The way I see it - Arsenal v Tottenham

Last updated : 09 January 2008 By Jason Hogan
Coventry showed that their win at Old Trafford in the Carling Cup earlier in the season was no flash in the pan as they thumped Blackburn in their own back yard, Sheffield United went to the Reebok and saw off Bolton and Huddersfield took out Birmigham.

The shock of the round, at least for me anyway, was Oldham's win at Goodison over Everton. I really did fancy the Toffees to have a decent cup run this year and I was even tempted at one stage to put a few quid on them to win it outright. As we know now, Oldham had other ideas.

So when Sunday came around and I settled in front of the box to watch the Arsenal take on Burnley at Turf Moor, I had already braced myself for a tough afternoon and one where Arsenal would not get a smooth ride through to the next round.

Arsene Wenger said after the game that he was impressed with Burnley - take it from me, he wasn't the only one. I thought that Burnley were pretty damn good in heavy doses and the likes of Robbie Blake and Kyle Lafferty caught the eye.

I also liked the look of the lad that played down the right hand side, Wade Elliott. He may have faded a little in the last half hour but I haven't seen too many people make young Traore feel as uncomfortable at left back as this boy did in the opening. I wouldn't be surprised if Elliott has found his way into the notebooks of a few top flight scouts on the back of his display that's for sure.

But to be fair, I honestly thought the Arsenal lads did well in the circumstances. This was the biggest game Burnley had played in the best part of three years (since they played Liverpool in the FA Cup and knocked them out in the third round) and they would have been buoyed after what some of their fellow Championship clubs did the previous day.

So they were always going to be up for the game and with the cold and a pitch that was iffy at best, the conditions on the day were just set fair for an upset.

Indeed, looking at that pitch at Turf Moor brought back memories of when we went to Bramall Lane in the league to play Sheffield United just after Christmas, last season.

The conditions that evening were almost identical to the ones we faced at Turf Moor and I was gutted we got beat up there that evening. United did work hard that night and in their own way, they played the match like a cup final.

Still, even in defeat, I always felt, looking back, that it was the sort of match we still could have won if we managed to put together just one or two quality moves together on the night.

And this, for me, was the marked difference between us on Sunday for example and when we played the Blades that night just after Christmas last season. Because, in spite of all their spirited endeavour and although we were under the cosh for lengthy spells against the Clarets on Sunday, we still produced one or two bits of quality football in the face of it all.

After Lafferty hit the bar early on for the home side, Toure's perceptive chip over the top minutes later put Eduardo away to finish coolly. And when Burnley rallied in the wake of Lafferty's unfortunate dismissal (I thought his challenge merited no more than a yellow) and put us again under the cosh, we found a way to kill then off courtesy of great link up between Eduardo and Bendtner.

Yes, it was true to say that Arsenal were not anywhere near their swaggering best at Turf Moor. But the fact was that it was never, ever really going to be the kind of occasion when Arsenal were going to be allowed to pose, play the game at their own pace or have things all their own way.

Nevertheless, I was fairly pleased at how things turned out because the Arsenal showed, not for the first time this season, that they have the ability to change the course of a game in their favour even when the momentum is not necessarily with them. Arsenal, quite simply, were not winning games of this type last year. We are now, with an encouraging regularity.

Now it's time to look forward to Wednesday's Carling Cup semi- final against our poorer relations from up the road.

For a club that is on the up as the legions of deluded Spuds will forever keep telling you, there is a whole lot of uncertainty flying around right now, isn't there?

Apparently Berbatov is a man who is fed up. But, contrary to what I thought, this has nothing to do with the fact that he has looked like a man who has been wearing a Spurs shirt almost against his will in recent weeks. Oh no! It was because of the constant speculation in the press and the media!

Shock, horror! You had me fooled for a minute there, Dimi, me old son - not! If ever I have seen a man had the same kind of "I'm a celebrity, get me out of here!" mentality about him that Henry did in his latter days at Arsenal, then Berbatov is that man.

Even in the league game at The Grove a few weeks back, Berbatov looked like a man for the most part who was wondering to himself what the hell he was doing here. Even though he actually scored that day, I watched him closely throughout the game and to me, he was going through the motions and he really didn't really give a monkeys whether the Spuds went on to beat us or not.

I don't believe he will go in this transfer window but let's put it this way - if he is a Tottenham player this time next year I will eat all of my copies of the Arsenal magazine.

Whilst there is trouble in paradise for Spurs where Berbatov is concerned, Pascal Chimbonda seems on the verge of finding out that what goes around comes around. Having already secured the services of young right-back, Chris Gunther, Spurs are apparently actively pursuing the services of Rangers right-back Alan Hutton.

All of this certainly doesn't look good for Chimbonda who, lest we forget, showed great class in slapping a transfer request directly into the hands of Paul Jewell minutes after coming off the pitch for Wigan in the final league at Highbury less than two years ago.

And on Tuesday, Jermaine Defoe goes and reveals that Juande Ramos wants to eject him out of White Hart Lane. Altogether now ....Aaaaah! I know footballers are known to be thick (step forward Joey Barton, Robbie Savage, etc) but in some ways Defoe really take the biscuit.
Defoe was pretty much surplus to requirements for the best part of two years under Martin Jol. And when Darren Bent was acquired in the summer, I was absolutely amazed he stayed.

Even after being largely overlooked yet again this season firstly by Jol and now by Ramos, the little git STILL apparently wants to stay at the Lane. I don't know what the guys motivation is for staying but if I was him, I would have more respect for myself as a footballer than to continue shining a plastic seat in the dugout with my arse virtually every week.

Anyway, looking at the game itself on Wednesday and the tie overall, I genuinely have this down as a 50-50.

Why? Well, everybody knows that the Spuds can score goals and that they invariably ship them just as quickly. For me, the key to this game are two young men that had a baptism of fire at Old Trafford just over three years ago.

Phillipe Senderos and Johann Djourou both played for us in a fourth round of what was still the Worthington Cup back then. Within two minutes both of them, along with Almunia as it happens, conspired to concede a goal that cost us the tie on the night.

Djourou made a ricket that was further exacerbated by a mistake by Senderos and then, when the ball ran to a United player on the edge of the box, Almunia then contrived to divert a shot that was virtually straight at him into his own net.

To be fair to both Djourou and Senderos both of them could have shrunk away and hid in front of a 70,000 crowd that night. But as I remember it, they actually both got better and better as the game went on.

Wednesday night will be a test of how far these lads have really come since then. Because make no mistake, they are the ones that Arsene will be relying on at centre back to partner Gallas in the absence of Toure and Song.

Whilst the Arsenal can look at this tie with an emphasis on getting to the final again and therefore completing some unfinished business in this competition, the fact is that this tie will man absolutely everything to them and their fans.

This is the sort of game where we will really find out what the likes of Senderos and Djourou are really made of. I really do think that they are the ones on trial for Arsenal here over and above everyone else and they will hold the key to how this whole tie will eventually turn out between them.

If ever two players needed to stand up, be counted and prove they are genuine Arsenal players, it's those two. And they need to do it NOW!