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Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur gear up for Capital One Cup clash
It’s a trope that England’s domestic cups have lost their weight; the Capital One Cup even more so than the FA Cup. Today, Manchester City breezed past Sunderland in front of a half-empty stadium and tomorrow, Liverpool and Chelsea will face League Two pushovers Carlisle and League One’s Walsall, respectively.
That’s why Tottenham Hotspur’s heavyweight derby with Arsenal stands out so much in the early rounds of the competition. There will be no half-hearted punches. It’s derbies like these that make Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino wish he could put on his boots once more.
“I always enjoyed playing this type of game,” he told Spurs TV. “Derbies are special. It’s a different game. Our supporters have that expectation to win. It’s impossible to guess what will happen but one thing is for sure, we need to play at 100 per cent.”
Pochettino won’t soon have forgotten Tottenham’s last Capital One Cup outing, a 2-0 loss to Chelsea in last season’s final. He made sure his players didn’t forget what it was like to lose, either. “It’s important when the opponent take a trophy, you need to feel what it’s like to lose to avoid it happening again next time,” he said. “We learned from that defeat.” A meeting with Arsenal is the perfect way to avenge that loss.
Pochettino’s opposite, Arsene Wenger, also admitted, in a roundabout sort of way that Arsenal won’t rest their big guns.
“At the moment the youth-team players, many of whom are ready to play for us, are away on loan.
“The next players who have the talent are not completely ready to play at that level. With the difficulty of the opponent as well, you do not want to throw them into a game where they look out of place.
It is an opportunity for Arsenal to win an important game and for the players who play for the club to defend our club and qualify. Apart from that, we played with the team in Zagreb and we didn’t win, so we want to come back now and win our cup games because that’s vital for us.” – Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, via Arsenal’s official wesbite
But enough of the rhetoric; for Tottenham, the chance to assure any insecurities from their first six Premier League matches is even more tantalizing than the added momentum. Pochettino’s men haven’t been overwhelmingly convincing but have managed to scrape a respectable nine points so far. Debutant goalscorer Heung-Min Son was the star of Tottenham’s 1-0 win over Crystal Palace at the weekend and will most likely find himself incorporated alongside Christian Eriksen for the first time tomorrow.
Yet, “form counts for nothing coming into a game like this,” Tottenham’s Tom Carroll told the club’s official website. Eric Dier added: “It doesn’t matter what has happened in the past,” and both the Englishman and Pochettino labeled the North London derby: “one-off.”
However, Pochettino will take consolation in his undefeated record against Arsenal his year in charge of Tottenham. Nearly a year ago he lead his men to a 1-1 draw at the Emirates and earlier this year, Harry Kane scored twice to bury Arsenal at home.
This time around, though, Kane’s form of late has been wobbly at best given he is yet to score this season. His slump has been even more pronounced given Tottenham’s failure to sign a forward partner for England’s Golden Boy over the summer after talks with West Bromwich Albion over Saido Berahino dissipated.
Arsenal have also had recent struggles up front, having scored just five goals in their first six league games. Olivier Giroud has bagged two of those but being The Gunner’s only out-and-out forward, should have had more. In Arsenal’s loss to Chelsea over the weekend, he lost his starting position to Theo Walcott.
Arsenal seek to get back on track following their loss to Chelsea, but a loss could compound their woes. Given the nature of the derby, Tottenham wouldn’t mind rubbing it in a little if that were the case. Form is thrown out the window for these derbies and the result has the potential to set the tone for each side’s weeks to come.
Photo credit: Gordon Flood, via Flickr