Gunners face stress test

Arsenal defender Gabriel Paulista has been charged by the FA for his extended protests after being sent off during their 0-2 loss to Chelsea.
Arsenal defender Gabriel Paulista has been charged by the FA for his extended protests after being sent off during their 0-2 loss to Chelsea.PHOTO: REUTERS

Wenger warns his players not to be provoked in League Cup tie with Spurs

LONDON • Arsene Wenger has warned his hot-headed Arsenal players not to lose their composure again when they face bitter rivals Tottenham Hotspur in the League Cup third round today.

Wenger's side head to White Hart Lane for the first North London derby of the season after two successive defeats that featured three red cards for the Gunners.

France striker Olivier Giroud was dismissed in last week's 1-2 Champions League loss against Dinamo Zagreb, while Brazilian defender Gabriel Paulista and Spanish midfielder Santi Cazorla were sent off in Saturday's painful 2-0 defeat by Chelsea.

Wenger largely blamed Chelsea's Diego Costa for provoking Gabriel into the kick that led to his dismissal.

However, the centre-back has since been charged with improper conduct for his protests after being sent off, and the Arsenal manager 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 versus 11," Wenger said.

"But it's another derby and that's not guaranteed as well."

There are few more testing environments in which to do that than White Hart Lane on derby day, when the fans' hatred will pour down from the stands towards the Gunners.

Another factor that could negate Wenger's attempts to clamp down on the rash of red cards is Arsenal's desperation to get back on track after defeats that revived questions about their ability to win the major trophies.

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," he 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 start.

Spurs' Belgian defender Jan Vertonghen believes the manager Mauricio Pochettino is building a young team capable of great things.

South Korea forward Son Heung Min, 23, is the latest idol of the Lane after his first Premier League goal - and 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 19-year-old Dele Alli, 21-year-old Eric Dier, 22-year-olds Ben Davies and Harry Kane and 23-year-olds Erik Lamela and Christian Eriksen.

"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 international striker is still without a club goal this season .

"He has just been a bit unlucky," said Vertonghen.

"He scored for England and in the training sessions he has been doing very well, so the goals will come."


3rd rd: Tottenham v Arsenal
Singtel TV Ch109, tomorrow, 2.40am

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 23, 2015, with the headline 'GUNNERS FACE STRESS TEST'. Print Edition | Subscribe