Arsenal vs. Tottenham Hotspur
FA Cup Third Round
The Emirates Stadium, North London, England
Saturday January 4 2014, 12:15pm Eastern, 5:15pm GMT
Tottenham SB Nation region (behave yourselves): Cartilage Free Captain
For some reason, the fates have seen fit to make us endure a third North London Derby this year, with all the accompanying annoyances and fun. I once saw someone tweet something along the lines of "I hate NLDs. There's too great a disparity between risk and reward. They should be optional." I agree for the most part - when we win, they're awesome; but when we lose, they're far worse than the win is good. I'm pretty sure I'm in the minority on that, though.
So for most of the rest of you, I'm sure this weekend is welcome. It's an atypical third chance to take a shot at Tottenham this season, and based on how this year is going and the fact that the game is in N5 rather than N17, Arsenal is favored to win. It's also a chance to get rid of one of the other biggish Premier League teams that could pose a threat to any chance Arsenal have of winning the FA Cup, which I suppose for some reason is better to do now than later.
How great a chance? Arsene Wenger says that he intends to treat the game as one to win, rather than a chance to rotate players.
I will only rest the players who are on the fringes of injuries or are very tired. But that will be very restricted to a minimal number of players...I just consider that it is our next game - we are Arsenal Football Club and we want to win the next game, that is vital for us...In this case I consider it a top level Premier League game, that means I have to play a team who has a chance to win a top level Premier League game.
But who does that leave? Nicklas Bendtner, injured scoring the winner New Year's Day against Cardiff City, will not play. Olivier Giroud has "a 90 percent chance of being out"; his ankle is fine now, but he is sick. Kieran Gibbs and Aaron Ramsey are out, and Mesut Ozil is likely also to be out. Gedion Zelalem, on the other hand, may feature.
SIDEBAR: Definitely click that link, if for no reason other than to look at the picture of Lukas Podolski in it.
For Tottenham, injuries are also an issue. Jermain Defoe, Lewis Holtby, and Andros Townsend all should be returning to the team. But their unavailables list is long: Jan Vertonghen, Erik Lamela, Paulinho, and Gylfi Sigurdsson all are evidently out. Emmanuel Adebayor is healthy, and will probably play, and will probably try to injure at least one Arsenal player.
With all that taken into account, here's a lineup I could see for Arsenal:
Sagna - Koscielny - Mertesacker - Monreal
Wilshere - Arteta
Walcott - Podolski - Cazorla
It's certainly not an ideal lineup, but I think it's the best we can muster at the moment. Were I in charge, I'd probably replace a midfielder with Zelalem and start Thomas Vermaelen instead of Per Mertesacker, but then if I were in charge Arsenal wouldn't be top of the league right now, so I could be wrong there. Either way, I think this is a game that Arsenal can certainly win, though I also think it's going to be a close one.
Prediction: Podolski brace. Adebayor spontaneously combusts. Tim Sherwood speaks in the third person some more. Arsenal 2-0 Tottenham.