Positives & Negatives : Arsenal 5 – 2 Tottenham

First Up – What a cracker of a comeback. Victory is sweetest when you are deemed the underdog. I’ve said this in my earlier posts that Arsenal are at their best when nothing else except failure is expected of them. Even in this encounter, only about 40% of the football following crowd would have given them a chance against a Tottenham team in the best of form for quite some time. And even those 40% would give them the chance because the match was at the Emirates.

Enough talking. Let’s get to the point.

2 Negatives For Tottenham

1.) The loss can only be considered as a blip in an otherwise outstanding season. Even Tottenham fans will acknowledge the fact that even though they were expected to compete for the Champions League places this season, they have been punching above their weight in third position for much of it. The only thing that should worry Tottenham now is that this shouldn’t serve as a demoralising onset for the rest of the season. If Tottenham would have won this match, they would have been 13 points ahead of their closest rivals. Instead, they are just 7 points ahead now with 12 games to play. Added pressure, to say the least, especially with Manchester United being the next team that they are scheduled to play.

2.) Scott Parker won’t be able to appear in the match against Manchester United. Much of Spurs’ success this season has to be attributed to the brilliance of the Modric-Parker partnership in midfield. Parker’s boundless energy and ability to break up play are an asset to this Tottenham side and his absence will be sorely felt. Sandro is most likely to step into Parker’s position for the upcoming tie, but he is far more attack minded than the Englishman and really has to put in a disciplined performance, to stop the midfield maestro, Paul Scholes.

5 Positives For Arsenal

1.) The comeback was a testament to the character and resilience that is so often boasted of by Wenger. Wenger has said that this victory is one to savour and not only because it was a thumping given to your arch rivals, but also because it went to show that nobody other than Wenger himself, knows more about his team.

2.)  Tomas Rosicky is back (and out again because of a back problem). Rosicky was proving to be more involved and influential than Aaron Ramsey in the past few weeks and against Tottenham he played like a man possessed. Who would have anticipated Rosicky of all people to come charging into the box and slice the ball past Brad Friedel’s waiting arms. The goal is bound to fill him with a lot more confidence and we might just see a completely different Tomas Rosicky in the coming weeks.

3.) Gary Neville pointed out that Theo Walcott is at his most influential when he is playing in the inside channel, between the central defender and the full-back. If Theo and Wenger are keen on taking notes, they will realise that Neville is absolutely right. The two goals that Walcott scored in the derby were from similar positions. If they do acknowledge this fact, then we might just see Walcott not being a headless chicken from here on.

4.) The very fact that they scored 5 goals against a top quality Premier League team should give Arsenal some sort of confidence when they meet AC Milan in the Champions League for the second leg, where they need to score 5 goals (and concede none) to proceed to the next round. Surely AC Milan is a completely different proposition than Tottenham, but if the players want it as much as they did against Spurs, who knows, they might just make a match out of it.

5.) The team’s celebration at the end of the match gave a glimpse of the unity that exists in the squad and this should give a little reprieve to the concerned fans that even in the times of adversity, the spirit isn’t falling apart.

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Comparing The Bench Strength Of the Top 6 Premier League Clubs

As the Premier League heads into the busy festive period, all the teams in the league are scheduled to play almost twice every week. Although this can be a treat for the fans, it is more often than not, a headache for most managers due to injury and exhaustion concerns. Couple this busy festive period with the impending African Cup of Nations, and the need for a strong squad is felt more than ever. A good bench can save the managers of this dilemma, but it’s a problem nonetheless.

As six teams: Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool, battle it out for the League title and Champions League spots, let’s take a look at the bench strength of these teams.

Manchester City
Manchester City

Bench: Edin Dzeko, Adam Johnson/Nigel De Jong, Alexander Kolarov, Kolo Toure, James Milner

Manchester City, the firm favourites for the title, boasts of a bench which has players which can walk into the starting 11 of any other Premier League team. Such has been the amount of investment in the squad that City will have no problems heading into the tight fixture list. Strong competition for places can be a double edged sword as, though it can bring the best out of players to push their claim for a starting 11 spot, it can also lead to dissatisfaction due to lack of playing time. However, with the success that City is enjoying, it will be foolish to jump ships at this juncture.

Manchester United
Manchester United

Bench: Dimitar Berbatov, Javier Hernandez, Ryan Giggs, Park Ji Sung/Ashley Young, Fabio/Rafael

Pretty much like Manchester City, Manchester United also boasts of a world class bench. However, lack of playing time is not a concern for these players as Sir Alex has been rampant this season with his rotation policy, even rotating his goalkeepers at times. United also won’t have problems with the African Cup of Nations as they will only lose Antonio Valencia from their starting 11. United traditionally have always performed better after the Christmas interval, and with the bench strength that they have, it is hard to argue against the idea of them not doing it again.

Tottenham Hotspur
Tottenham Hotspur

Bench: Niko Krankjar, Steven Piennar, Roman Pavlyuchenko, Sebastian Bassong, Sandro/Tom Huddlestone

Tottenham have arguably the weakest bench among the top four at the moment, but with the motivation of pushing for a third place, the players coming off the bench are also putting in better than decent performances. Spurs have effective backups for all the positions on the pitch, but lack a game changer in their ranks, unlike City and United.

Chelsea
Chelsea

Bench: Fernando Torres, Florent Malouda, Branislav Ivanovic, David Luiz/Paulo Ferreira, John Obi Mikel

Similar to United, Chelsea also have a strong rotation policy but that seems to have been dumped at the moment due to the tough times that the club faced in the recent weeks. Chelsea have a host of top class players to choose from the bench, capable of making an impact whenever they are on the pitch. They are lucky not to be facing an injury crisis at present and are only poised to lose Mikel to the African Cup of Nations.

Arsenal
Arsenal

Bench: Marouane Chamakh, Andrey Arshavin, Yossi Benayoun, Ignasi Miquel, Tomas Rosicky/Emmanuel Frimpong/Francis Coquelin

Arsenal are currently serving their customary defensive injury crisis that hits them at this point of time every season. With all four full backs out, Arsene Wenger is having to field four central defenders at the back four. They are also likely to be hit hard by the AFCON as they will lose Marouane Chamakh and Gervinho during this period. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Park Chu Young and Ryo Miyaichi are most likely to be introduced to the bench in the coming weeks.

Liverpool
Liverpool

Bench: Andy Carroll, Jamie Carragher, Jonjo Shelvey/Jay Spearing, Dirk Kuyt/Maxi Rodriguez, Martin Kelly

Liverpool too have a strong enough bench but are a little inexperienced when compared to their rivals in this regard. With Lucas Leiva injured for the rest of the season and Luis Suarez set to serve his 8 match ban, Kenny Dalglish will be forced to rotate his central midfielders and strikers, but that shouldn’t be too much of a problem as Dalglish would most probably use Jordan Henderson and Craig Bellamy in these positions.

P.S. – The list above does not take into consideration the goalkeepers of respective teams and lists only the most probable bench line-ups.