There’s been a lot of noise on Twitter this week regarding Mauricio Pochettino’s team selection in midweek against Spurs’ bitter rivals. I understand the frustration but in this case I think it’s a little unfair.
Beating Arsenal is always very important and with little chance of Spurs winning the league any time soon, we must focus on the cups. The game is after all about glory, not minor league positions.
To this end, I was very upset last season when we essentially gave up on the FA Cup – putting out a second string team against Leicester. This was a competition that was once “our” trophy and has provided some of Tottenham’s greatest moments over the years.
But the game in midweek felt different. We played well, even the Arsenal biased Sky coverage agreed. We dominated midfield and had a succession of chances. In the end the luck didn’t go our way – Flamini volleying in from 30 yards.
With a game just three days before and another three days later we had to rotate the squad. Not to rest them for the league, so much as to put out a fresh, injury free eleven for each fixture.
I wouldn’t have picked Fazio or Vorm but otherwise the team was pretty good. Kane, Dier and Chadli all started, and with Eriksen, Townsend and Rose, you could argue that we were stronger in places than the side we put out against Palace. Rose had a particularly good game, getting forward to cause no end of problems for the Arsenal backline.
If you want to level the accusation at Pochettino that he doesn’t understand the North London derby, then you have to look at other managers too. Wenger put out a put out a much weaker side, as have others (including Harry Redknapp) in similar fixtures in the past.
Manchester City have been our bête noire in recent seasons, with an aggregate score of 16-2 in our last four meeting, all losses. Aguero has been a particular source of pain, with 5 of those goals. But this time should be different.
In previous fixtures, City’s fast, skillful attacking players, particularly Aguero and Silva, have runs rings round our slow defence. In last season’s 4-1 reverse we played a centre back partnership of Fazio and Kaboul with Capoue in front to offer protection.
A mobile backline of Vertonghen and Alderweireld, with the pacey Rose at right back and Dier sitting in front, should be much better placed to subdue the threat.
With Eriksen hopefully back, a combination of Son’s direct running and the Dane’s subtle passing should give us more of a threat going forward too. City can be vulnerable at the back, especially on Alexander Kolarov’s side.
City lost their last league game 2-1 against West Ham but that result is deceptive. The Manchester side out-shot their opponents 27-6 and had 72% possession. Worryingly, new signing Kevin De Bruyne was particularly impressive.
It should be an intriguing match and I think we’ll do enough to get a draw.
Prediction: 1 – 1
Should Pochettino have played a different side against Arsenal? Will Spurs finally find the key to success against City? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.