| Gedion Zelalem |
London: Emmanuel Adebayor, who was carried off on a stretcher during Tottenham Hotspur’s 2-1 win at Manchester United on New Year’s Day, is fit and will start against his former club Arsenal in the FA Cup third round on Saturday.
That was not the only good news for Spurs on the injury front as Jermain Defoe, Andros Townsend and Lewis Holtby were all back in training on Friday after being sidelined with various ailments.
“How important will Adebayor be tomorrow? It’s huge,” said Tottenham’s new manager Tim Sherwood, who has revitalised the side since taking over from Andre Villas-Boas last month.
“I think if (Arsenal manager) Arsene Wenger saw him limping off at Old Trafford, I’m sure there were a lot of pleased Arsenal fans and players. Unfortunately, he’s going to be walking out against them tomorrow. It didn’t look great when he came off on that stretcher but he is a warrior. There is no holding him back at the moment.”
The fact Adebayor will play, having recovered from “various cramps”, is a big boost for Spurs after the 29-year-old Togolese has scored four goals in the five matches he has played since his return.
Last season at Arsenal he scored twice to give Spurs the lead and was then sent off seven minutes later as the Gunners exploited his absence to end up 5-2 winners in a league match.
Wenger offered some grudging praise for the Gunners’ fiercest rivals, who they meet in the Cup for the first time since beating them 2-1 in the semi-finals in 2001.
“They won at Manchester United and played very well, but United have been a bit more vulnerable at home this season and they took full advantage of that playing with good pace going forward,” he said.
He added he had noticed a more attacking intent to Spurs’ game since Sherwood took control. “They are more adventurous. With (Roberto) Soldado and Adebayor, they have found a balance — at the moment that suits the team well. They always looked dangerous at United and that’s certainly the pair we will have to keep quiet.”
With Adebayor set to play against his old club, Wenger is very concerned about the threat from the striker he signed from Monaco in 2006.
“What is amazing for him is how fit he was when he came back — how quickly he adapted to top-level competition again,” he said. “He’s a player with special talent, I’m in a good position to know.”
If these Arsenal are coping with a long injury list with strikers Olivier Giroud and Nicklas Bendtner set to miss the game along with midfielder Aaron Ramsey (thigh) and defender Kieran Gibbs (calf) while playmaker Mezut Ozil is battling for match fitness.
Under the circumstances, Wenger may call on the latest Arsenal wonder kid, Gedion Zelalem, for the match.
The gifted 16-year-old midfielder has already been on the substitutes’ bench, against Tottenham and Fulham in the Premier League early this season, but was then sidelined for two months through injury. He returned for Arsenal U-21s in November and an impressive performance against United U-21s on Dec. 20 convinced Wenger to promote him to train with the first team again.
Form often counts for nothing in Derbies, but both sides enter the match in good spirits with Arsenal top of the Premier League table and Spurs having taken 10 points from a possible 12 over the Christmas holiday period.
Arsenal have lost only once at home to Spurs in any match since 1993 and will be looking to follow up their 1-0 league win in September, which came after successive 5-2 home league wins over Spurs.
Both managers kept their cards close to their chests regarding players they might want to sign during the transfer window with Wenger saying they had not considered signing former Spurs striker Dimitar Berbatov from Fulham, despite widespread media speculation.