Arteta, Lampard and Ole

July 27, 2020

Three young coaches that had the chance to play in the EPL relatively recently and under some of the best coaches…They were all given a chance as head coach this year in the EPL and here are some concluding remarks:

1. These young coaches seem to have a knack for man and team management;

2. These young coaches are not afraid of bold choices, of calling a cat a cat and in calling out the pundits whenever they can

3. They all have pretty clear game plans:- Arteta is keen on high intensity and pressing game and very much about managing spaces. – Lampard and Ole are more on the side of quick transition game as well as on stretching teams out wide so a lot of crosses going in the box and a very active role from the full backs.

4. Lampard and Ole reached Top 4. Arteta did not.

5. Lampard has really put his trust in young players this season and was rewarded.

6. Ole was able to rely on his experienced players and the eclosion of Greenwood and confirmation of Bissaka.

7. Lampard and Ole are backed by strong financial commitments from their owners and Lampard has already made some astute acquistion for next year. What about Arteta? WIll he get financial backing?

In any case – I am annoyed we finished behind Tottenham, Chelsea and Man Utd. Cannot have any complaints about LFC, Man City nor Watford. I feel sorry for Rodgers – it seems he never gets his team to finish the job…

I feel like Arteta is building his blueprint for AFC success:

1. The non-negotiables: commitment, working for the team and club success

2. Fair and performance-based squad selection

3. Growing some young players into our starting XI (Saka, Martinelli…)

I did not like Ole as a player – with RVN and Roy Keane, they really annoyed me as Man Utd players. I always liked Lampard’s game but could not stand that he played for Chelsea. However, we have to admit they did a good job and we also have to admit that Arteta has brought belief and stimulus to our team – he ll definitely need to work on game management and keeping victories (we dropped too many points from a winning position under him). Most importantly, I hope that the owners will give him the necessary means to compete next year so that he can finish in the Top 4. LFC, Man City, Utd, Chelsea, Tottenham and Everton will all inject serious cash to strengthen their squad.

Given our needs, we need to inject more to catch up…One of the major key to Arteta’s success is the financial backing and I hope that the owners will live up to their promises to Arteta otherwise, he is the type of coach that will leave at the end of next year if he does not feel supported and he will have plenty of suitors within and outside the EPL.

Come on Arteta! COYG!

RC78


Keep Calm & Carry On – Aston Villa Report & Player Ratings

July 22, 2020

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I can’t say I’m too surprised by that result and performance.

We’ve had five very tough games in quick succession with Wolves, Leicester, Spurs, Liverpool and City.

There was always going to be a drop-off given that a lot of the same players have been involved in those matches.

I can’t really say I’m too concerned about the Premier League. If the options were finishing 6th or winning the FA Cup then you’d have to be a f**king idiot to choose 6th.

The players brought it when it really mattered and if they do the same against Chelsea then I couldn’t care less if Watford beat us 12-0 in the last game of the season.

FGG

Player Ratings from RockyLives

It was a poor team performance, with our lads struggling to be on the same wavelength so the ratings reflect that.

Martinez – 7

Holding – 7 (MoTM)

Luiz – 6

Kolasinac – 5

Cedric – 5

Saka – 5

Ceballos – 5

Torreira – 5

Nketieh – 5.5

Aubameyang – 6

Lacazette – 6

Subs

Xhaka – 6

Pepe – 6

Tierney – 7

Willock – 5

 


Hard Pounding Ahead: Arsenal at Villa Preview and Predicted Line-Up

July 21, 2020

Unknown-9                      The boys in red and white line up defensively against Villa

Tonight, a desperate Aston Villa side will throw everything they’ve got at us to try and cling on to their place in the Premier League.

It will, as the Duke of Wellington said of the Battle of Waterloo, be a case of “hard pounding.”

Villa are in the drop zone with two games to go. Their only chance of survival is to catch Watford, who are three points ahead of them (also with two games to play) and a better goal difference.

