White Hart Lane, North London
March 16th, 2014; 16:00 GMT
The second North London Derby happens this Saturday, with Arsenal FC making the short trip to White Hart Lane to face Tottenham FC. Arsenal have won both their encounters against Spurs, both at the Emirates. One was a tight affair early in the Premier League season that Arsenal won 1-0. The other, the one with current Tottenham manager Tim Sherwood at the helm for Spurs, was a comfortable 2-0 win for Arsenal in the FA Cup. This match is of particular importance, as an Arsenal win could go a long way in determining the four teams that will finish at the top, while a Spurs win would open the door in the race for 4th place.
Recently, Tottenham have had a few terrible results. In the Premier League, comedic defensive errors played a large role in their 4-0 loss to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Then, on Thursday, they lost the home leg of their matchup with Benfica, in the Round of 16 of the Europa League, 3-1. Maybe more importantly, Tim Sherwood has either lost the dressing room or does not have a clue as to his best XI and system. It may be a combination of the two that has been responsible for him constantly changing his tactics and personnel in the past few weeks. This may be the biggest factor in Spurs’ poor results and form. It could not have come at a worse time as a loss to Arsenal would put them nine points back of their North London rivals, having played an extra game. They will need to find some way to get it together if they want to keep the race for 4th alive.
Arsenal are also coming into their match after a poor result in the league (their listless performance away to Stoke) and an European loss (their loss over two legs to Bayern Munich in the UCL). However, unlike Spurs, Arsenal do have a chance at silverware, as they beat Everton to reach the semi-finals of the FA Cup. A win for Arsenal would likely cement a top 4 (in some order) of Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, and Manchester City. This would be the first time in a few seasons in which Arsenal pretty much wrap up a Top 4 spot before April. A win is probably necessary if Arsenal wish to maintain any hope to win the Premier League title.
Tottenham – Team News, Line-up, and Formation
Tottenham come into this match with quite a few injuries. Etienne Capoue, Vlad Chiriches, Michael Dawson, and Erik Lamela are all known misses for this match. Moussa Dembele’s fitness for this match is unknown, as of now. Emmanuel Adebayor, Kyle Walker, and Sandro may miss the North London Derby as well. Combine those injuries with having to bounce back from an important game on Thursday to play their biggest rival on Sunday, and Tottenham have a tall task ahead of them.
These injuries come at a time where Tim Sherwood has been vacillating between various formations and tactics. For example, in their Chelsea match, Aaron Lennon played as a number 10 and Kyle Walker was played in central midfield. Against Benfica, Sherwood went back to more of a 4-4-2, with Adebayor and Harry Kane up top. Kyle Naughton was played as an inverted left-back. It seems that Sherwood is searching for the best way to use his squad, and therefore, these injuries probably will not help.
Given that Vlad Chiriches and Michael Dawson are out (the latter’s injury possibly serving as a blessing), Tottenham will likely have Younes Kaboul, whose one-game suspension was rescinded, and Jan Vertonghen at center back. If Kyle Walker is unable to play, then Sherwood will have to play Naughton at right back and turn to ill-favored Danny Rose to play left back. Hugo Lloris will start in goal to complete the back five.
In their FA Cup match, Sherwood went with two in central midfield and Arsenal, with their spare man, passed them off the park. If Sandro is fit, then it would not be surprising for Sherwood to have a three-man midfield, composed of holders and runners to disrupt Arsenal. However, given that Sandro and Dembele are unlikely to start, Sherwood may opt for Nabil Bentaleb in a holding role with Paulinho as a runner. This hurts Spurs ability to transition from defensive to attack as neither have the ability on the ball to move the passage of play quickly, especially if they play a two up top. Given that Spurs will likely look to do their damage on the counter, Aaron Lennon will likely play wide right and Gylfi Sigurdsson on the left.
Finally, Sherwood could opt for a front two, but if Adebayor is not fit, then it would be a front two of Harry Kane and Roberto Soldado. Since Spurs got throttled by Arsenal in the center of the park, it is more likely that Sherwood plays Christian Eriksen in the hole, with Robert Soldado looking to play on the shoulder of the last defender.
