In preparation for the mammoth clash between the North London rivals in the 3rd Round of the FA Cup, I’ve asked Arsenal fan Alex Goodchild to answer a few questions, to help us learn about the Gunners’ ahead of tomorrow’s game, including his reaction to drawing Spurs, Arsenal’s young wonderkid Gedion Zelalem, and his view on Tim Sherwood’s Tottenham.
What was your reaction when you learnt that you were going to be facing the old enemy in the FA Cup 3rd Round?
Initially I was annoyed. We had just drawn 1-1 with Everton and I knew that we had been given the toughest draw of all the Premier League clubs. The FA Cup is our best chance at long-overdue silverware and at such an early stage Tottenham present a major obstacle in winning it. However, as the game draw near, I’m more excited than anything. The possibility of knocking you out of the Cup is a nice prospect and playing Tottenham is always a special occasion. The league form of both teams, with you beating United, promises to make this clash memorable.
Heading into the game, are you confident of victory? Score prediction?
When the tie was announced I was quietly confident. Arsene Wenger had a fantastic record against Andre Villas-Boas at both Chelsea and Tottenham and, when he was sacked, I thought Spurs would be in their own ‘negative spiral’. Since Tim Sherwood came in I think it will be more of a challenge because you are now unbeaten in the League. I am hugely impressed by the football you are playing in a 4-4-2 and your wins over Southampton and United were impressive. Still, I think, our record against you in recent years at the Emirates will give us the edge again and I have heard that your squad is slightly injury depleted. I predict a close 2-0 win.
If 1 Arsenal player is going to win you the game, who do you think it will be?
I’m not sure many Arsenal fans would agree with me, but young Serge Gnabry could really win the derby for us. I was convinced of his talent when he made a few cameos last season against Schalke and Norwich and this season when he played against Stoke, Swansea and United, scoring a good goal against Swansea. He is a lot stronger defensively than Walcott and gives Arsenal another option because he is one of few players to beat the man with pace and skill and his crossing is dangerous too. Unfortunately his game time has been limited recently but I’m sure he’ll take his opportunity tomorrow should he start.
The media are reporting that 16 year-old Gedion Zelalem may be making his debut in the match. What can you tell us about him?
He is a precocious talent and a bit like Nabil Bentaleb in that he has come out of nowhere. He has not played a competitive game for us this season but it was on the preseason tour of Asia when he stood out. He is so calm on the ball for a 16-year-old and he is rarely dispossessed. His most impressive asset is his passing ability. He can play a variety of passes, including clever, disguised ones or long through balls. His best position is as a deep lying playmaker and people have even been comparing him to Cesc Fabregas, though I think that’s a little premature.
Now more general questions about Arsenal. Sitting top of the Premier League in the New Year, is it an understatement to say that you are pleased with the Gunners’ season so far?
I am absolutely delighted with our season so far! Being knocked out of the Capital One Cup by Chelsea was a shame and we managed to mess up our chances of Champions League progression with a woeful 2-0 loss to Napoli. Still, being top of the League on New Year’s Day is a huge credit to Arsene Wenger and the team after losing to Aston Villa on the opening day of the season. Along the way I feel we have proved the doubters wrong. The only disappointing thing is that we have not beaten any of the top teams – aside from Spurs and Liverpool -, though signing a world-class striker this transfer window would go a long way to solving that problem.
Who has been the Arsenal player of the season so far?
This is a tough decision. Ozil has obviously lifted the belief in the squad, has scored some fabulous goals and already has the most assists in the Premier League. I also think Arsenal fans would be loath to forget Mathieu Flamini’s influence. His signing on a free transfer was derided but he has given us a steel in the midfield that we previously lacked. However, Aaron Ramsey stands out. On Arsenal.com he has won the Player of the Month from August to November and he leads the goalscoring charts for midfielders. I think his meteoric rise in the face of critics and a tough few seasons since his injury has been symbolic of our rise again as a club.
And finally, a couple of questions about Tottenham. Can Spurs, revitalised under new boss Tim Sherwood, achieve a place in the top 4 come the end of the season in your opinion?
We all know that this season has been the most competitive since Ferguson’s retirement with so many teams challenging for the title. It’s a tough ask for Spurs to finish in the top four but if Sherwood can bring in a left back and get the summer signings clicking it’s a possibility. I have to rule out Man United for the top four so I think you would need beat Everton and Liverpool to it. Having said that, Tottenham has the squad with the greatest depth out of those three so I do fancy you to achieve it come the end of the season.
Is there one player you fear more than any other from Spurs? Perhaps the resurgent Emmanuel Adebayor, who loves scoring against you?
Yes, sadly it has to be Adebayor. I believe your best player is Hugo Lloris but Adebayor has a penchant for scoring against us Gunners. The fact that even Koscielny was talking about how hard it is to defend him gets me worried.
Thanks for your time Alex. You can follow him on Twitter @a_goodchild.
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