Emirates Stadium, North London
September 27st, 2014; 17:30 GMT
Going into Saturday’s North London Derby, both Arsenal and Tottenham find themselves in the middle of acclimating to new circumstances. Arsenal have to build cohesion in a side with new players like Alexis Sanchez and gain an understanding of how to best operate in 4-1-4-1 system that Wenger has decided to go with this season. Tottenham have to understand how to execute the game plan of a new manager (again). This time they must adjust to the high lines, high pressing, counter pressing, quick passing, and direct style of Mauricio Pochettino. It seems a shame that a derby match must occur with these two teams not close to reaching their potential. While that may lead to a match of a lower caliber, with respect to footballing quality, it makes this match a bit more unpredictable.
Team News and Tactics
Arsenal find themselves without the services of Mathieu Debuchy, Nacho Monreal, Theo Walcott, Olivier Giroud, Yaya Sanogo, and Serge Gnabry due to injury. However, it appears that Kieran Gibbs and Per Mertesacker will be fit for Saturday’s match. As long as Laurent Koscielny’s Achilles tendon does not flare up, Arsenal should have their first-choice center back pairing available.
Arsenal will probably continue with their 4-1-4-1 formation with Wojciech Sczcesny in goal with a back four of Kieran Gibbs at left-back, Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker at center back, and one of Calum Chambers or Hector Bellerin at right-back. With Chambers functioning as the second choice right center back, one could see the 19 year old Spaniard start in this game, and in future games to limit the risk of a Chambers injury leaving Arsenal with no recognizable back-up for Per Mertesacker. In front of the back four, Mikel Arteta with probably play as the holder.
Now at this point, the decision becomes much more difficult. Before the Aston Villa game, Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey played as the central two in the 4-1-4-1, which led to Mesut Ozil playing from the left. Combined with Alexis Sanchez, Arsenal tended to have too many players in the center of the pitch 20-30 meters away from goal, causing Ozil to move out or stay away from the center, to provide his teammates more time and space. Against Villa, with no Jack Wilshere in the side and Santi Cazorla’s willingness to stay wide, the center of the pitch was more open, and Ozil look at his free role best. With Jack Wilshere playing a full 90 minutes against Southampton, it may be that Wenger will keep Wilshere on the bench, especially with a Champions League match on Wednesday.
To finish off the center of Arsenal’s formation, Danny Welbeck likely starts at center forward, in front of Ozil and Ramsey. With a Champions League match and a match against Chelsea next Sunday, Alexis Sanchez may be rested after playing against Southampton in the League Cup. Therefore, Wenger could wind up with the same line-up he had against Aston Villa with Santi Cazorla on the left and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on the right.
Possible Starting Line-up (4-1-4-1): Szczesny (GK), Chambers, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs; Ramsey, Arteta; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ozil, Cazorla, Welbeck
Tottenham has less of an issue with injuries, with only Kyle Walker as a certain miss as he recovers from surgery.
With his team looking to gain familiarity with the system, Pochettino will probably field a side similar to what his Premier League XIs have been. The formation will probably be a 4-2-3-1. In goal, Hugo Lloris will start. Eric Dier will play at right-back, Younes Kaboul and Vlad Chiriches at center back, and Danny Rose at left-back. In front of the back four, as the midfield base pair in Spurs’ 4-2-3-1, Moussa Dembele and Etienne Capoue will probably play. An attacking trio of Erik Lamela, Christian Eriksen, and Nacer Chadli will probably play behind Emmanuel Adebayor, despite his form this season, to round out the formation.
Spurs have yet to come anywhere near the heights Southampton hit under Pochettino. Under the Argentinean’s guidance, the Saints pressing and direct attacking made them a force to be reckoned with by any Premier League club, when healthy. If anything needs to change for the Tottenham side to live up to the expectations of their manager, it must be the play of the midfield base pair. With Pochettino’s desire for quickly moving the ball, upon recovery, into the attacking third, one of Capoue or Dembele has to change how they treat the football. Both play with caution, with a lack of quickness in thought and action, and with a lack of verticality in their passing to best suit the Argentinean’s style. In fact, the only verticality provided by the two come from the forward dribbles of Dembele. This makes Spurs a slow team in possession and hurts their ability to capitalize on an opponent’s poor defensive positioning, upon winning the ball. Against a side like Arsenal, who have had their issues with quick counter-attacks exploiting the space behind their advanced fullbacks, these two midfielders probably have to change their style of play if Tottenham want to get something out of this match.
Possible Starting Line-up (4-2-3-1): Lloris (GK); Dier, Kaboul, Chiriches, Rose; Capoue, Dembele; Lamela, Eriksen, Chadli; Adebayor
- Arsenal have not lost a home Premier League match since their opening match of last season.
- Tottenham did not score a single goal in their three matches against Arsenal last season
- Tottenham are 2nd in the Premier League in dribbles per game with 13.2 per game (Whoscored.com)
- Arsenal are 2nd in the English Premier League in terms of chances created from open play, behind Chelsea (Opta)
- Arsenal have won four of the last 5 North London Derbies
Player to Watch
Emmanuel Adebayor (Tottenham)
As much as a change of style from one of Tottenham’s midfielders would help Spurs in this match, they need Emmanuel Adebayor to turn back the clock and put in the kind of all-around center forward performance that defined the peak of his career. With their lack of options at center forward, Tottenham rely heavily on the performances of Adebayor. While his form has been atrocious, he does seem to have extra motivation against Arsenal. This could lead to a quality performance, but it has also lead to him hurting his team, like when he picked up a straight red card in Arsenal’s 5-2 victory over their neighbors, in 2012. If he can win his aerial duels, play the role of target man, link up play with midfield, and finish some of his chances, then Tottenham could wind up with all three points. If he decides to try to take players 1-on-1, play selfishly, or lose interest at some point in the match, then Tottenham have little chance of taking a point at the Emirates. So while there are a plethora of players who are better and more enjoyable than Adebayor, his play may have the most impact on the outcome of the game than any other individual player.
Arsenal 1-0 Tottenham
Outside of Arsenal’s FA Cup victory last season, recent North London Derbies seem to be tight affairs, regardless of the form of either club. Sure, there is the occasional 5-2 scoreline, but even in that match, the result was very much in doubt before Adebayor was sent off. So despite Tottenham’s poor form to start the season, one should probably not expect an easy match for Arsenal. A goal from a set-piece or a mistake could swing the entire complexion of the match. However, looking at the teams both sides will probably put out, Arsenal appear to have a clear advantage everywhere except at keeper. Therefore, in this match of two teams still developing into their new systems, an Arsenal victory seems like the most likely outcome.
Blast from the Past