I could not be more excited about tomorrow. First off, it’s Derby Day. That in and of itself makes for a fantastic day. But what makes the day even better is the Arkansas-Texas A&M game later in the afternoon. I cannot think of a better fall Saturday combination than the North London Derby and Arkansas playing on SEC on CBS. Well, maybe if the Red Sox-Yankees game meant something… But let’s forget about that. I’m still living in 2013 on that front.
I’ll start off with Arsenal. I don’t care who you are or what you might be doing, but if you are an Arsenal fan in any capacity, you have to be excited for Arsenal-Spurs at The Emirates. This is our chance to dig Tottenham’s grave, as the Mauricio Pocchettino reign has gotten off to a hilariously bad start. Think he had losing at home to West Brom as part of his grand plan?
When I first became a fan, I didn’t quite understand the joy Arsenal fans get from Spurs misery. But now I love every second of it. It’s not personal. But I hate those guys. And I hate everything about that club. My hatred of Tottenham is almost comical. I have such little respect for their club and their players that I almost feel sorry for everyone still walking around wearing Gareth Bale jerseys. Arsenal is just better in every way.
And for Arsenal, this is a time to forget all the distractions and just play. Prior results do not matter when the Gunners take the field on Derby Day. All that counts is beating Spurs. Players and fans have more of a connection on this day than any others, and the new boys should thrive off of that positive energy at The Emirates. Recently, games against Spurs have seen Arsenal players let go of their anxieties and troubles and just play. Just go out and let the adrenaline take over.
Tactically, I want Arsenal to field the same team as they did against Aston Villa, with Alexis Sanchez coming back in for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. I wouldn’t be opposed to giving Jack Wilshere the nod ahead of Aaron Ramsey, but if Ramsey’s going to get back to his best, the rush of this atmosphere could do it. I also worry about Wilshere in intense matches. One moment of losing his cool could cost his team dearly. If the team is lacking bite, bring on Wilshere and Mathieu Flamini, but at the start, beat Spurs with pace and skill rather than guts and brawn.
For everyone involved for Arsenal, this is a chance to show the world that they mean business. It is also a chance to forever endear themselves to the fans. Score a winner against Spurs, and we’ll love you. For Danny Welbeck and Sanchez, and even for Özil, a goal tomorrow would go a long way.
My prediction for the match is an optimistic one. I just can’t fathom a loss to this wretched Tottenham side. I’ll say 3-1 good guys. Arsenal will bring the punch, and Spurs won’t be able to match. Get excited.
Before I will be able to catch my breath after the Arsenal game, it will be time for Arkansas. Beyond what’s at stake, the simple fact that I will get to hear Verne Lundquist and Gary Danielson call a Razorback game again gets me fired up. There is no better announcer out there than Mr. Danielson. He’s insightful, unbiased, and coupled with Lundquist’s excited tone on big plays, he and Verne make for an excellent team.
I expect there to be plenty to talk about, for Arkansas and Texas A&M are well-matched, albeit in an odd way. Lots has been made of this game being A&M’s passing attack vs. Arkansas’s rushing attack. But it’s more than that. This game will come down to defense, and the respective abilities of the defenses to capitalize on mistakes.
Kenny Hill may be good, but he’s still inexperienced on the big stage, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him struggle a little bit. If Arkansas can get pressure up front, Hill might throw a few ducks. And it will be up to Arkansas’s secondary to take advantage of those errors. And the opposite is true as well, as I can guarantee you Brandon Allen won’t play the perfect game.
Arkansas’s offensive line should have little trouble wearing down the Texas A&M defense as the game goes on, so expect giant holes to open up for Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams in the second half. If Arkansas can sustain drives in the opening half and keep the score close, I think they’ll close the game well. However, should A&M get ahead early, I don’t think Allen is quite good enough to lead Arkansas back through the air.
It’s funny to think back to the last time this game was played in Dallas. Bobby Petrino was the coach and things were great. Tyler Wilson threw for a school record 510 yards as Arkansas came back from an 18 point deficit at the half to win a thriller. Jarius Wright had 281 yards receiving on 13 catches. (Arkansas also came back to Dallas for the Cotton Bowl later that year – the last time they played there.)
It’s been a long three years for Arkansas football since that day, and things have certainly changed. But now, Arkansas is back at Jerry’s World. This time, they won’t be passing the ball quite so much, but after two years of crumbling and rebuilding, this is finally an Arkansas team worthy of taking the field on the big stage. I don’t know if they are quite ready to win a big time SEC West game, but I can’t wait to see them fight.
Tomorrow will be a great day to be a fan. It’s a day worth celebrating. Now go out and win the games, boys.