I’m expecting a reaction from Spurs on Saturday. This is a derby, which is always a big occasion, and on top of that Arsenal won the last game between the teams 4-2, which left an impression on the Tottenham players. They’re also coming off the back of another London derby loss to Chelsea on Wednesday.
The team is going through a difficult time, having lost five of their last 10 matches, but people have been saying for months – maybe even years – that although they have a quality squad, as soon as they begin to get injuries, they’re in trouble.
Some players have continued to play week after week, and they look tired. Against Chelsea I barely recognised Christian Eriksen or Heung-min Son – normally those players make the difference on the pitch but on Wednesday they appeared to be tired and lacking in imagination. No gasoline, nothing at all.
So I’m worried about Spurs’ form, but I still expect a reaction. They need a victory if they’re to get their league campaign back on track. Even the gap to Manchester United is closing now. No other result will do: they need a win.
As for Arsenal, they’re in good form, but that has mostly come at home. Away, they’re still weak sometimes. Mentally they look stronger – and physically as well. I’m happy to see certain players back on the pitch, such as Mesut Ozil and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who is on very good form.
But it’s a derby and things go so quickly, as they do in modern life. If I was a Spurs player or an Arsenal player, I would be thinking every single hour of every day about this game, because it’s very important – and not just because it’s a derby, but for the three points as well. At the end of the season those will be vital.
Mauricio Pochettino to leave?
A lot of questions have been asked about Mauricio Pochettino’s future. For everything he has achieved at Spurs, he needs to win the title or some major silverware – they need something to reward the work he’s done.
If nothing happens in that regard by the end of the season, it will be very difficult to motivate the same group of players. It could be end of something – maybe that’s the manager leaving the club or several new players coming into the squad.
I’m a big fan of Pochettino – the way he manages and the way his teams play – and he could be the Arsene Wenger of Spurs. But if he’s thinking about a new challenge, he knows the rumours about Real Madrid and Man United and that one day he may end managing a club that size. If he wins something this season, however, maybe that will be the turning point for him.
It has taken time for Ozil to show his real level on the pitch again. He did well against Bournemouth and looked fresh mentally. We know his quality – the only question is about his motivation, and what I saw on Wednesday is the beginning of the answer.
Unai Emery’s management of Ozil has been good. He’s left him at home and put him on the bench at various times, giving him a few minutes here and there before now thrusting him back into the first team. It’s a long process and it’s necessary to concentrate not only on the player but also on the man – for weeks, Emery has been doing that.
So I hope Ozil will keep enjoying himself on the pitch and keep his mind fresh. If he can do that, it will be a big weapon for Arsenal until the end of the season.
Lacazette and Aubameyang
It looks like Emery wants to start with just one of Alexandre Lacazette or Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the team. In the big games, it seems as if he wants him team to be harder to break down, which means playing with just one striker.
Tactically, the balance isn’t the same when both of them play, but just because you play with two strikers it doesn’t mean you can’t have balance. But he wants to play with different systems and to change his system regularly – personally I believe that Arsenal are a very good team when they’re both on the pitch. They score goals almost every single game – if it’s not Lacazette, it’ll be Aubameyang – and create chances for one another constantly.
At the moment, it’s working with one up front and the players are responding well when they come off the bench. Lacazette and Aubameyang are both performing and scoring goals when they come on as substitutes. But I still think that when they play together, they’re a terrific partnership.