The way I see it - Tottenham v Arsenal

Last updated : 14 September 2007 By Jason Hogan
In a period that is normally bereft of any exciting tittle-tattle, it emerged last Friday that Arsene had finally put pen to paper on a new deal to keep him at the club until 2011. Naturally I was no different to most other Arsenal fans in that I was more than happy to see that the deed had been officially done.

But whilst discussing the issue with some of my fellow Gooner mates, the subject of Wenger's future successor came up and it got me thinking. My old buddy Gazza said that he hoped that Wenger would play an active role in the appointment of a successor in three years time. Fair enough I thought. Personally I would love to see Arsene move upstairs at Arsenal once this new deal expires. His vision and foresight would be of huge benefit to the board. The only worry I have is that my ideal scenario could all go up in smoke if (God forbid), Usmanov somehow manages to gain control of the club say within the next 18 months.

I'm sure most of you have heard the stories that have been circling about Usmanov and it's safe to say that he is not portrayed in the best light. The thought of a guy like this being at the helm of Arsenal Football Club fills me with horror. I get the impression that this guy would be an Abramovich style dictator and I could see this guy coming in and making all kinds of decisions over Wenger's head simply because he can. And if that were to happen there is no chance that Wenger would tolerate such interference.

It was heartening to hear Danny Fiszman putting out a strong message saying that he has no intention of selling out to Usmanov earlier this week. The true test will come of course when the "lockdown" period expires in April. But in the meantime, it means that we at least have continuity and stability at the club both in the dugout and in the boardroom.

And now, we can concentrate on building on what has been a solid start to the season on the pitch. Looking back at the Portsmouth game, I thought we did a tidy job against a decent side. The only major downer was that Senderos got himself sent off.

Though Kanu didn't need much encouragement to fall to the ground like a great redwood tree, the fact was Senderos was caught out of position and was clumsy in the way that he tried to rectify the situation.

The major plusses were that Adebayor got himself of the mark for the season albeit from the spot and young Fabregas got himself on the scoresheet once again with the kind of opportunist strike that the likes of Lineker and Rush would have killed for every week in their heydays.

Is young Fabregas rediscovering the goalscoring bug from earlier on in his youth? He was quite prolific in his mid teens back in the youth sides in his native Spain. Wenger likened him to Paul Scholes after the Pompey game. That's a bold statement if there ever was one.

My loathing from ManUre runs infinitely deeper than I could ever tell anyone but in spite of that, Scholes is one of my favourite players of all time. In my opinion, the only thing missing from the game of our number 4 is a higher goal output. If Fabreags can indeed rediscover the art of scoring more goals in the coming years there's no question that he will be one of the true greats in his own right.

Tomas Rosicky also got himself on the scoresheet against Pompey as well with a cheeky effort. Harry Redknapp was absolutely livid after the game about the goal and to be fair you couldn't really blame him as Pompey totally switched off and allowed Tomas to smash the ball home from an acute close range angle.

As I said in my last article, this is a big season for the likes of Rosicky, Hleb and Adebayor in particular and I think that all of them have started the season in promising fashion certainly when it comes to scoring goals. Apparently the midfield boys have bet going amongst themselves as to who will score will score the most goals. On the evidence of how things have gone so far, it promises to be a pretty tight and a pretty fierce contest between them all.

With ten points on the board (double what we had the same stage last season) we have given ourselves the sort of platform I hoped for going into our next fixture at the home of our poorer North London relations from up the road - no I'm not talking about Barnet, I'm talking of course about Tottenham.

The situation surrounding Martin Jol and the position he finds himself in at the Lane has been well chronicled in the press and the media. If I was tender an opinion on it then I would have to say that the board at Tottenham have hung Jol out to dry and put him in a position that is untenable certainly in the long term.

However, I agreed with what Charlie Nicholas said on Sky a few weeks back when he said that the root cause of the plight Jol finds himself in now has come about not because the results they have got so far this season (though of course they haven't helped) but because of the fact that they failed last season to really build on the fact that they ran us so close for fourth spot in the 2005-6 campaign.

What Nicholas said struck a chord because looking back I remember Daniel Levy saying around the time Spurs played us in the Carling Cup semi final last season that he held out genuine hopes that Spurs would win a trophy if not finish top four. Neither happened of course and although they finished fifth once again I think they achieved that somewhat by default.

