01 May 2014

Thursday Throwdown: Happy St Totteringham's Day!

Sam: It's happened again, it's happened agaaaain, Tottenham Hostpur, it's happened again!

Celebrate well, Gooners, it's St Totts again!
(CC Licence / Wikimedia)
Thanks to an easy 3-0 home win over a lifeless Newcastle United, Gooners everywhere are celebrating St Totteringham's day for the 19th consecutive season. For me, this one feels a little more special than usual, especially after Sp*rs invested £100m, leading to even louder proclamations from their fan base that this was finally their year to mount a title challenge. So, Andy, how did you celebrate? And was there anything you felt you could take from Monday's game?

Andrew: I have to admit, this one was more of a muted celebration for me. Though you are right that it is a fun new type of failure for Spurs, they haven't mattered in any significant race since about halfway through the season and most of my delight at their uselessness was expended after we beat them for a third straight time this year. I enjoyed this St. Totteringham's Day as I enjoy each and every one, but it's somehow more fun when they think they can do it until the very end.

It is somewhat difficult to draw grand conclusions from the 3-0 defeat of Newcastle because the Toons simply did not show up. Arsenal's midfield looked exceptional, Santi Cazorla is determined not to let the return of Ramsey and Ozil overshadow his brilliance, and it was still a three score win on a night when Tim Krul stood on his head in goal. Even though it was not against the toughest competition, perhaps the victory is a lesson in how devastating the Gunners can be when playing against a disinterested opponent. That could come into play in Sunday's match against West Brom, after all.

Sam: I was surprised that it St Totts happened this late, actually. Tim Sherwood has been so laughable, and certain results have stood out so much that I assumed they were even further behind than they are. But all's well that ends well!

I'm not so sure that West Brom will be disinterested on Sunday. They may well be 15th in the table and 4 points clear of the drop zone with a game in hand - which is usually seen as a good thing -  but there is also a school of thought that believes points on the table are better than games in hand. Having said all that, the Gunners are playing their last game of the season at the Emirates, the last home game before the trip to Wembley, and with it potentially being Bacary Sagna's last game at the Emirates, the Club will want to send the fans home happy on Sunday. Also, if Everton lose to Manchester City on Saturday, Arsenal will be assured of fourth place, so there could well be a very relaxed atmosphere in the stadium.

There are quite a few variables going in to Sunday's match, so what are you looking to see in terms of performance and team selection? Even if the Everton-City result goes our way, the Club should still select a strong side, right?

Sagna could be about to make
his last Emirates appearance
(CC Licence / Wikimedia)
Andrew: For the sake of argument, let's assume that Everton gets a result against City, keeping it mathematically possible for them to finish in fourth place ahead of the Gunners. In my mind, Arsenal would then need to come out with a very strong performance at home against a West Brom side that might not be sitting pretty, but still very unlikely to go down. At this point three clubs would need to gain at least four points on them and the Baggies have a game in hand on most of them. I think you can expect them to come to Emirates with a "hopefully we can defend" attitude all while being willing to take their chances away at Sunderland or home to Stoke.

I think it's important for the Gunners to take advantage of that opportunity because it's a much more enticing scenario than having to go to Norwich, a team fighting desperately to stay above the drop zone, on the last day of the season needing a result. The latter has narrative nightmare written all over it and I don't want to put my heart through such stress.

Sam: In the immortal words of the bard: "Ay, there's the rub". There is no way that Arsenal will want to travel to Carrow Road and face a side fighting for their Premier League lives, with the Gunners' fourth place on the line. And you're right, it would be nice to go in to the last game of the season with nothing to worry about, it's been a few seasons since we, as Arsenal fans, have been able to experience that. Another thought: would you rest players against Norwich, assuming fourth place is assured by then? A poor performance in that match could have an impact on squad morale; on the other handwe, you wouldn't want to risk any of your key players getting injured. How would you approach the game?

Andrew: I understand the argument about there being a dip in morale after a loss, but we have seen Arsenal players pull up lame during meaningless matches way too many times to be risking them in another one. Gooners' hearts are in their throats every time there's an international break so why on earth subject them to more torture during a meaningless (by the conditions of your hypothetical) match at Carrow Road?

I would have no issue whatsoever putting out a team of Szczesny (Fabianski is in the FA Cup run, remember); Monreal, Jenkinson, Vermaelen, Koscielny (have to start one of our normal starters); Flamini, Kallstrom, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Rosicky, Gnabry; Sanogo. Seriously. No fucking about, we have Wembley to storm and a trophy to win.

Sam: I would have no problem with that, and you could even sell me on including the likes of Chuba Akpom or Thomas Eisfeld; should the game carry no implications for the Gunners, I don't see the harm in giving some of the reserves or youth squad some Premier League experience.

Anyway, we still have West Brom at the weekend, so let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. For now, let's hope for a good result on Sunday, and bask in the glow of St Totteringham's Day - as I write this I'm toasting that most special of days with a nice cold beer. As ever - Up the Arsenal!

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