Crowd factor crucial as Spurs’ Gallas prepares to face Arsenal
ROHAN Ricketts, who moved from Arsenal to Tottenham in 2002, feels that William Gallas has the character to raise his game if he faces his old club in a Lilywhite shirt in tomorrow’s north London derby.
EX-ARSENAL and Spurs winger Rohan Ricketts believes that William Gallas won’t feel any extra pressure if he faces Arsenal tomorrow night – but admits that the crowd could be a big factor in his performance.
Ricketts became only the fourth player to move directly from Arsenal to Tottenham in 2002, winning the FA Youth Cup with Arsene Wenger’s side in 2000 and 2001 and making one senior appearance in the League Cup against Manchester United.
After moving down the Seven Sisters Road to White Hart Lane, he made 36 first-team appearances for Spurs under Glenn Hoddle, Jacques Santini and Martin Jol, winning the Player of the Month award in August and September 2004.
Ricketts was the last player to move from Spurs to Arsenal before Gallas’ shock switch this summer, and the ex-Gunners skipper is set to face his old team on Tuesday in the third round of the Carling Cup at White Hart Lane.
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“For me all the games are the same, but it is the fans and what they do before and during the game that makes you think there is more pressure,” said Ricketts.
“I was involved in two north London derbies – they are intense but they are just another game for the players.
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“I don’t know if Gallas will play in the game on Tuesday, but if he does I’m sure he won’t feel any pressure. He is a seasoned professional, a top defender and it won’t be a problem for him. It could even spur him on to perform even better.
“Of course we could also see David Bentley playing against his old team. He has already played a few times for Tottenham against Arsenal and he hasn’t done too badly – he scored a wonderful goal in a 4-4 draw at the Emirates at couple of seasons back.
“I think with the game being played at White Hart Lane that will give Tottenham the advantage with their supporters getting behind them, especially with last season’s game at White Hart Lane being fresh in a lot of the players’ minds. I think Spurs will just edge this one.”
Tottenham and Arsenal could cross swords in five different competitions this season, and Spurs fans have every reason to be positive ahead of this first meeting of the campaign.
Harry Redknapp’s Lilywhites triumphed 2-1 at the Lane in the league towards the end the last campaign, sending Tottenham on their way to securing fourth spot– and in turn ending the Gunners’ hopes of winning title with a late surge.
Tottenham fans will also have fond memories of the last time the sides met in the Carling Cup in January 2008, when Juande Ramos’ Spurs ran out 5-1 winners in the second leg of the semi-final in N17 before going on beat Chelsea in the Wembley final.
Despite the intense local rivalry surrounding this third-round tie, Ricketts expects to see weakened teams at the Lane tomorrow night.
The 27-year-old is convinced that Wenger will continue with his policy of blooding his youngsters in this competition – and he also predicts that Redknapp will utilise the depth of his squad.
“I think Wenger will put out a young side, I don’t think he will change that for the game on Tuesday,” he said. “I don’t think the footballing philosophy is going to change, whether it’s the Arsenal A team, the B team or even if there is a C team. They are all going to be playing the same way.
“As for Spurs, I feel Redknapp will give some of the guys who haven’t played yet this season a chance. They have good depth in the squad. I think you will see some players for Tottenham that you don’t often see.”
While Spurs boast a high percentage of English players in their squad, Arsenal famously failed to name a single one in their 25-man squad at the start of September, classing the likes of Cesc Fabregas, Nicklas Bendtner and Denilson as ‘home-grown’.
However, the Gunners have 14 Englishmen who are aged 21 and under in contention to play tomorrow night, including England internationals Theo Walcott, Jack Wilshere and Kieran Gibbs.
Ricketts, who came up through the Arsenal youth system, is happy to see more of his countrymen developing at the club.
“It is definitely a good thing to see more English players getting a chance at Arsenal,” he said.
“We do see a lot of foreign players at the club but I remember when I was in the team we had some talented English players – like you are seeing at the moment with Jack Wilshere.
“Wenger is playing him 90 minutes here and there, which is great to see and I rate Jack Wilshere really highly.”