It may be just a Capital One Cup third round match, but the stakes will be high when Tottenham host local rivals Arsenal at White Hart Lane on Wednesday. In the past week, the prospects have become far more favorable for the side that has long been cast in the shadows in north London. While Arsenal will head into the fixture on the back of successive defeats, Tottenham have won three straight matches to breathe some much-needed optimism into a campaign that began with precious little.
A win over a club that has finished above them in the league for 20 straight years would really begin to build some momentum. Much of the positivity so far has been fueled by the flying start of Spurs’ biggest summer signing, Son Heung-min. The £22-million arrival from Bayer Leverkusen scored his first two goals for the club in a 3-1 win over Qarabağ in the Europa League last week and followed that up with the only goal as Spurs beat Crystal Palace. Already he has become a fan favorite at White Hart Lane.
Certainly his attacking thrust has been a major boost to a team that scored just three goals in their first four games. Even with the South Korea international’s form and the impact made by 19-year-old midfielder Dele Alli, Mauricio Pochettino still has plenty to concern him. After scoring 31 goals last season, Harry Kane has had the utmost responsibility thrust on him this season as not just the club’s leading striker, but their only recognized striker. The pitfalls of depending so heavily on a 22-year-old playing just his second full season have already been evidenced with Kane yet to score in six matches this season.
Still, with Son surely set to take some of the defensive attention away from Kane and Tottenham’s chief creator Christian Eriksen now back from injury, fans have reason to hope that it will be more than just another lost season. While breaking into the top four is perhaps still a far-fetched target, a victory over Arsenal on Wednesday in a competition that offers a realistic chance of silverware could yet lead to something truly tangible in Pochettino’s second season in charge. There is recent precedent to provide plenty of encouragement for Spurs. In 2008 Tottenham stunned Arsenal with a 5-1 victory in the League Cup semifinal second leg before going onto defeat Chelsea for what was the club’s last piece of silverware.
As an added bonus, a victory would also leave Spurs’ foes in a particularly sorry state. The League Cup has rarely carried a great deal of importance for Arsene Wenger, falling at the bottom of his list of priorities. Yet it is hard not to think that this upcoming match is one he will be loathed to lose. Not only is their local pride at stake, but a need to correct a wobbling ship.
After a surprise defeat to Dinamo Zagreb to get off to a poor start in the Champions League, Arsenal went down 2-0 to Chelsea on Saturday. And while there were mitigating circumstances in Gabriel being sent off and yet Diego Costa escaping the same punishment, there was little to savor for Arsenal. The performance has immediate consequences, too, with Gabriel as well as Santi Cazorla, who was also sent off at Stamford Bridge late on, now be suspended on Wednesday. In addition, Francis Coquelin has picked up a knee injury that is likely to keep him out of the trip to White Hart Lane.
It means the depth of Arsenal’s squad will be put to the test. And Wenger has suggested that there could be more rotation beyond those definitely ruled out.
“We play on Wednesday, Saturday, Wednesday and we have to see how we recover and how we go from there,” he told Arsenal’s official website after the defeat at Chelsea. Given how a rotated Arsenal side performed when losing in Zagreb, that should provide plenty more encouragement for their neighbors in white.
Prediction: It looked an unlikely prospect a couple of weeks ago, but this now presents a golden opportunity for Tottenham to regain some bragging rights in north London. Much will likely depend on the strength of the two lineups fielded. With Arsenal facing Premier League and Champions League fixtures they can ill afford to lose in the coming days, it is likely Wenger will make several changes. Tottenham, meanwhile, also have the visit of Premier League leaders Manchester City and a trip to Monaco upcoming. Yet Pochettino, gave the Capital One Cup plenty of importance when guiding his side to the final last season and should do likewise on Wednesday. The Argentinean could well reap the rewards with a narrow victory.
Predicted score: Tottenham 1-0 Arsenal