Fail to win tonight, and Villa are effectively down.

Couple that with the sheer amount of games our squad has played recently and the need for rotation and this result is far from certain.

Since the restart Villa have won only one game (against Palace) but they have had one of the toughest runs-in of any team, with almost all their opponents in the top half of the table including Liverpool, Man Utd, Chelsea, Wolves and Sheffield United.

There would be something typically Arsenal-ish about beating Liverpool and Man City then losing to lowly Villa, but I have a feeling we’ll come through this one OK.

The optimism in our squad is obvious and few of the players are guaranteed a start in our FA Cup Final team, so all are playing for places.

With another game on Saturday and then a week’s rest before the Final, I expect El Patron to make quite a few changes tonight.

Here’s my predicted (preferred) line up:

Martinez

Soares – Sokratis – Holding – Kolasinac

Torreira – Xhaka – Willock

Saka – Nketieh – Nelson

My team may be more radical than Arteta will go with, but we’ll see.

I’m sure that Nketieh will start after completing his harsh three match ban and Nelson deserves another shot after scoring on his last appearance (and playing well).

This will be a very different challenge compared with our last two games, where we sat back against superior teams and soaked up pressure.

Villa are clearly nowhere near the class of Man City and Liverpool. However, they need all three points so they will have to come at us.

I would be tempted to play a tight defensive game and hit them on the break, even though their league position suggests we should try to just come out and steamroller them.

We’re getting better at playing out from the back and we have players with the speed and skill to kill Villa on the counter, hence my ostensibly cautious approach.

Grealish is the stand-out talent in the Brummies’ side. He’s also their top scorer in the PL with seven. It’s quite striking (pun intended) that not a single Villa player is in double figures for goals this season, a fact that goes a long way towards explaining why they’re in trouble.

I have two concerns from an Arsenal perspective: our vulnerability at set pieces (as in the second Spuds goal) and the risk of injury to any of our key players.

Fingers crossed for a win and to maintaining the outside chance of qualifying for Europe through our league position as well as the FA Cup.

RockyLives

 


David Luiz: Redemption Time?

July 20, 2020

happy luiz

What is a professional footballer?

They can be heroes, they can be villains. They are symbols of our tribe (or of some enemy tribe). They are cyphers into whom we pour our hopes and dreams, but also our fears and frustrations.

Sometimes we forget they are people, just like us but with better foot-eye co-ordination.

I was reminded of this when watching David Luiz’s interview with BT Sport after his man of the match performance against Manchester City on Saturday night.

During the conversation, with Luiz still flushed from his recent efforts, he gave the usual professional footballer answers, praising his team mates, referring to “giving one hundred per cent” and so on.

He was also honest about the gulf between Arsenal and the likes of Man City (“the other team is miles away in front of us, but we were humble…”).

But then the interviewer got to the question he really wanted to ask. Just a few weeks earlier Arsenal had succumbed to a humiliating defeat against Manchester City in an empty Etihad Stadium, and Luiz had been the chief villain.

The Brazilian had gifted City a goal just before half time and then, early in the second half, gave away a penalty and got sent off in the process.

The interviewer obviously wanted to raise these past indiscretions but didn’t quite have the courage to just come out with it. Instead he beat around the bush:

And what a different story to the Premier League game against Manchester City just after the restart,” he mumbled, “when there was a lot of criticism of Arsenal’s spirit, a lot of criticism of the defending…

Luiz knew what was being asked and put the interviewer out of his misery by interrupting.

A lot of criticism on me, no? You can say that.”

He went on to say that he had taken the blame for those mistakes and had been working hard every day.

It reminded me that the players we support and idolise and curse and criticise are not oblivious to what is being said about them.

While blogs like this one (and the many others in the Arsenal blogosphere) devote whole columns to how crap certain players are (I have done it myself), with plenty of pile-on in the comments, it’s easy to imagine that none of this negative vibe reaches the players. But it clearly does.

