Aside from a goal like the one Nathan Ake scored inside three minutes against Liverpool, there are few more sights guaranteed to get the 9,000 away fans going shortly after 1.30pm at the Emirates stadium tomorrow than Troy Deeney leaving his mark on one of Arsenal’s remaining fit defenders. You can almost hear the strains of ‘Deeney, Deeney, Deeney’.
Being the heartbeat of the club let alone the team and a totemic figure in attack, Deeney knows he has a responsibility to set the tone in every game, but particularly tomorrow in Arsenal’s imposing backyard. He doesn’t need to be asked; he does it instinctively. It’s a responsibility he enjoys. He knows one early act of brute strength can strike fear into the opposition and allow his teammates to feed off the energy it creates. He did it subtly but effectively in Watford’s last away game, dumping Timothy Fosu Mensah, United’s eager young buck of a defender, on the seat of his pants early on at Old Trafford.
“You have it with most people,” said Deeney who has the attitude of ‘the bigger they are, the harder they fall’. “At the start of the Leicester game, me and big Wes ]Morgan] were talking in the tunnel and he was saying, ‘Not another one!’ He knows as soon as I get the chance I’m going to put some on him – and I did. He knows how strong I am but with the training I am doing now I can hit someone as hard as I used to but now I’m able to keep in the motion. Before I used to have to stop and then whack into someone. I can now hold someone off with my arm and still keep running. I said to Wes: ‘You know it’s coming’.”
Deeney is a not a bully boy or advocating going round smashing the opposition. He does it to test his opponent’s mental fortitude and to see if he can gain an early psychological edge.
“I actually look forward to it against the likes of Huth and Morgan,” he said. “When it’s down the side and we are shoulder to shoulder or the ball is coming into me, I back myself against anybody.”
With a sore head from the clash with Nick Powell on Tuesday night, Per Mertesacker would be forgiven for having a sleepless night at the prospect of Deeney giving him a searching examination at the Emirates.
“It must be in the back of his mind that does he want Troy and Ighalo running at him with a bit of a gash?” said Watford’s captain. “And, with the greatest of respect, running isn’t his strongest point. If we can look to get down the sides of him and rough him up then we could have a lot of joy.”