Arsenal v. Tottenham
Kickoff: 1.30PM BT, 8.30AM ET, 5.30AM PT Sunday, February 26
Emirates Stadium, London N5 1BU
SBN's Tottenham webthing: Cartilage Free Captain
Form: Ars DWWbeatdownL | Tot WWDWD
TV Coverage: Fox Soccer Channel
I don't know if you've heard, but Arsenal are welcoming their North London neighbors to the Emirates on Sunday for a friendly little kickabout. The popular narrative about this game goes something like this:
1. Spurs are having their best season in a long time and have a more-than-real chance of denying the world's children their St. Totteringham's Day presents and carols for the first time since its installation as an important holiday
2. Arsenal are struggling and all signs point to a future that is bereft of the lofty heights of early Wenger
3. The balance of power in North London is shifting irrevocably because Spurs are the future and Arsenal are becoming the past
4. Wenger's job is on the line and if Arsenal get beaten soundly things could get ugly
5. CLUB IN CRISIS
But the story that gets lost in all the derby hype is much more pedestrian: Arsenal are trying to solidify their grip on fourth place. It just so happens this game is against this particular team, but in reality, it's just another league game in which Arsenal need a result. It may be hard work for Arsenal, based on current form, but...oh, forget it. In all honesty, this isn't just another game - this is Spurs. At home.
I could bore you (and myself) with tactical analysis, position-by-position breakdowns, and theories as to who will play and how, and in a lot of cases I would, but dammit, this is Spurs. None of that crap matters. All that matters right now is all the stereotypical stuff I normally hate and refuse to talk about - blood, guts, thunder, leaving it all on the pitch (whatever "it" is), taking it to the next level, giving 110%, you know. All that crap.
This game means a lot to supporters, and I hope to hell that it means a lot to the players - while the three points would be nice, poking a finger in the eye of that pigeon mascot and saying "hey guess what we're still here and we're not going away" is so much more important than your average trying-to-solidify-fourth-place game.
This is Arsenal trying to win against Spurs at home for the first time in three tries; this is Arsenal trying to reassert their place in the North London hierarchy. Most importantly, this is Arsenal working their asses off not to become pre-2012 Spurs, working not to become nothing but an irritant on someone else's title aspirations. This is a reassertion of relevance. This is ONE TEAM IN LONDON.
(If Arsenal lose, that last paragraph is going to sound really stupid. Don't lose, Arsenal. Thanks!)
So yeah, the traditional preview for this game? Not really gonna happen, sorry. But, I did canvass the other TSF authors to get their predictions, and this is the sum total of what we came up with:
Arsenal struggle to assert themselves on the game for the first 80 minutes, and can't really break through Spurs' midfield with any authority. van Persie does well up front but doesn't get a lot of help, and Park is seen taking off his warmups and loosening up on the sideline, ready to come on. The nice thing is, Spurs are struggling too; they can't string passes together, they don't have any flow, and it seems like this game will end scoreless.
But in a shocking last second move, Arsene Wenger calls back Park and puts in Jeremy Lin, who promptly lights up Spurs for six points on 2 for 3 shooting from long distance before being told that the ball has to be kicked in the net, not thrown over it. Once he sorts that out, though, he scores a proper goal deep in injury time, everybody goes absolutely mental, and Linsanity spreads around the entire world as Arsenal win 1-0. BOOK IT.