Unai Emery gears up for his first North London Derby with plenty of changes expected to the Arsenal lineup that will face off against Tottenham on Sunday
Unai Emery will be feeing this might be the perfect time for his in-form side to face arch-rivals Tottenham in the North London Derby. The Gunners are on an 18-game unbeaten run, including 11 in the Premier League, with Emery hoping to keep this run going, preferably with a win over Spurs.
Arsenal travelled to Ukraine in the midweek with mostly a young squad, leaving their more experienced regulars back home. Rob Holding, Petr Cech, Aaron Ramsey and Matteo Guendouzi were the only regulars from the first-team who started the game, and Emery is expected to make wholesale changes to his side for the derby.
There are a few injury problems in the Arsenal side, especially surrounding the fitness of Alexandre Lacazette. The Frenchman was ruled out of last weekend’s clash against Bournemouth with a minor groin complaint. However, the striker is expected to return to the fold against Tottenham, having had more than a week to recover.
Another player in question is Mesut Ozil, who is also expected to start after he was left on the bench as an unused substitute during last weekend’s win. The German’s return to the starting lineup will be in line with a host of other changes Emery will make to his side.
From the midweek fixture, Rob Holding probably might be the only player to retain his place, although Sokratis Papastathopoulos’ solid form upon his return from injury might just hamper those plans.
Bernd Leno will take his place in goal, replacing Petr Cech who played against Vorskla. Hector Bellerin will return and take his place at right-back, while Sead Kolasinac will be preferred on the opposite flank, for Nacho Monreal is yet to recover completely from his hamstring injury.
At the heart of the Arsenal defence, Rob Holding’s early second-half withdrawal could mean the English defender could start, although Emery might have a change of plans. Shkodran Mustafi’s absence from the Europa league clash certainly points at the German starting in defence. Partnering him could be Sokratis instead of Holding.
In the middle of the park, Emery should restore Lucas Torreira and Granit Xhaka in their respective roles within the midfield pivot. Mesut Ozil could return, having not played a part Arsenal’s last two games, although Emery failed to divulge anything during his pre-match interview.
“I don’t know because tomorrow is the last training, but every player is very important with their qualities. We need to continue preparing and continue improving in our work and as a team with bigger performances and individual quality. I will prepare for the match with every player.”
We expected Ozil to start in the no. 10 role, with Alex Iwobi and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang providing him company on either flank. As iterated earlier, Lacazette is expected to start as Arsenal’s central striker despite his fitness concerns.