By Rob Kelly
“You have to be committed because that’s what our fans expect from us, to be up for the battle and play good football. At the end of the day that is the most important thing.” - Arsene Wenger
After a difficult week, there was some much-needed good news for Arsene Wenger and his squad in the lead-up to Wednesday night’s north London derby at White Hart Lane.
The rescinding of Gabriel’s three-match ban for his dismissal at Chelsea was a welcome concession from the Football Association after a trying seven days that had seen two defeats and three red cards.
It may not do anything to change the result at Stamford Bridge, but it does bring some positivity back ahead of a huge Capital One Cup third-round clash at the home of Arsenal’s local rivals. The competition may not be priority No 1, but when it comes to Tottenham, every game has a certain edge.
And with that in mind, Wenger has stressed the importance of discipline in what is bound to be another full-blooded, high-octane affair.
“I believe we were unfortunate in Zagreb to [have a man] sent off, and at Chelsea as well,” he told Arsenal Player. “But you want your players to behave in a perfect way and not to show any response at all.
|Tottenham: Mason (knee), Bentaleb (ankle), Dembele (foot)
Arsenal: Coquelin (knee), Wilshere (ankle), Rosicky (knee), Welbeck (knee)
“You have to be committed because that’s what our fans expect from us, to be up for the battle and play good football. At the end of the day that is the most important thing.
“[Derby games in England are] a bit more pacy and teams go for it a bit more, which makes it more interesting. Maybe in other countries it’s a bit more tactical, observational and about not making a mistake. It’s more about going out to win it, a more positive attitude in England, which makes the game more interesting.
“I love it, I love every competitive game and I think I have shown that since I have been here. I love a positive result but to get there you must prepare, you must focus and you must commit by playing good football.”
ONE TO WATCH
Wenger has already intimated that, due to the nature of the opposition, he is unlikely to follow his usual policy of blooding some of the club’s rising stars in this Capital One Cup tie.
But some changes are expected and, after playing in the Gunners’ 4-1 win at Tottenham in this competition back in 2010, Kieran Gibbs will be hoping to make a similar impression tonight.
The England international has had to be patient in his desire for first-team football, such has been the form of Nacho Monreal over the past 12 months, but Wenger is a firm believer in the left back and says the competition between them is fierce.
“Kieran is a great player with a fantastic potential and he was in front of Nacho for long periods, but now is a bit behind in the pecking order,” the manager said. “He can make that up again because he has a huge amount of talent. This is one of the opportunities that he has to show that.
“The players’ job is to be motivated. I have a decision to make with who I pick and who I don’t pick. On the other hand, if I go into a season with only one left back everybody will say that it’s not responsible. To be in a big club today you have to cope with that.
“If you think that the club plays 60 games, everybody gets their fair share of games. That means that they are at the level and there’s a fair competition. At the end of the day I can only play one, but the most important thing is that they are both at the level to play for Arsenal and that is what we want.”
It has been a somewhat sluggish start to the season for Tottenham but, after failing to win any of their first four matches, they have found their feet.
Successive Premier League victories over Sunderland and Crystal Palace sandwiched a Europa League win against FK Qarabag, and they will go into Wednesday night’s game in confident mood.
|There have been 12 meetings between Arsenal and Tottenham in the League Cup, including four semi-finals
The most recent League Cup meeting was in the third round in 2010/11. Arsenal won the game 4-1 after extra-time
The Gunners haven’t been eliminated in an away third-round tie since 1991/92, when Coventry knocked them out at Highfield Road.
However, a strike rate of only five goals in six domestic games has been a concern for supporters, with Harry Kane in particular struggling to replicate last season’s red-hot form.
The England striker has yet to score for his club this term, and has only two goals in his last 15 appearances in a Tottenham shirt. Wenger remains an admirer though, and is wary of the threat he will pose.
“To sustain the record he had last year is very difficult,” the manager said. “But, he is a very good striker. For me, he is a top striker.
“The finishing is a bit cyclic but he is involved in chances and for all the strikers that is exactly the same but the basic quality is there.”
FROM THE ARCHIVES
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