Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal: And finally... Arsenal can call on midfielder Kim Kallstrom
Deadline-day signing became an embarrassment for Arsène Wenger but he could be pivotal in north London derby as he makes long-awaited debut
Sunday 16 March 2014
It is a fixture that has become famous for remarkable recoveries over the past few seasons, but this would possibly lift it to a new level. Arsène Wenger certainly wasn't shy about raising the prospect.
The Arsenal manager, in fact, spoke as if he always knew it was going to pan out this way. Today, just six weeks after Kim Kallstrom's loan signing caused all manner of embarrassing headlines, the Swedish midfielder is finally set to make his debut in the white heat of a White Hart Lane derby.
The added twist is he is now badly needed. While Kallstrom has fully recovered from the back injury farcically discovered during his medical, a spate of other knocks leave Arsenal badly stretched in midfield.
On making the signing, Wenger admitted it would not have happened had it been any other time than 5pm on deadline day, but he added: "There's a possibility he will not play, but also a possibility he will score a vital winning goal." When those words were put to the Arsenal manager on Friday, he only smiled. Wenger did reveal, however, that Kallstrom has also brought smiles to the squad.
"He is a fantastic guy. Motivation, attitude – spot on. Readiness to put the effort in – spot on. And I think he can play an important part in the end of our season. We are all absolutely happy to have him with us because, on a daily basis, he's a joy to watch."
Wenger said embarrassment was the main emotion he felt with news of the injury Kallstrom suffered playing beach football just before signing. "Yes, but, as I explained, we found a good agreement with [Spartak] Moscow. At the end of the day, it was a question of signing him or signing nobody. Now that Jack [Wilshere] is injured and [Aaron] Ramsey out we are happy to have him. He can have a major impact on the season."
If that starts today, it could continue the trend of the second derby of the season having a major impact on the rest of it. In 2010, a 2-1 victory saw Tottenham take command of fourth place. In 2012, Arsenal came back from 2-0 down to win 5-2, serving as a distinct turning point in the entire campaign, and last year a 2-1 Spurs win proved Arsenal's last defeat of the season.
For such a volatile match, it has developed a habit of providing clarity. Arsenal need a win to keep pace in the title race; Spurs need a win to keep their season alive. As such, it is difficult to say who needs it more. Wenger offered Spurs the back-handed compliment of stating they are having a "good season", while Tim Sherwood attempted to shift the pressure back on to Arsenal.
The Tottenham manager was asked about the derby meaning more to his club. "Not this year," he shot back. "They're looking upwards and if they want to progress they can't lose."
There can be little disputing, however, that Spurs have lost any sense of progress they had. The initial impetus under Sherwood has given way to an impotent confusion. It is very difficult to tell where or what they are as a team. If Arsenal have a greater objective in chasing the title, Spurs have a greater need to knit the squad back together. The negatives of the last week have only emphasised that, with Sherwood pointing to the reduced time to recover after Thursday's Europa League game against Benfica.
"It is a disadvantage," he said. "We have players who are carrying injuries and they need extra time to get fit. Unfortunately, our record hasn't been fantastic after the Europa League games. Everything is against us to win this game. It is a real dark spell for us at the moment. These last two games [against Chelsea and Benfica] we've taken heavy defeats and this is a great opportunity for them bounce back."
Tottenham v Arsenal is on Sky Sports 1 today, kick-off 4pm
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