Luiz knew what we are all saying about him after the Man City league game. He already knew what plenty of pundits – amateur and professional – have long said about him (that he’s unreliable and accident-prone).

But his interview on Saturday was a reminder that he is trying. Trying to be the best he can. Trying to do his job. He talked about surviving.

It made me warm to him a little more, despite the frustration he can inspire.

None of this is to say that we cannot or should not criticise players. It’s our right as supporters and, often, it serves as a form of catharsis for us after a bad result. Angry people always want someone to blame and footy fans are no different.

But when we’re firing our barbs, let’s always keep a little space in our hearts to remember the humanity of our targets.

David Luiz will always be David Luiz. He will have mad moments in defence in the future, but hopefully he will have more games like Saturday’s, when his leadership, experience, bravery and skill helped propel us to another FA Cup Final.

He has been a zero and a chump for Arsenal at times this year. But the story of this season is not over and, who knows, maybe he’ll end it a hero and a champ.

RockyLives


Arsenal Are Best Team in England – Cup Semi Final Report & Player Ratings

July 19, 2020

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             David Luiz keeps out the Man City hordes, while Martinez stands guard

Who remembers playing “next goal wins” as a schoolboy?

You’d be playing footy with a bunch of other urchins in the street or in the back garden or on the local playground. It was getting on to dark and most kids knew they were due home for their tea soon.

Invariably someone would say “next goal wins.” It would really piss me off. There were so many times when my team was winning something like 27–16 and the other lot would score the “next goal” and claim victory.

This manner of victory was not in the Football Association rulebook, or in the Marquis of Queensbury code. It would doubtless cut little ice at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.  But there was a certain moral weight to this playground Darwinism: what had gone before didn’t matter – “next goal wins” was the only measure by which to judge the victor because it was the most recent register of superiority.

By the rules of the playground, Arsenal are now the best team in England.

A week ago Liverpool were the best team, Manchester City were the second best. Now we’ve beaten them both so it stands to reason, doesn’t it? We must be England’s best!

What a game. What a performance. What a result.

The commentators said that some bookies were giving 8-1 odds on Arsenal beating City at Wembley. I hope plenty of Gooners took the bait and gave those flash bar stewards a nasty cold bath.

You will find, if you look back at yesterday’s pre-match, that I predicted a win for the boys in red and white.

Admittedly I thought we’d win by the odd goal and only after extra time, but I had a strong feeling that the FA Cup loves Arsenal and that we would prevail.

El Patron made several changes to the team that started against Liverpool on Wednesday night. Torreira, Saka, Nelson and Holding were out, as well as the cup tied Soares. In came Bellerin, Mustafi, Ceballos, Maitland-Niles and Aubameyang.

For the first 20 minutes we could barely get a kick and whenever we gained possession we treated the ball as if it was covered in a massive viral load of coronavirus.

But, one or two minor aberrations aside, we defended diligently and City, for all their possession and pressing, created little.

Then we woke up. David Luiz played a lovely ball through the centre of the park to pick out Aubameyang, who stayed a yard ahead of the defenders as he bore down on goal. You’d have put your shirt on him scoring, but you’d have been walking home bareback. Instead of passing the ball either side of the ‘keeper Auba fired it straight at him.

I immediately thought “we can’t pass up opportunities like that”. But we didn’t have to wait long for Auba to make amends. A lovely move involving 10 Arsenal players found Pepe on the right wing. He played a perfect cross to the back post where Auba came steaming in and contrived a terrific finish with the outside of his boot.

We threatened again before the break and could easily have gone in 2-0 up.

Unsurprisingly, City came out more determined in the second half and we seemed to realise as a team that we’d need a backs-to-the-wall defence with no room for passengers. To the great credit of Arteta and the players he sent out, there were no passengers. Everyone played their part in an outstanding effort.

At one point it was starting to feel inevitable that we would crack. I sent a Whatsapp message to my son (watching in Canada) to say “we either need to get some extended possession or we need a breakaway goal.”

