How Arsenal Will Line Up Against Tottenham Hotspur

Charlie MelmanCorrespondent IIJanuary 2, 2014

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 01:  Theo Walcott of Arsenal applauds the crowd after the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Cardiff City at Emirates Stadium on January 1, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

It is very, very difficult to predict which Arsenal team will walk onto the pitch at the Emirates Stadium in their North London Derby in the FA Cup. 

That is mostly because Arsene Wenger has not yet updated the public about the status of his injury-hit squad. The Gunners really have been beset by hard knocks: Several first-team players, some regular starters, either missed the last match against Cardiff City or were questionable.

Some of the same questions remain, and that's not what Arsenal want ahead of their first match against their archrival in a winnable competition.

Arsenal and Tottenham's seasons have taken remarkably different paths after remarkably different summer transfer windows. After withholding their resources until the final moment, Arsenal only purchased one outstanding talent while Spurs splashed over £100 million on several premier names.

Yet the red half of North London is eight points ahead of the blue half with 20 Premier League games played. Amazingly, Spurs have a negative goal differential (minus-one) while Arsenal's is third-highest in the top flight (plus-21).

Wenger must consider Tottenham's relative impotence in attack when selecting his team. However, Tim Sherwood still has a remarkable array of talent at his disposal, and when the high-priced players cohere, they will form a potent attacking machine.

Plus, all form goes out the window in derbies, as the cliche goes.

So here's a guess at how Arsenal might line up.


First, a look at the back five. Normally, this would be the sort of match in which Lukasz Fabianski or Emiliano Viviano could finally give Wojciech Szczesny a rest and get some playing time.

If the Gunners had drawn an opponent from a lower division, that almost certainly would have been the case, but Tottenham are too good for Wenger to take the risk.

Starting Carl Jenkinson instead of Bacary Sagna is another tough decision, but the Frenchman is in need of a breather and cup games against good competition are the perfect venues for Jenkinson to get experience in.

Wenger also has a great opportunity to rest Per Mertesacker, who has played in almost every single one of Arsenal's matches this season, by starting Thomas Vermaelen alongside Laurent Koscielny.

The two are a bit too similar to each other to play on a regular basis, but they worked well against Manchester United and Mertesacker must be winded at this point.

At left-back, Nacho Monreal will probably continue if Kieran Gibbs' calf is still too strained for him to start. No official word on that yet, though.

In midfield, we have Mikel Arteta, who is more technical and versatile than Mathieu Flamini and could be a better option against Spurs' counterattacking style.

Ahead of him are Jack Wilshere, who was the man of the match against Cardiff, and Tomas Rosicky, who had a huge impact in that game when he came on as a substitute. Starting him allows Santi Cazorla to have a well-deserved rest.

Cazorla could also theoretically start on the left wing, but Lukas Podolski could return there after a tepid showing up front versus Cardiff. He is much better on the flank and Wenger should feel confident in Podolski's ability to create goals out of nothing.

If Olivier Giroud is not fit, then who will play up front in the absence of Nicklas Bendtner is an open question. Podolski or Theo Walcott could, but that would necessitate a rejiggering of the entire lineup.

Should Giroud fail to recover from the knock that kept him out of the Cardiff match in time, Arsenal really have no other clear option. That should be addressed in the transfer market, but for now Wenger has to work with what he has.

We should not forget, as the annual tempest of January transfer rumors rolls in, that the pieces the Gunners have in place are quite good—probably good enough to knock off Tottenham.