Arsenal and Tottenham: Samir Nasri vs. Gareth Bale and Other Key Matchups
While the rest of the internet foams at the mouth over news that Eva Longoria has filed for divorce following Tony Parker’s apparent infidelity, and the not-so-shocking announcement of Prince William and Kate Middleton’s engagement, there will be a massive contingent of web surfers (probably you, if you’re reading this) who couldn’t give a monkeys about celebrity marriages and prefer to focus on the important things in life: football.
This weekend sees Arsenal take on Spurs, a tense match for both teams. Victory for the Reds is like spending the weekend in the Playboy Mansion and covering for Hugh Hefner. Comparatively, defeat is more like being kicked in the testicles by a runaway mule. It means a lot, basically.
Here is where I think the game will be won or lost:
Bacari Sagna and Samir Nasri vs. Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Gareth Bale
Two of the most in-form players in the EPL this season have been Nasri and Bale. Following lukewarm previous seasons that hinted at excellence, the two players have been primary attacking threats for both their club and country.
It’s ironic that they will be pitted against each other like this. On their respective flanks, they are backed up by Sagna and Assou-Ekotto, who will aim to get up and down the wings to help to create space for the attack.
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It will be interesting to see how Bale plays against Sagna; someone who will be able to match his pace. Nasri might feel claustrophobic on the wings, especially against someone like Bale who is a competent defender—he used to be a left-back.
Lucasz Fabianski vs. Huerelho Gomes
Gomes will surely be able to understand the plight of Fabianski. After Gomes' arrival from PSV, he reignited the argument over the standards of the Dutch League after an abysmal start in the EPL.
He eventually adjusted and was able to build up his confidence; he has turned into a very reliable goalkeeper, one who has already had a couple of excellent games against Arsenal.
Similarly, the bulk of Fabianski’s career has not been shrouded with compliments. It’s only been this season that he has begun to perform consistently at a level acceptable for a goalkeeper wearing Arsenal’s shirt.
As the past results between these two teams suggest, the fixture is not historically one to remember for the goalkeeper, but it was only because of Gomes that Tottenham were able to beat Arsenal last season. He will be hoping for a repeat performance; Fabianski will know that if he wants to show Manuel Almunia and Arsene Wenger that the No. 1 jersey is his, he has to perform well on Saturday.
Alex Song vs. Rafael van der Vaart
Taking care of Spur’s star summer signing will be the ever accommodating Song. Of course, this isn’t a straight forward competition, as both players are not averse to roaming across the pitch, and Song will also have to defend against Luka Modric.
Both Song and van der Vaart have started the season with impressive goal-scoring form. Song may have the experience of the North London derby, but van der Vaart will be keen to impress, especially after his remarks that he would have liked to have played for Arsenal, had they made a bid.
Maroane Chamakh vs. William Gallas
It remains to be seen what kind of reception Gallas will receive from the Arsenal fans, to whom he was the club captain and first choice centre-back for, but my guess is it will be somewhere between Eduardo and Ashley Cole.
Some fans will applaud what he did for the club, others will boo him for doing the unthinkable and joining Spurs. The philosophical fan will look at how he has been so easily replaced and be apathetic to his presence.
Chamakh arrived at Arsenal in the summer, in one of the most predictable signings of the year, and will be hoping to steal a march on the older Gallas, especially in the air. His best games have been at the Emirates, and he will be one of the main goal threats for Arsenal, so it wouldn’t be surprising if he were to score.
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