Arsene Wenger has warned his Arsenal players not to lose their composure again when they face bitter rivals Tottenham Hotspur in the League Cup third round on Wednesday night.
Wenger’s side head to White Hart Lane for the first North London derby of the season after two successive defeats featuring three red cards for Arsenal.
France striker Olivier Giroud was dismissed in last week’s Uefa Champions League loss against Dynamo Zagreb, while Brazilian defender Gabriel Paulista and Spanish midfielder Santi Cazorla were sent off in Saturday’s 2-0 defeat at Chelsea.
Wenger largely blamed Chelsea’s Diego Costa for provoking Gabriel into the kick that led to his dismissal. Arsenal last night won an appeal against Gabriel’s sending off at Chelsea, meaning the centre-back escapes a three-match ban. He still faces a separate charge of improper conduct for his reaction after being shown the red card by referee Mike Dean, the English Football Association said.
Wenger acknowledges his team need to do a better job of keeping their emotions under control even in the face of extreme provocation.
“It’s true that we played the last two games with 10 men in the second half and I hope we play the next one with 11 v 11,” Wenger said. “But it’s another derby and that’s not guaranteed as well.”
Yet there are few more testing environments in which to do that than White Hart Lane on derby day, when the hatred and bile will pour down from the stands towards Wenger’s players.
Another factor that could negate Wenger’s attempts to clamp down on the red cards is Arsenal’s desperation to get back on track after a pair of defeats that raised renewed questions about their ability to win the Premier League and Champions League.
Although the League Cup is traditionally well down Wenger’s list of priorities and he often fields inexperienced starting line-ups in the competition, Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey suggested he would not mind skipping an evening’s rest to help his club to a morale-boosting win.
“It’s not good enough for a club like Arsenal to lose two games in a row,” Ramsey said. “Hopefully now we can put things right on Wednesday. It will be a feisty game with hopefully some goals in our favour.”
While Arsenal’s spluttering start to the season has taken a turn for the worse over the last week, Tottenham have recorded three consecutive victories to revive hopes of a successful season after a sluggish opening.
Tottenham’s Belgian defender Jan Vertonghen believes manager Mauricio Pochettino is building a young team capable of great things.
The 23-year-old South Korea forward Son Heung-min is the new hero of the Lane after his first Premier League goal – his third in just three appearances in all competitions – clinched a 1-0 win over Crystal Palace on Sunday.
Son’s fine start following his transfer from Bayer Leverkusen is part of a youth movement also including Dele Alli, 19, Eric Dier, 21, Ben Davies and Harry Kane, both 22, and Erik Lamela and Christian Eriksen, who are 23.
“Things are looking very good. We have great young players and a good mix, so there are great things for the team if we can keep working like this. It looks very good for the future,” Vertonghen said.
One concern, however, remains the usually prolific Kane’s disappointing form.
The England striker is without a club goal this season but Vertonghen is confident he will rediscover his touch soon.
“He has just been a bit unlucky,” Vertonghen said. “He scored for England and in the training sessions he has been doing very well, so the goals will come. He’s not a guy who will just have one good season and then you never see him again. He has the qualities to perform and the goals will come eventually.”
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