By Giuseppe Muro
Arsenal beat their nearest rivals 3-0 in this weekend's corresponding fixture last season thanks to a double from Robin van Persie and Cesc Fabregas’ brilliant solo effort.
In fact, Tottenham haven’t beaten the Gunners away from White Hart Lane since May 1993. But can Harry Redknapp and his side change that record on Saturday? We spoke to Ben Rumsby of the Press Association to get a Tottenham perspective on the weekend’s game.
CAUSE FOR CONCERN
They do have a pretty lengthy injury list. Tom Huddlestone is going to be an absolutely huge miss because he has been virtually ever-present this season but has now undergone ankle surgery. Defensively they have got major problems with Ledley King still out, Jonathan Woodgate is obviously a long-term absentee and Michael Dawson was supposed to be back by now but is no nearer a comeback. William Gallas has done well despite not having much of a pre-season. His match fitness was a bit of an issue to begin with but all the other injuries meant he had to play. There is also a slight worry about Robbie Keane.
REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL
They could have Jermain Defoe back who returned to full training on Tuesday. Though it’s unlikely he will start there is every chance he could be on the bench. He’s been out for about two months and it would be massive if he could feature from the bench because since he’s been out they’ve struggled to score goals. Rafael van der Vaart has really picked up the mantle and without him they would have been in real trouble with goalscoring. They have missed Defoe’s goals badly and to have him back would be a huge boost for them.
MAN OF THE MOMENT
Van der Vaart is such a dangerous player. To settle into the Premier League as quickly as he has done has been hugely impressive. He is a very physical player and doesn’t get enough credit for being as strong as he is. It’s his eye for darting into the box and getting into good positions in the area that has been most impressive. His goalscoring instincts have been something that maybe people weren’t expecting. They knew he was a silky playmaker but it’s been his goalscoring that has really stood out.
Defensively they are lacking a bit of protection across the midfield. When they’ve got full backs who are as attacking as Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Alan Hutton they can be left a little bit open without a shield in front of the defence. Redknapp has been loathe to play Sandro or Wilson Palacios who are more defensively-minded. That’s probably where their problems lie rather than defenders not playing particularly well. Saying that, I will be surprised if one of either Sandro or Palacios doesn’t start considering the injury to Huddlestone. I would say it will probably be Sandro because Palacios hasn’t been in the best of form and when Sandro has played he’s looked reasonably impressive. I’ll be shocked if Redknapp plays anything but one up front with Van der Vaart in behind a striker. The way Peter Crouch is playing at the moment, with two goals in a week, he will be the favourite to start up front. His partnership with Van der Vaart has been very productive.
IMPRESSIONS OF ARSENAL
The gap is definitely closer [than in recent years]. The difference in quality between the squads is paper thin. The major difference this season has been the injuries that Tottenham have had and unlike Arsenal they aren’t used to playing in the Champions League. Getting to grips with combining the Champions League and Premier League has proved slightly more tricky for them where as Arsenal are seasoned campaigners in managing that type of thing.