FA Cup 3rd Round: How Should Tottenham Approach Match with Arsenal?

Frank WagnerCorrespondent IJanuary 2, 2014

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 26:  Tim Sherwood the Spurs manager gives instructions to Christian Eriksen of Spurs during the Barclays Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and West Bromwich Albion on December 26 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Steve Bardens/Getty Images)
Steve Bardens/Getty Images

The North London derby enters rarified ground Saturday, as Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal face off in the third round of the FA Cup.

Of the 184 matches that the two rivals have squared off in, this will be just the sixth to take place in the historic FA Cup, and only the third to happen so early in the tournament's proceedings.

Given the way Spurs and the Gunners seem to approach matches with each other, this encounter seems certain to be the headliner of a stacked weekend of football. After all, the period of dominance Arsenal has enjoyed over the past few decades has merely fueled the animosity felt on both sides.

However, the fact that this meeting takes place in cup play has planted a seed of doubt in the minds of some as to how seriously the two will take this encounter.

While the prestige of the historic cup has not died down at all, the fact that it does not directly impact the pursuit of Champions League football and the incredible windfall that comes from it has led many clubs to put it nearer to the bottom of their priority list than they once did.

With the position these two clubs find themselves in at the moment, such rationale can certainly be applied. As Arsenal sit tenuously atop the Premier League table, one could not fault them for concentrating on their league matches. Meanwhile, Tottenham finds themselves in a dogfight around the ever-important fourth spot, so getting some much needed rest would obviously be a help with a busy few months still ahead.

So how should these two clubs approach this third round tie?

As for Spurs, the answer should be obvious: Their approach should be gung-ho.

There can be no argument that a bit of rest for Spurs' players would be helpful to the club at this point. After all, their side is currently facing a few key injuries, notably to Paulinho and Jan Vertonghen, and cannot afford to face many more with the crowded Premier League and Europa League schedule they face over the next few months.

However, the fact that they enter the match with a new manager, Tim Sherwood, should trump this argument quite easily.

Since the Englishman took over for Andre Villas-Boas, Tottenham has shown a newfound spirit that had faded at the end of the Portuguese manager's tenure. With 10 points over their past four league matches and the rediscovery of their goalscoring touch, Spurs have found a much-needed confidence.

To sit their key players and fall lifelessly to their arch-rival would kill any and all momentum the squad had picked up over the last few weeks.

Spurs desperately need to put up a fight in this match, and to do that they must go all-in with their squad selection.

While the third round of the FA Cup has usually provided Tottenham with the opportunity to get some ample rest for their top players after a busy festive period, this one presents them with what might be a "wendepunkt," or turning point, in this roller-coaster season.