I’m no prophet, but I got lucky with that call because within 60 seconds we were 2-0 up thanks to a great breakaway. Tierney and Pepe did excellent work down out left flank, the former releasing Aubameyang who nutmegged Ederson for the goal.

By this stage 71 minutes had been played and I doubt whether, even at 2-0, any Arsenal supporter felt the result was in the bag.

Sure enough, City came at us in waves of attacks. But everything they threw at us was met by the most committed Arsenal defending I have seen for years. You might almost have thought it was George Graham on the touchline, not Arteta.

Martinez, in another dominant goalkeeping performance, made a great low stop from Mahrez; Laporte fired a powerful shot just wide; Sterling had a chance inside our six yard box… but we kept them out.

The seven minutes of extra time added palpitations to this Gunner’s heart, but we saw it though.

Luiz was a monster, throwing himself into blocks like a Winterburn; Mustafi battled for every scrap; Tierney was magnificent; Bellerin had the right flank sewn up; Xhaka played a perfect game and Ceballos was outstanding.

So now we’re off to yet another Cup Final against either Chelsea or Man Utd. Neither will be easy, but who would bet against us now?

Player Ratings

Martinez – 9

Gets better and better. A truly dominant performance.

Bellerin – 8

One misplaced pass early on which put us in trouble, but completely reliable thereafter.

Mustafi – 8

Back to the form he was showing prior to the Totteringham game. It was sad to see him go off late on with what looks like a hamstring injury.

Luiz – 9 MoTM

A splendid centre half performance. He won everything in the air, completed tackles and blocks and used the ball really well to set up attacks.

Tierney – 8

Such a cool head on those young shoulders. A real Mr Reliable.

Maitland-Niles – 7.5

Outstanding “compete level” on the defensive end, including some terrific one on one defending against Du Bruyne. Had several great opportunities to set up team-mates in goal scoring positions but his crossing with his left foot let him down.

Xhaka – 9

Close call for MoTM. Perfect positioning and reading of the game, particularly in the second half as we stifled City’s waves of attacks.

Ceballos – 8

Whatever magic Arteta has worked on him, it’s certainly impressive. He’s a talented, committed and creative player who was really grown into the rough and tumble of English football.

Pepe – 7

Involved in both goals. Still loses possession a little too easily for me.

Lacazette – 8

No goal, but a typically hard working outing for Laca.

Aubameyang – 8.5

His goals take us to the Cup Final. Two beauties, and he’ll be kicking himself it wasn’t a hat trick.

Subs

Willock – 8

Worked hard and did well disrupting City’s attacks.

Torreira – 8

Likewise.

Holding – 7

On late but added to the cause.

Kolasinac – 7

Likewise

 

RockyLives

 


What Did She Wear? Arsenal v Man City FA Cup Semi Final Preview and Predicted Arsenal Line-Up

July 18, 2020

scene-The-Alamo-John-Wayne

      Arsenal hold off the Liverpool onslaught at the Battle of the Alamo Emirates

What are the odds on us beating the two best teams in the Premier League in just four days?

You would have got very long odds before the kick-off against Liverpool on Wednesday, but they’ll be a lot shorter now.

No question there’s a huge task ahead of El Patron and his crew of happy shipmates tonight, but – as I said in the Liverpool pre-match – it’s one game of football and anything can happen.

But let’s start with the ‘glass half empty’ approach: when we played Manchester City in the league recently the gulf between the teams was embarrassing.

We were way off the pace on our return to action after lockdown and compounded the inferiority of our players (when compared with theirs) by our time-honoured tradition of shooting ourselves in the foot courtesy of a gifted goal (thank you Luiz) followed by a gifted penalty and red card (double thank you Luiz).

Pound for pound, player for player, we have no chance tonight.

But there’s always a different way of looking at that glass of milk.

Taking the “half full” approach, we have seen a definite uptick in performances since the early setbacks against Man City and Brighton.