At the back at the end of last season it was Bolton who were the biggest threat to us for a long time in terms of finishing in the top four in the league, not Spurs. But Bolton had a dreadful end to the season which included a defeat to us at The Grove last April at a time when they still had a chance of finishing fourth and Spurs came through on the rails to overtake them for fifth place.

With sections of the media drawing the conclusion that Spurs had taken a step backwards overall last season, the Spurs board getting agitated by the fact that their team had not quite delivered in the way they hoped and stories at the end of the season of discord growing between Jol and Damien Comolli, the board sanctioned an extravagant spending spree to give the impression that things at the club were still on the up and up.

With the new signings coming in and everyone connected with Spurs talking about a top four finish, the press and the media lapped it all up particularly when they talked about doing it at the direct expense of the supposedly sinking ship at Arsenal.

Of course things have not turned out to as rosy for Spurs as everyone predicted since the season started and it wasn't long before the Spurs board decided to turn Jol into a scapegoat. Everybody knows that Jol is now a dead man walking and regardless of the support he has from the fans it's a case of when not if he vacates the hotseat at the Lane.

This leads me nicely on to the game itself on Saturday and there is no doubt that this is a game that is big on so many different levels.

If you are talking in terms of pressure then without a shadow of doubt the pressure is all on Tottenham. Yes, if Arsenal were to lose on Saturday then the press and the media would have a field day but we Gooners all know that invariably comes with the territory when you are connected to Arsenal no matter whether we are perceived as genuine title contenders or not.

The fact is they were the ones who, pound for pound, were being talked up more than anybody else in the summer. They were the ones who were considered to be the one club that were able to do something of real significance outside of winning the title. They were considered to be a rock solid bet for a place in the top four essentially at the direct expense of Arsenal and therefore they were considered ultimately to be a better side than us.

So, having failed to get off to the start that just about everyone outside of N5 expected, they are ones who have something to live up to, they are the ones with something to prove and they are the ones that come into this game with a heightened reputation - however contrived it happens to be.

On the other hand, if you were to talk about genuine incentive well I think that all lies with us. We were the ones who got trashed as a club from top to bottom in the press and the media all summer. We were the ones who were, for example, described by one journalist, Paul McCarthy, as no more than a bunch of "make dos and maybes" in a column he wrote for the Sunday People before he defected to the News of the World.

But for me the real incentive lies in the fact that this game captures the essence of what the whole season is all about for Arsenal - proving people wrong. This may be a derby match but I think that we are coming up against a side that do not have excuses to call upon. Spurs have been effectively put on pedestal certainly up there with us so it's only right that we judge them not only on the results they have got so for, the result they get against us Saturday but also the results they get between now and the end of the season.

After all, that's how the Arsenal have been judged for years and regardless of how good or bad our sides happens to have been there has rarely been a time when the press and the media offered up any mitigation on our behalf whenever we have failed to win. Now Spurs are getting just a taste of what that's like.

If I am honest I would take a draw on Saturday. Whether people think Spurs are a good side a bad side or somewhere in between is irrelevant to me personally. I say that simply because Spurs have been consistent at home over the last four or five seasons and they have invariably proved to be a tough nut for anyone to crack on their home turf.

We will go into the game with one or two defensive conundrums to ponder. With Gallas not being ready to return and Senderos suspended, we may have no option other than to turn to Gilberto in spite of the fact that he will have only just returned from America is likely to be jet lagged.

Hoyte is another alternative. I remember him playing at centre back for us against Norwich at the start of the 2004-5 Season. He did give away penalty that day but as far as I remember he did fairly well over the whole piece.

We will not be short of options in the middle of the park though. I suppose the burning question is who will be picked to play alongside Cesc. I would personally go for Diaby on this occasion at least to start with. Tottenham are pretty big sides with lots of aerial threats particularly in the shape of Berbatov, Dawson, Kaboul and Chimbonda so I feel this an area that needs to be countered and Diaby will be of use in that respect.

It's absolutely staggering in my view that this game is not being shown live anywhere on a widely recognised channel. There is no game in this country with more riding on it.

Arsene has great record in North London derbies and should be on a personal high going into this game. There are one or two players at Arsenal who have gone on record saying that they have tied their careers to the man. He has committed to the club, he has committed himself to them. I hope Saturday is a day when those guys go out and repay some of the unconditional faith he has in them all.