Arsene Wenger has no tactical plans to stop Gareth Bale. No, not even the Harlem Shake, as Per Mertesacker gets it going with his pelvic thrusting at "Con Los Terroristas" before the whole Arsenal side and visiting fans join him at 'Do the Harlem Shake" in front of goal. Given his devastating form, Bale might still tele-kinetically bend a ball through.
However, Wenger when asked felt Bale would find it difficult to sustain that form.
" No, to maintain that percentage at the moment I think it's certainly the best in Europe but, in terms of conversion rate and chances created, to maintain that is very, very difficult."
The Arsenal manager might be giving a positive spin on the Bale revolution but really to downplay his scoring chances is being a bit overly optimistic. All indications are that the Welshman has not sated his hunger for goals so the question becomes one of damage limitation. He'll be due his one or two but make sure there are no more and always score more. Wenger seems to be saying that he expects a shootout at the fantasy factory and the edge is with Arsenal with its decidedly larger group of scoring saviours.
Bakary Sagna will not be back and in his stead it will be Carl Jenkinson. The right back had a very decent game against Villa showing speed and robust tackling against the likes of Agbanlahor but Bale is in a different league altogether. Andre Villa-Boas has been employing the winger more centrally and so the area sweeping down the left to the middle has to have speedier players than the more leaden footed Arteta or Ramsey. The chances of Abou Diaby being declared fit is about even but he's still shaking off major rust and any of these three might be taken to the cleaners.
One is tempted to take a chance with Frances Coquelin to protect the area in front of the back four because he does have the pace. Arteta has been guilty also of turning his back when a player has a go at goal and it has cost Arsenal. Given Bale's trigger foot, we need a player with the spinal fortitude to suffer his face and body being rearranged. Coquelin showed that courage when thrown into the cauldron against Utd last season. His subsequent outings reveal a player with the mettle to dish it out too. There may not be a plan but a good rule of thumb would be to close the gap so that Bale's shot is either blocked or unsighted is sent off target. He thrives on a backpedaling defense and cheap giveaways. See West Ham, see Newcastle, see West Brom, see ad nauseum.
The other way is to starve off the supply from Moussa Dembele and Scott Parker so that Bale drifts back deeper. Theo Walcott can play a huge part in taking his former Soton comrade out of attack mode by forcing him to track back in support of Benoit Assou Ekotto.
On paper, one can hope to slow down Bale on open field but he can kill you with his set pieces which are now rated higher than Cristiano Ronaldo's stemwinders. Basically, he's every opposing managers nightmare. A player who can render useless any plans and seize the whole match in an instant. Arsenal have to outshoot Spurs and grasp at every scoring opportunity. The Spurs defense have been questionable and before Bale's match winning daggers, their notoriety was the inability to hold onto a lead. They have stiffened of late although that Joe Cole goal, a wonderful piece of invention, resulted after Jan Vertonghen switched off. That should give the Gunners hope.
One area where we have been woeful, actually that is too kind a descriptor, nay downright abject is our own set piece conversions.
We have only scored six goals out of all those myriad corners and free kicks that we create with Oliver Giroud leading the way with four goals from set pieces. Thomas Vermaelen, a reliable aerial threat in the past has drawn a complete blank this season after scoring 6 the previous one. RVP's record goalscoring exploits takes all the shine but equally praiseworthy was his corner kick service which would hang up the ball in the air as a juicy morsel. He's doing the same at Utd and both Evra and Jonny Evans have benefited with some big strikes. In fact, Arsenal's defense as a goalscoring unit ranks amongst the worst in the Premiership. Spurs have the edge on Sunday with 7. Amongst rivals, Chelsea have 9, Everton on the strength of Leighton Baines's free kicks have 6, giving context to Arsenal's dry spell from its back line.
Against Spurs we have to be more threatening on set pieces. And we have to be more clinical from the open field. Spurs have relied on the spectacular. Tom Huddlestone, Rafael Van Der Vaart, Danny Rose, Gareth Bale came out of left field to deflate the Gunners. This maybe the defining match of the season not just because it is the most important North London derby in quite sometime and victory would give three very important points to keep challenging for a top four finish but it would help this side find its self belief.