The Spuds result was a disappointment (and showed how difficult it is to rid ourselves of our kamikaze tendencies) but our performance was OK and we were at least as good as the noisy neighbours overall. Cut out the self-inflicted wounds and we’d have won.

The other reason for optimism is that this is the FA Cup. And the FA Cup is THE Arsenal competition. We have won it more than any other club and there is always a strong sense of destiny linking us and that trophy.

After a disappointing season you should have no doubt that our lads will be desperate to end the campaign with silverware and, more importantly, honour. Getting past Man City is the essential next step to achieving that.

We can take a lot of heart from our defensive effort against Liverpool. Yes, we rode our luck. Yes, it was like the Alamo at times (or like the Alamo would have been if the Texans had suddenly won against the odds instead of, er, being massacred by the Mexicans). But there was a focus about our back play that bodes well for tonight.

Our bigger problem might well be the lack of creativity we’ve been prone to recently. I don’t expect us to make many chances, so it’s vital that we are clinical with whatever opportunities we get.

My prediction: Arsenal to win by the odd goal after extra time. Possibly 3-2.

Here’s the line-up I think El Patron will opt for:

Martinez

Bellerin – Holding – Luiz – Tierney – Soares

Xhaka – Ceballos

Saka – Lacazette – Aubameyang

I expect Arteta to switch to a back five/three (including a recall for Bellerin), but one that can become a back four when we’re in possession. Xhaka and Ceballos are automatic names these days. And Pepe will be dropped for Saka. We have to stick with Lacazette as central striker given that he has finally rediscovered his shooting boots.

We need a game with no stupid defensive blunders, 100 per cent concentration and taking whatever chances come our way.

Not a lot to ask for, right?

Altogether now: “She wore, she wore, she wore a yellow ribbon, she wore a yellow ribbon in the merry month of, er, July…”

RockyLives


Liverpool Pre-match: the Case for the Defence

July 15, 2020

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                                                     Chumps v Champs?

OK, calm down, as our Scouser visitors tonight would say.

I’m not about to mount an argument in favour of the individuals whose defensive errors have blighted our season (and in some cases, seasons past).

Instead, and following on from RA’s bold proposal yesterday, I want to make a case for the best defence – in terms of both personnel and organization – that we can put out for tonight’s Premier League game against the champions.

Liverpool have fully deserved their success this season. They hired a good and passionate manager in 2015 and they have helped him to gradually build the team he wants without overreacting to setbacks along the way.

It would be nice to think there’s a model there for Arsenal and Mikel Arteta, but Liverpool’s owners have been far more willing to put their hand in their pocket to back Klopp’s project than our owners are likely to be for Arteta’s.

On this season’s form tonight’s game is a dead rubber. The best attack in the league against a side that specialises in kamikaze defending. On paper we’ll be lucky to lose by fewer than four goals.

The only factor weighing in our favour is that Liverpool have won their title, they’re “home and hosed” and no doubt ready for their summer holidays. So they may not be as committed tonight as they would otherwise be.

(There is, of course, an alternative interpretation: now that they’ve secured the championship all those nerves have vanished and they can play with full, unfettered freedom and joy, in which case… oh dear).

So. How do we set up our defence to have even the slightest chance?

The “Horseshoe” (back three/five) which worked well for a few games was badly undone against Tottenham thanks to the individual defensive errors which have become a hallmark of Arsenal in recent years.

The lack of attacking creativity it sacrifices was also painfully apparent. My view is that we can live with creating fewer chances if the defence is secure. But when the defence is as leaky as a sponge the trade-off ceases to be worth it.

Nevertheless, I expect Arteta to persevere with the Horseshoe tonight, albeit with some changes.

Here’s the line-up I’m predicting:

Martinez

Bellerin – Holding – Luiz – Soares – Tierney

Xhaka – Ceballos

Saka – Lacazette – Aubameyang

It’s a game of football. Anything can happen. Fingers crossed for a surprise win for the good guys.

