A North London derby is about as certain a guarantee of goals and drama as Stoke vs West Ham is of long balls. Unlike Tottenham Hotspur’s previous couple of games where teams have been willing to commit a large number of defenders behind the ball and “park the bus”, this game guarantees an open, free flowing game with which Spurs have the perfect weapon to exploit Arsenals weaknesses.
While the Gunners currently sit near the top of the Premier League form table, Arsenal’s performances have been somewhat erratic so far this season. A win is vital so as to create as clear a gap as possible between Spurs and 5th place leading in to the difficult run in, with games against Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City still to come in the Premier League. While Arsene Wenher’s side have been typically potent upfront, spearheaded by the creative output of Cazorla their defence however, is less impressive.
In Germany the games are generally played on huge open pitches, something anyone familiar with Lewis Holtby during his time with Schalke are more than aware of and this game on Sunday will no doubt, take a similar shape. His ability to pick out Klaas-Jan Huntelaar with a ruthless efficiency during his time in Germany saw him sit top of the German assist leaderboard at one point with seven assists, a total which even after his departure still sees him only two assists off the top.
This is the sort of game Holtby was made for – wide, open, end to end attacking encounters filling the creative void we’ve been missing all season. The only problem for Andre Villas-Boas’ side is even if the diminutive schemer does manage to find the striker, it will more than likely be Emmanuel Adebayor and if his performance against West Ham is anything to go by, Spurs are in for a rough time.
While Adebayor is usually pumped for big games like this – some would argue a little too pumped as seen by his red card earlier on in the season – his finishing in front of goal surely has Villas-Boas ticking off the days before Defoe is back in first team contention.
The argument from me is to start Holtby at CF, push Bale back out onto the left allowing him to drift in to the middle. The injury to Dempsey could be a blessing in disguise in that respect, allowing Bale back on his familiar left flank and Holtby the time and freedom in the middle of the pitch that a player of his quality is sure to find.
He was key earlier on in the season when Schalke beat Arsenal at the Emirates, threading the ball into Huntelaar for his goal and a similar move would not go amiss come Sunday. Fellow German compatriot Mertesacker doesn’t have the pace to compete with a well timed ball in behind him and Koscielny is prone to making errors when tracking back as witnessed against City, which would cost them dearly in such a high profile game.
While there’s no denying that Bale is the obvious dangerman and the spotlight will be on him heading into the derby on Sunday, this is Holtby’s chance to fully endear himself to the Tottenham faithful. Arsenal are but a smidgen of what they once were and this recent winning mentality Spurs appear to have inherited needs to be transferred into results in big matches like this.