Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere controls the ball in the English Premier League game against Cardiff, January 1. Reuters
Arsenal and their fans have had the bragging rights over North London rivals Tottenham firmly in their grasp this season - Arsene Wenger's men flying high at the top of the English Premier League table, while the Frenchman has witnessed yet another managerial casualty along the seven sisters road.
A win over the Gunners in the FA Cup third round on Saturday at the Emirates, and some of those bragging rights will have to be forsaken by the fans in red; that will, at least be the plan of new Spurs manager Tim Sherwood, fresh from that immense victory over Manchester United in the English Premier League on New Year's Day.
"This is the biggest game for any Tottenham person and the manager particularly," Sherwood said. "If we manage to win at the Emirates, it would be pinnacle.
"When the name comes out of the hat and you are playing Arsenal in the third round it's a disappointment, you want a few easier draws, perhaps play a couple of the younger lads, give them that experience, but when you are drawn at the Emirates you cannot afford to do that. We know how much it means to the fans."
"We'll approach the game to win," he said. "When we've got the ball, we've got to try not to give it back to them too quickly because we all know how well they can keep possession. We'll try to get our offensive players on the ball as much as we can and we feel we can cause them some problems.
"This club has great history and tradition, especially in this competition, and we hope we can continue that by winning at the Emirates."
Arsenal were knocked out of the FA Cup by Championship side Blackburn last season, a result which was followed by shouts for Wenger to get the sack. Things have certainly changed for the better since then, with Arsenal currently topping the Premier League table by one point from Manchester City.
"In the case of Blackburn at home [last season] you always say to your players 'be careful' and they think, 'OK, if you do your job you win your match and you go through,'" Wenger said. "But we were a bit unlucky because they only had one shot and they scored. But what was important is that after 15 years we had never gone out against a team from a lower division, so it was a good learning process.
"It was not only a low point in the season it was also something that put us in a very, very bad position to play against Bayern. You could see when we started the game against Bayern that everybody was low on confidence and it cost us a lot.
"It was a big shock and we did not have time to recover because three days later we played against Bayern at home and we were not ourselves. But that's not a danger on Saturday -- the players know this will be a big game.
"Last year when we played Blackburn it was one of the remaining targets of the season but this year because we are in a strong position, it will not stop us from focusing on the Premier League. Still, it's better to go through."
Christian Eriksen celebrates his goal against Manchester United
with Aaron Lennon, January 1. Reuters
The Gunners, courtesy a wonderful defensive display -- not something you associate with Wenger's men, but is always a big factor in the manager's title-winning sides - got the better of Tottenham in the Premier League earlier this season at the Emirates, and the home side will target another scalp against their neighbours and biggest rivals.
Team news: Arsenal: Plenty of worries for Wenger, with Nicklas Bendtner joining the likes of Aaron Ramsey, Kieran Gibbs, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Yaya Sanogo and Abou Diaby on the sidelines. Olivier Giroud is a major doubt after the Frenchman recovered from an ankle injury only to go down with sickness on Friday. Mesut Ozil is another in doubt, with Wenger set to give either Lukas Podolski or Theo Walcott the central striking role.
Tottenham: Much to Sherwood's relief Emmanuel Adebayor has been declared fit to face his former side, after the striker was stretchered off in the win over Manchester United. Jermain Defoe, Lewis Holtby and Andros Townsend returned to training and are available, but the game comes too soon for Sandro and Younes Kaboul. Erik Lamela, Kyle Naughton, Paulinho, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Jan Vertonghen are definitely ruled out.
Key men: Arsenal: Theo Walcott has come to the fore on a few occasions already since his return from injury. Having enjoyed a great outing or two in the past against Spurs, Walcott will be keen yet again to make full use of his pace and finishing nous.
Tottenham: Has to be Adebayor, who has a volatile relationship with Arsenal fans, having left the club for Manchester City in acrimonious circumstances. The last time Adebayor was at the Emirates for Tottenham, he scored the opening goal and then promptly got himself sent off for a horrible tackle - the Togo striker will not want to repeat that performance.
Expected lineups: Arsenal: Szczesny; Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal; Arteta, Wilshere; Walcott, Rosicky, Cazorla; Podolski.
Tottenham: Lloris; Walker, Dawson, Chiriches, Rose; Lennon, Capoue, Dembele, Eriksen; Adebayor, Soldado.
Prediction: 2-1 to Arsenal
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