Both Arsenal and Tottenham are faced with lengthy injury lists as they prepare to faceoff in the most anticipated of the FA Cup third round matches on Saturday. While the rivalry between the sides dictate that neither Arsene Wenger nor Tim Sherwood would make widespread changes to their lineups, injuries mean that option is almost completely off the table.
Arsenal’s elation at their priceless late win against Cardiff on New Year’s Day that kept them top of the Premier League was tempered by an injury suffered by the first goal-scorer Nicklas Bendtner. That leaves Arsenal painfully stretched in an area of the pitch where they are particularly thin.
Olivier Giroud remains a major doubt to face Tottenham with an ankle injury. Given his importance to the side he is unlikely to be risked in the FA Cup, meaning that Wenger could well have to choose between Lukas Podolski and Theo Walcott to lead the line. Podolski as he often has in an Arsenal shirt, looked less than fully equipped to fill that role against Cardiff, while Walcott has also often shown that he is ill-suited to the position, despite his recent glut of goals.
Arsenal’s problems extend beyond strikers, however. Aaron Ramsey is definitely ruled out with a thigh injury, while Wenger has confirmed that Mesut Ozil is unlikely to recover from a shoulder injury in time for the weekend. Kieran Gibbs is also set to miss out.
It means it could well be an unchanged side for Arsenal, with the inclusion of Tomas Rosicky, who made a positive impact off the bench against Cardiff, the only likely change.
Sherwood will be hoping that he is able to field the same lineup that triumphed against Manchester United, with the scorer of their opening goal, Emmanuel Adebayor, struggling with a knock that forced his early exit at Old Trafford.
With Jermain Defoe already out, the absence of Adebayor would force Sherwood to abandon his two-man forward line, unless he decides to thrust the inexperienced Harry Kane into a high-pressure north London derby. Spurs have few options in defense, with Jan Vertonghen and Younes Kaboul still on the sidelines. Paulinho will also be absent, while Lewis Holtby and Gylfi Sigurdsson remain doubts.
Sherwood modified his gung-ho strategy at Old Trafford with Etienne Capoue coming into the side alongside Mousa Dembele in central midfield, while Christian Eriksen drifted in from the left. A similar strategy appears likely at the Emirates, although his players will have to work even harder than against Manchester United to deny space for Arsenal’s creative midfielders.
With the exception of Arsenal’s 1-0 victory in September, the north London derby has been a fixture with plenty of goals in recent seasons and Sherwood’s approach suggests that record will continue on Saturday. Arsenal will be hoping that another recent trend, their three successive wins over Tottenham at the Emirates, is prolonged as they seek to stay in contention for a trophy that was the last silverware won by the club, way back in 2005.
D: Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal
M: Arteta, Flamini
Walcott, Rosicky, Cazorla
D: Walker, Chiriches, Dawson, Rose
M: Lennon, Capoue, Dembele, Eriksen
F: Soldado, Adebayor