Someone is going down tonight and is not getting up again. In fact, it’s perfectly possible that both Tottenham and Arsenal will be laid out on the ground after tonight’s shoot out.
Because a draw would leave Arsenal five points behind Chelsea and us three points behind Manchester City. So both teams need the win, which will hopefully result in an attacking game, rather than the dour White Hart Lane stalemate of last season.
Both sides are without some of their main protagonists. The Goons are without Fabregas, Song, Arshavin and Gallas, while we’re without Lennon, Kranjcar, Jenas and the suspended Palacios.
I’m still incredibly annoyed that Palacios got booked for his perfectly fair tackle against Portsmouth. It was bad enough that the referee’s mistake gave them a penalty, but to lose Palacios for Arsenal and Chelsea makes it an even more bitter pill to swallow.
His absence will mean that we will have to play Kaboul in midfield I suppose. It’s far from ideal, especially as Huddlestone didn’t look particularly fit against Portsmouth and there’s a danger that we could get overrun by Arsenal’s three man central midfield.
It’s also a great shame that Lennon’s not available. You wonder if we’ve been rushing him back too quickly due to the importance of our recent fixtures. With Kranjcar and Rose both injured, we don’t have a lot of options on the flanks and aside from Bale, we’ve got very little pace.
One player that might be back is Ledley King. Normally I roll out the red carpet for Ledders, but tonight I’m in two minds. He’s been out a long time and Dawson and Bassong have been playing well together this season. In many ways it would make sense to play with all three of them, which would give Bale the opportunity to play at wing back and allow us equal numbers in central midfield. Having said that, no one plays with three central defenders any longer and I don’t like the idea of Corluka being the world’s slowest right wing back, so just forget I said anything.
Up front is another conundrum. Crouch missed plenty of chances against Portsmouth, but Defoe also had a poor game. Pavlyuchenko is probably due a start considering his recent form before injury and I wouldn’t mind seeing Gudjohnsen in the starting lineup, as he would drop back to give us more support in midfield.
Regardless of who we play up front, hopefully they will at least do us the courtesy of utterly destroying Sol Campbell, as we intend to do from the terraces (just your common or garden booing, no offensive songs). Sol, we never thought we’d see you back at the Lane. We look forward to giving you one last goodbye.
It’s a big test for Harry. He’s undoubtedly done a good job for us, but in the big games this season he’s made some strange decisions and tinkered with our formation without much success. Tonight he has to get a result, but without our full compliment of players, will he be tempted to do something daring/stupid?
As ever when we play Arsenal, I fear the worst and can only hope for the best. I think a draw is a fairly likely result. If we’re going to go down, we might as well take them with us. Wouldn’t want to completely waste our season, would we?