Any time Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur get together it is a special occasion, but there’s no denying the magic of a cup tie between the two North London rivals. That will commence on Wednesday night as the Gunners head a few miles down the road to White Hart Lane for a third round Capital One Cup tie.
However, this game isn’t just about the rivalry and hatred between the two sides. It isn’t about the Capital One Cup and the quest to life a trophy during the 2015-16 season either. Rather, this tie is all about figuring out which sides recent results are for real.
A normal Capital One Cup tie would see both Arsenal and Spurs put out secondary squads, looking to get young players or those on the bench some quality minutes. But, when the two sides clash on Wednesday it is likely we’ll see more regular starters than usual.
Such is the nature of this rivalry and the aspirations of these sides, but more so because these two sides have a lot to gain and loose in this matchup alone.
These two sides couldn’t be more intertwined, yet there two seasons couldn’t be going in more opposite of directions these days.
Arsenal lifted the FA Cup trophy last season, finished inside the top 4 of the EPL and got themselves in to the Champions League group stages. Things felt different at the Emirates this summer, with the side seemingly looking the part of title contender.
Lately things haven’t seemed quite so high at the Emirates. What with a double sending-off (dubious or not) and a 2-0 loss to rival Chelsea, its poor start to the Champions League and its fifth place spot in the table on just 10 points from five matches.
A 2-1 loss to the supposed minnow of Group F, Dinamo Zagreb, last Tuesday was the first warning sign, but the how and why of the 2-0 weekend loss to London rival, Chelsea, means this is a team reeling and in desperate need of a positive result.
It is now three losses from the opening seven matches of the season for the Gunners, a loss here makes it four of eight — and that isn’t good at all for a side, a manager and a boardroom under immense pressure from the fanbase.
Getting dumped in a Capital One Cup tie isn’t new for Arsenal fans, as Arsene Wenger could usually care less about this competition. This game, this season, this rivalry and those recent developments on the pitch all mean Wenger can’t afford to care less about this competition.
Simply put, Arsenal are a squad in disarray and winning has a funny way of putting all the other things to the side. Getting this team back to winning ways is paramount for a team that has fallen apart on the pitch and seemingly lashed out off it.
For Spurs, winning trophies and getting to one of the four Champions League places is the goal. Once there, it is about sustaining it all too. However, its been a struggle to lift a trophy or reach that brass rung on the EPL ladder of fourth place.
Tottenham haven’t won a cup since the 2007-08 season and haven’t been in the Champions League since the 2010-11 season. It would seem this team is the more desperate of the two, yet how the season has played out to date suggests something completely different.
Spurs’ season started off rocky, losing to Manchester United and then running off a string of listless draws in the next three matches. However, a resurgence in the opening tie of the Europa League group stage and a second-straight win in league play this past weekend have the Lillywhites just one point behind their rivals and clearly on the upswing.
These two sides are also a tale of their offseason spending, with one seemingly finding its haul to be impressive and the other still wondering what exactly it has for all the money spent.
Arsenal haven’t seen a great return from the purchase of goalkeeper Petr Cech and it spent next to nothing outside of him on a host of players few have ever heard of.
Spurs spent the summer offloading the dead weight from its side and pursuing a group of players that fit in with manager Mauricio Pochettino’s style.
If there’s one player that hammers home the difference in summer spending, it would be the difference in performances from the big signing of Cech at Arsenal and the big singing of Son Heung-Min at Spurs.
After finally getting his clearance to play, Son has been a revelation for Spurs in just the past two matches. He’s scored three goals in those two matches and Spurs went from a side struggling to find an offense worth watching to being one of the most exciting attacking sides in the EPL.
Son’s insertion to the lineup has made Spurs look like the squad Poch and the supporters have come to expect at the club. It’s playing with flare, fun and most importantly confidence it hasn’t seen all season long.
It seems as if the lightbulb has gone on at White Hart Lane.
The question on Wednesday night will be can Spurs continue their resurrgance or will Arsenal find the form that got them so far in to the 2014-15 season.
Suddenly a match that was more about the fans than the game on the pitch has taken on equal importance on and off it. Which side comes out ahead won’t just be about bragging rights, it will be about which side has momentum on its side.
Besides, who doesn’t love themselves a good North London Derby?