I expect this game to be open and attacking as well.
ANDREW ALLEN, THE ARSENAL COLLECTIVE
Prior to Sunday's derby we’d conceded the first goal in all six games against our top-four rivals this term. In eight of our 13 fixtures in 2013 we’d gone behind. In four of those we’d done so by two goals. We've been labelled inconsistent, but really we’re anything but at the moment. Of course, being well aware of your side’s deficiencies doesn’t make it any easier for a supporter. If anything it makes it harder. Indeed, when the same old story plays out against your most bitter rivals it’s not just frustrating… it makes you want to tear your hair out! I’m actually annoyed that I’ve not learned to numb myself to the pain, but you live in hope don’t you? You go against better judgement and just pray that the game will play out differently and that your players won’t lose focus twice in two minutes and find themselves chasing the game.
Bale scoring against the run of play yesterday felt as inevitable as Robin van Persie sticking the knife in at Old Trafford in November. Lennon doubling Spurs’ lead as pre-ordained as Villa scoring with their first shot in anger last week. We didn’t actually play that badly, I thought we controlled play for the first 35 minutes but in the end our lack of concentration and penetration proved costly.
Arsène spoke after the match - not for the first time - about his side giving themselves a mountain to climb in matches. Well, sitting in fifth, five points outside the Champions League places and with just 10 games remaining it feels like we’re now standing naked in front of a rocky cliff face with nothing but a blizzard for company. Do I think we’ll still finish in the top four? It’s not impossible… but if we win the Champions League it might not matter! I’ll never learn.
It’s amazing to think that since the last time we played at White Hart Lane Arsenal have banged in 10 goals against Spurs at the Emirates and enjoyed a whole year’s worth of neighbourly bragging rights. If that’s Scott Parker’s definition of being ‘rattled’ I’m all for it. Of course, while those results make for fond memories they’ll be soured somewhat if we lose on Sunday and find ourselves staring at a seven-point gap in the table. We need to win, a draw would be acceptable, but defeat is not an option.
Losing Bacary Sagna’s experience is a massive blow given Gareth Bale’s proclivity to roam down the left flank and while I believe Carl Jenkinson has the energy to stick with the Welshman for 90 minutes, he’s going to need a hand from the midfield to ensure he’s not repeatedly exposed to one-on-one situations. I suspect Aaron Ramsey, who scored in this fixture last year, might get a run out next to Arteta and Wilshere with Walcott asked to do his fair share of tracking back.
After three performances which have seen the spotlight cast on him for the wrong reasons, the pressure is also on Wojciech Szczesny. Last term he should have done better with Kyle Walker’s winner and with Bale willing to shoot on sight he’s got to be on his toes. Concentration is key for the Pole in goal.
Recent history, and the frayed edges of my sofa, pay testament to the end-to-end nature of these fixtures in recent years and I fully expect it to be a bit of a free-for-all again. With four players already in double figures this term I’m confident we’ve a matchwinner in our ranks. I’m not fussed whether it’s Walcott, Giroud, Podolski or Cazorla who scores the winner, although the romantic in me would love a last-gasp Wilshere strike to seal the points. Let a man dream...
* The views expressed in Talking Heads do not necessarily reflect those of Arsenal Football Club or Arsenal Broadband LtdCopyright 2015 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 4 Mar 2013