RockyLives


Be Brave, Arteta and Gamble on Youth

July 14, 2020

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                                       Should ‘the Future’ become ‘the Now’?

Sorry Guys, but my pessimism is increasing after the NLD for a number of reasons, and after all the improvements Mikel has started to make that game was a massive, stinky set-back.

Where to begin? Well first and foremost Emile Martinez was magnificent and deserves to be the #1 GK in any team at the moment. I have always wondered why he has not been given a chance to show us what he can do, and as a result of our Brighton bashing, where Leno was injured, Martinez has been given his chance and he has taken it superbly. Terrific display — again.

That is pretty much where the the good bit started — and ended.

The defence was a disgrace, and we will get to that, but sloppy passing by all our players did not help, and several mistimed tackles in midfield, or crazy passes from pretty much everywhere, allowed the Spuds to counter-attack our slow moving and gumption-less back line.

I would not be sorry to see the back of all of them, from Kola thru Mustafi and Luiz to the inept fast fading Bellerin.

There is a lesson to be learned by Mikel, and that is to “GIVE YOUTH A CHANCE” — do not stop at giving Saka, Eddie and the Archangel Gabriel their first team chances, where they have already shown they are the NOW and the FUTURE of the team, and are ably supported by Willock, Emile Smith Rowe, Reiss Nelson, and Tierney who have shown they are also able to take permanent and effective midfield roles.

BUT — what has happened with refreshing the defence??

There are also other young cubs itching to be given a chance in defence. Tolaji Bola cannot help but improve the left back role, leaving the impressive Tierney to continue as an attacking midfielder, whose crosses are wonderful by comparison to the ‘hit-the-first-derfender’ rubbish crosses doled out by Bellerin. Harry Clarke or Zak Swanson would also make fine back ups to Soares (though I have reservations about him).

But let’s cut to the chase. The major failings in defence are the insipid, disorganised CBs, Mustafi and Luiz You know it, I know it, but sadly Mikel does not seem to know it.

Let them go!! That would be the start.

Who to promote to the first team if Mikel wanted more of the same youthful skill, grit and hunger for success?

The answer seems to be so obvious I just cannot understand why we have not already started this change, in what is now a dead season for us.

Holding has impressed many of us following his long-term injury. — START HIM.
There is a youngster, Medley, in the youth ranks who is tall, skilful and pacey. Yes, that’s right — tall – skilful and pacey — START HIM.

To back them up we have Ballard and Omole and waiting in the wings Joel Lopez, who will be special in a couple of seasons

So the team back line would look like:

Martinez

Bola – Holding – Medley – Soares

Willock – Ceballos – Saka – Tierney

Auba – Laca

[With a whole host of youngsters ready to fill the gaps.]

An adventurous choice? Undoubtedly. But what was it some genius said about Manure, years ago, “you won’t win anything with kids”? Well, they then went on and won many trophies — and that makes me flinch at the memories. But those kids did it — why not ours?

And to see the backs of Luiz, Mustafi, Bellerin, Kola, Xhaka, and Ôzil would make it worth it – whatever happened.

I would love to see something like the above — and after 15 dreadful years of bollocks just waiting for money to buy a new Thierry, or Vieira or Bergkamp – which we know is not coming — just let’s change the mood and GIVE THE KIDS A CHANCE.

RA


It’s Time to Dominate Tottenham

July 12, 2020

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                             Saint Mikel prepare to banish the demon cockerels

Today is Mikel Arteta’s first North London Derby as manager of Arsenal, and it’s a chance for him (and the club) to lay down a marker.

One of the down sides of our travails in recent seasons has been seeing the noisy neighbours have periods of being more competitive than us.

They even got to a Champions League final, for goodness sake (although it’s perhaps best not to contemplate what strange and satanic sacrifices were enacted in the bowels of N17 to bring that about).

As anyone connected with Arsenal knows, them being ahead of us is not the natural way of things.

