The tale of Tomas and Andrey

By Avenell Dave

Have you noticed why the first team is not doing so well?

A few tired legs, a failure by Le Boss to mix things up a bit and a lack of experience pretty much sums it up in my opinion.

Steve Claridge was on Radio 5 recently and waxed lyrical about Thomas Vermaelen but said that a shortish ball-playing centre-back was not exactly what Arsenal needed, and that despite impressive performances going forward, he had been at fault for a number of Arsenal's goals.

Maybe.

But the fact is, while most of us have got very frustrated at the enduring fitness battle Tomas Rosicky has had over the past 20 months, he has brought something to the team that has been lost with his absence.

I admit, I wanted Arsene Wenger to sign someone to replace Rosicky in the summer and next year that may well be the case.

Wenger doesn't believe wingers can play at their top level beyond 30 because of the need for fitness and pace - and at 29 and in the last year of his contract, it will be interesting to see if Wenger maintains the same stance he had (incorrectly in my opinion) with Robert Pires, Sylvain Wiltord and others.

But his maturity, experience and impact on the rest of the team cannot be under-estimated.

Rosicky knows when to pass, when to shoot, how to involve others and how to support Cesc Fabregas in conducting the orchestra. No wonder he is known as 'Little Mozart' in his homeland, the Czech Republic.

Without him, the side lacks balance and dynamism and the experience to close games down and the fact that he is again missing this lunchtime is a real loss for the Gunners.

That means Andrey Arshavin has even more pressure on him to deliver the sort of performance we have seen so often since he first donned an Arsenal shirt earlier this year.

We all know what the Russian can do. He is quick, clever and has an eye for goal and how we need a great performance from him tomorrow.

But he has been subdued of late. Notwithstanding the goal he scored against Birmingham City the other week, he still looked isolated, slightly disinterested and a passenger for much of the game. The same was true at West Ham last Sunday.

So today, Arshavin has to do what we know he is capable of - and that is to take his chances, to cut T*tt*nh*m apart.

He is capable of winning big matches and a convincing win tomorrow would be a great fillip after recent frustrations.

We have a handful of games before the next interminable international break, which will hopefully give Theo Walcott, Rosicky and others the chance to recover.

But in the meantime it's up to Arshavin to show why he is one of the greatest players on earth and remind the sheisters from the L*ne who is the top club in North London.