Possible Starting Lineup [4-2-3-1]: Lloris (GK), Naughton, Kaboul, Vertonghen, Rose; Bentaleb, Paulinho; Lennon, Eriksen, Sigurdsson; Soldado
Arsenal – Team News, Line-up, and Formation
While Tottenham have some injuries issues, no team in the English Premier League had their season damaged by injury as much as Arsenal. For this match, Abou Diaby, Theo Walcott, Mesut Ozil, Aaron Ramsey, and Jack Wilshere will all miss this match. Kieran Gibbs looks likely to miss this match as well. Kim Kallstrom and Nacho Monreal may be fit for this match.
Unlike Spurs, Arsenal understand how they want to play. Wojciech Szczesny will start in goal with Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker in front of him. Bacary Sagna will be at right back, while Nacho Monreal may play at left back. If not Monreal, then Thomas Vermaelen could make another appearance at left back. While he may provide more solidity, as he looks to venture forward less, the lack of an attacking left back could prevent Arsenal from taking full advantage of Tottenham’s weakness defensively, on the right.
In midfield, Arsene Wenger could opt for two holders in Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini, with Arteta playing slightly higher up the pitch. Against this Tottenham side, especially if Eriksen does not start, playing two holders could be beneficial, as it was in Arsenal’s home match against Napoli, but only if it allows both full-backs to fly up the pitch without a worry. If Vermaelen plays at left-back, the value of two holders is diminished. In this case, look for Mathieu Flamini, who did not play against Bayern, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to pair him in central midfield. In this case, Arsenal will probably play a front trio of Lukas Podolski, Santi Cazorla, and Tomas Rosicky, with Olivier Giroud at the top. If they go with two holders, because Monreal is fit, then Arsene Wenger may opt for a front trio of Rosicky, Cazorla, and Oxlade-Chamberlain, especially if he wants to test Tottenham’s left side.
Possible Starting Lineup [4-2-3-1/4-1-4-1]: Szczesny (GK), Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Vermaelen; Flamini, Oxlade-Chamberlain; Rosicky, Cazorla, Podolski; Giroud
1. Tottenham has made thirteen errors that have led to goals in EPL matches, which leads the Premier League
2. Arsenal have not won at White Hart Lane, in the Premier League, since September 15th, 2007. They won 3-1 with two goals from Emmanuel Adebayor and a goal from Cesc Fabregas. Tottenham took the lead in that match from a Gareth Bale goal.
3. In their five game streak of not winning at White Hart Lane, Arsenal have lost 1-2 three times, drew 3-3, and drew nil-nil.
4. Tottenham have a -2 goal difference at home, which is the second worst of the Top 15 clubs, with only Aston Villa’s -6 goal difference being worse.
5. Tottenham have not finished a season above Arsenal since the 1994-1995 season.
Player to Watch For
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal)
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is starting to become the player that many (including this author) thought he would develop into. While he still has a long way to go, his performances have shown why Arsene Wenger paid a relatively large fee for him at such a young age. In central midfield, against Bayern Munich, Chamberlain was successful in all ten of his take-ons. Given how Spurs defended against Benfica, Chamberlain’s pace and technique could allow him to find his teammates in acres of space behind an overly high midfield line or will allow him to carry the ball into the attacking phase with all the space Spurs sometimes leave between the back 6/front 5 or back 7/front 4. If Arsenal get all three points, it should almost be assumed that the young Englishman played a large role in the Gunners’ success.
Tottenham 0-2 Arsenal
If Adebayor does not play, it is difficult to see where Spurs score their goals. Also their lack of identity and understanding as a unit will leave Arsenal plenty of space to operate. Finally, playing on Thursday could have a significant impact on the energy and fitness of Tottenham, preventing them from putting Arsenal under constant pressure. Given the quality of Podolski as a finisher, Giroud’s intelligence of movement, Rosicky’s energy, Cazorla’s creativity, and Oxlade-Chamberlain’s all-around brilliance, it is difficult to see Arsenal not scoring. Despite their injuries, this is certainly a game Arsenal should win.
Blast From the Past