When God* created the world He assigned a role to every living thing. As the hymn ‘All Things Bright and Beautiful‘ has it: “God made them high and lowly/and ordered their estate.”

Part of that ordering was that Totteringham Hotspurs are meant to spend the vast majority of their time in our shadow.

But  God is merciful, so he allowed that once in a very rare while he would let them slither into the light, if only so they could understand what they are missing the rest of the time.

They’ve just had their period in the light, now it’s time for Saint Mikel of N5 to banish them back to the wastelands.

If we can win today, there is a good chance that this game will be seen as a pivotal moment when the Arsenal began the march back to greatness (that greatness to include establishing a new era of domination over the Spuds).

Here’s the team Saint Mikel will most likely start with:

Martinez

Bellerin – Mustafi – Luiz – Kolasinac – Tierney

Xhaka – Ceballos

Saka – Lacazette – Aubameyang.

The only room for doubt is whether Auba will start down the middle (I don’t think so, because we will need Lacazette’s hold-up ability for periods in this game) and whether Saka or Pepe gets the starting nod. I see us going with Saka and keeping Pepe as an impact sub.

Here’s to us being flushed with success at the Armitage Shanks Arena this afternoon.

RockyLives

*Insert god of your preference.


North London is Red! Your Favourite NLD Moments

July 10, 2020

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                                              Super Sagna sinks the Spuds

On Sunday our lads will get their inoculations, pray for the protections of whichever gods they believe in and cross over from the world of the righteous to the Valley of the Damned, otherwise known as N17.

We’ll arrive at the Armitage Shanks Bowl flushed with the success of a recent solid run of form and ready to get another three points in the can.

In advance of the match, you are invited to submit your favourite moment from the long and storied history of North London Derbies.

The key word is ‘moment’: I’m not looking for your favourite game (from which there are so many to choose, including twice winning the league at the sh*thole).

I’ll start.

My favourite moment was in February 2012, when we entertained the miscreants at The Emirates.

The enemy had been ahead of us for most of the season and the guttural howls of “mind the gap” had been heard across the swamplands.

I turned up at the Emirates not expecting much. We were having a faltering season and I feared our North London dominance was truly at risk. We had recently been thrashed 4-0 in the San Siro and dumped out of the FA Cup by Sunderland. The omens were all bad.

My pessimism seemed well-founded when, after 34 minutes, we were 0-2 down. Think about that – we were losing two nil, at home, to THEM! Saha had got the first, before Adebayor (boo!) scored from the penalty spot following a blatant dive by Gareth Bale (thanks, Mike Dean).

The sound of grumbling could occasionally be heard rumbling round the stadium as if a tube train was passing by deep underground. But, given the nature of the opposition, our supporters quickly got back to getting behind our boys and rubbishing the Spuds. It seemed to work, as we went hard at the Totts despite our deficit.

And that’s when my moment happened. We had just come within a millimeter of scoring (Van Perise hit the post) and the ball cannoned out towards the left corner flag. Kieran Gibbs thought about crossing but rolled it back to Mikel Arteta, who dinked a perfectly weighted cross into the Totts’ box.

And there was Bacary Sagna, charging at the ball, reaching it ahead of the defenders and powering a header into the net.

The icing on the cake was the way that Sagna did not celebrate for a single second. He just grabbed the ball and started running back towards the centre circle with an intent that said: “This is our turf. We’re coming for you.”

The rest is history. We went on to win the game 5-2, with goals from Van Persie, Rosicky and a brace from Walcott.

The result spawned weeks of fun in which Arsenal fans all over the land would wait until five minutes to the hour before asking Spuds-supporting work colleagues what time it was. Without thinking, the poor Spudders would look at their watch and say “five-to”, at which point the Arsenal supporters would break into a chant of “5-2, 5-2, 5-2, 5-2”).

Even after the game we remained seven points behind our enemies in the league table, but we relentlessly closed the gap and finished above them. “Mind the Gap” was sent back to N17, with interest.

That’s my moment. Over to you.

RockyLives