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TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR FC

The Emirates Stadium, North London
September 1, 2013, 08:30 PM IST (16:00 B.S.T)

Arsenal Football Club never cease to surprise their fans, be it in the transfer market or on the pitch. However things have looked a lot more on the brighter side after the horrendous start to the season with an opening day defeat at the hands of Aston Villa. After securing a berth in the Champions League group stages, the Gunners will look to focus on the league and the small matter of a North London Derby.

The derby comes at a very tricky time for both clubs, neither of who have convinced the neutrals of their credentials thus far. However Tottenham have brought in numerous new faces to the club, the latest of them being Danish starlet Christian Eriksen from Ajax after completing the record signing of Eric Lamela earlier in the week. There is a feel good atmosphere around White Hart Lane as a result, despite the impending loss of Gareth Bale, who looks to secure his dream move to Real Madrid. Arsenal and Arsene Wenger on the other hand find themselves under the gun in terms of transfer dealings having only brought in Mathieu Flamini and Yaya Sanogo thus far in the window, both on free. With the clearing of deadwood, the leftover squad looks extremely thin and with a number of injuries to key players already, Le Prof faces severe pressure to deliver in terms of transfer activity.

Tottenham have won all their games this season and seem genuinely confident before the big clash at the Grove. The Spurs have missed out on the Champions League to their bitter rivals on the final day of the season, for 2 seasons running and despite being only 3 weeks into the season would recognize the importance of  this fixture, in terms of points and the psychological effect a win or loss may have on either side. The Spurs squad definitely looks stronger and better equipped than last season both quality-wise and depth-wise. In Andre Villas Boas they have a manager who is both tactically sound and plays good football and can transform them from pretenders into contenders. However the only problem that might begin to come to fore is AVB’s knowledge of his best 11. The squad has an abundance of midfielders but is the Portuguese man really aware of what setup they best fit in? Arsene Wenger will have his own selection headaches with a depleted squad to choose from. The North London derby has seldom disappointed and with both teams having a lot to prove, to critics and fans alike, this could be another classic game of football.

Team News and Tactical Brief

Arsenal

Arsenal would be glad to have Laurent Koscielny back in the lineup after his red card suspension against Fulham. The North Londoners however lead the injury table and with a good margin. Adding to the list of injury layoffs is German international Lukas Podolski who suffered a hamstring tear and won’t be back until November according to Arsene Wenger. The former Bayern striker netted a brace against Fulham last weekend but will be unavailable for the derby on Sunday, joining the likes of Diaby, Chamberlain, Vermaelen and Arteta on the sidelines. The latter 2, the captain and the vice-captain are the closest to a return with both penciled for a return against Stoke City.

One player who has left the injury demons behind him is Aaron Ramsey. 3 consecutive man of the match performances means he is one of the first names on the squad. Ramsey has evolved in his role and has shown how seamlessly he can fit into the formation, adjusting his game according to the players around him. Rosicky has looked jaded this season and last weekend against Fulham he was visibly tired. Wenger gave him the week off and there is a good chance he would start in the attacking midfield role with Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey occupying central midfield. The attacking trio pick themselves with Theo on the right, Santi on the left and Giroud upfront. Flamini’s return to the club and straight into the matchday squad provides a good option for Wenger but the odds of him starting the game are low. The shape will be a 433 with all midfielders needing to put in a shift against a midfield of Capoue-Paulinho-Dembele. The physical ability of the Tottenham midfield is much greater on paper but if the Arsene Wenger gets his act right, with better technical players in the side, he could have the Tottenham midfield chase shadows.

Probable Starting XI: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs, Wilshere, Ramsey, Rosicky, Walcott, Cazorla, Giroud

Tottenham Hotspur

Tottenham have won 2 out of 2 in the league so far and are brimming with confidence. Andre Villas Boas might choose to field the same starting eleven that beat Swansea as Aaron Lennon continues to remain a doubt with a foot injury. Left back Assou-Ekotto and striker Emmanuel Adebayor will not feature due to a lack of match fitness. New signings Chiriches, Lamela and Eriksen will all look to impress the manager in training in order to get a starting spot on Sunday night. Soldado’s good start to the season means Defoe’s push to get back in the lineup will bear no fruit as of now.

Tottenham have already played more than 1 formation this season and with a host of new players we can expect more of the same as the season progresses. However on Sunday they might stick to the 433 he employed against Swansea with Lamela making his debut in place of Townsend. The youngster was extremely impressive last Sunday but AVB might be tempted to give Lamela a dream debut in one of the most entertaining derbies in football. The backline will remain the same with Benoit Assou Ekotto still recovering and Rose doing a commendable job in his place. The instructions would be to crowd out the midfield and with the presence of Paulinho and Capoue they have more than sufficient steel in the middle to break Arsenal’s play. With the pace and trickery of their attack, the midfield would hope to initiate counters by pressing hard. Walcott against Rose will be another interesting battle with Theo’s pace causing a constant threat to last season’s Sunderland player of the year.

Probable Starting XI: Lloris, Walker, Vertonghen, Dawson, Rose, Paulinho, Dembele, Capoue, Chadli, Lamela, Soldado

Key Facts

1. This fixture has seen 124 goals scored in the Premier League era, more than any other fixture.

2. Olivier Giroud has scored 11 of his 13 Premier league goals at the Emirates and all 13 in London itself.

3. Only Eden Hazard has created more chances in the Premier League than Nacer Chadli(9).

4. 13 of the last 14 matches between the 2 sides have gone over 2.5 goals.

Player to watch out for

Paulinho

Paulinho could be key to Spurs’ chances on Sunday

Might seem like a weird choice and it is, but despite Soldado scoring all the goals and Townsend causing damage whenever given a chance, it’s Paulinho who remains key to Tottenham’s structure and shape. The Brazilian’s arrival at White Hart Lane has stocked up the Tottenham midfield adding bite and bringing a much needed stability factor in the middle. Paulinho has taken to the Premier League like a duck to water. Against man of the moment Aaron Ramsey and Santi Cazorla, Paulinho will need to be at his sharpest and look to stop Arsenal from playing their passing game. His performances have only improved ever since joining the Lily Whites but this will be the real test for the Brazilian international who would be central to any chances Spurs have of winning the derby.

Prediction

Arsenal 2-2 Tottenham Hotspur

The Gunners have won the last 2 North London derbies held at the Emirates by a 5-2 scoreline and a bet on the same would be a good shout but with the teams a lot closer than previous seasons and the atmosphere around Arsenal not the most positive, the Gunners could feel the pressure playing in front of their home fans. Having come this close to the end of the transfer window there is a sense of anxiety among the fans and that could play a part if the team isn’t winning heading towards the last quarter of the game. However the players would be motivated enough by the manager and by the magitude of the ocassion. Most of the Spurs midfield and attack will be playing their first North London derby while every Arsenal player who will start on Sunday has been involved in this fixture before. That in itself swings the advantage meter in favour of the home side. Could be a sneaky win, but sitting on the fence seems the best bet.

Blast From The Past