Arsenal prepare to host Tottenham for the 196th North London Derby at the Emirates Stadium as both teams aim to close the gap to the top of the table.
Arsenal are three points behind their North London rivals Tottenham, and Unai Emery will be hoping a win would put them level on points. This will be the first time in 22 years a new Arsenal manager will be taking charge of the club for the North London derby, and the Spanish will be bent on preserving his side’s 18-game unbeaten run with at least a result.
Arsenal come into the clash at the back of an impressive win over Vorskla in the Europa League, while last weekend in the Premier League they defeated Bournemouth 2-1 to remain 5th on the table. The Tottenham game, however, will be a stern test for the manager and the fourth top-four team Arsenal will face, with the Gunners yet to win against any such sides.
Another important thing for Arsenal would be to gain some brownie points over their arch-rivals. The Gunners have only one win in their last eight clashes with Tottenham, and the victory came at Emirates last season. Since the introduction of Mauricio Pochettino at Spurs, the Lilywhites have been a different side altogether, who have crawled out of Arsenal’s shadow.
Tottenham are themselves in a rich vein of form, winning all of their last six games in all competitions. The last win came during midweek in the Champions League against Inter, although the confidence-boosting victory came in last weekend when Spurs thrashed Chelsea at Wembley. Despite the excellent form Spurs have been in, they will well know the difficulty the derby represents.
Among the two North London rivals, it is Tottenham who sit close to Manchester City at the top of the table, five points off the pace. A win for Spurs would increase the gap with Arsenal to six points, although a defeat would mean Arsenal sit above their rivals, equal on points but higher on goal difference.
Team News & Tactics
Unai Emery will probably change the entire starting lineup that won against Vorskla, where only a handful of first-team regulars started the game. Arsenal had traveled to Ukraine with a young squad and kept most of their regular starters back in London. However, the main concern for the Gunners will be the fitness of striker Alexandre Lacazette, who sat out last weekend’s win over Bournemouth.
Lacazette’s late fitness test would determine his inclusion in the squad; the injury was stated as a minor groin problem. However, the Frenchman has had an entire week since to get fit, and fans will be hoping that is the case. Elsewhere, Laurent Koscielny could be included in the squad for the first time this season, though he is still short of starting games.
Injury absentees for Arsenal include Danny Welbeck who probably won’t play again this season. Nacho Monreal is Emery’s primary concern, and the left-back will be missed against Spurs. Sead Kolasinac should continue his role at left-back after an impressive display against Bournemouth. Overall, Emery should be able to call upon most of his players from last weekend.
Mesut Ozil’s exclusion last weekend was the talking point, and the German could make a return to the starting lineup against Spurs. He could replace Aaron Ramsey in the No.10 role. Rob Holding could be the only player from the midweek lineup to retain his place in the starting lineup, although Emery could also prefer a partnership of Mustafi and Sokratis in central defence.
Probable Starting Lineup (4-2-3-1) – Leno; Bellerin, Mustafi, Sokratis, Kolasinac; Torreira, Xhaka; Iwobi, Ozil, Aubameyang; Lacazette
Mauricio Pochettino will be relieved that many of his key stars returning to action. Tottenham were fortunate enough to have maintained standards of their game in the absence of many key stars in the last few weeks. The biggest returning star of them all is Jan Vertonghen, who had been out for a considerable period, but made his return to the team in their win over Inter Milan.
The Belgian is likely to keep his place against Arsenal and could partner Toby Alderweireld, meaning the impressive Juan Foyth could take his place on the Spurs bench. Kieran Trippier, who has been out for a while is gunning to be fit for this clash. If he doesn’t prove his fitness, Serge Aurier will take his spot at right-back. Danny Rose is pushing for a recall too although it’s unlikely that Pochettino will keep Ben Davies on the bench.
However, Pochettino will be happy with the way Christian Eriksen has been managed after the Danish star came off the bench to score the winner against Inter Milan. Dele Alli and Son Heung-min will be the players lining up alongside Eriksen in attacking midfield, and Harry Kane, as usual, will lead from the front as he looks to become Tottenham’s highest goalscorer in North London derbies.
Probable Starting Lineup (4-2-3-1) – Lloris; Aurier, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Davies; Sissoko, Dier; Eriksen, Alli, Son; Kane
- Tottenham have only one victory in their last 25 games away at Arsenal, which came back in November 2010.
- Tottenham have lost more points from winning positions in Premier League games against Arsenal than any side have against another in the competition’s history
- Arsenal, since 1998, have scored in each of the 22 North London Derbies at home.
- Premier League matches between Arsenal and Tottenham have seen both teams find the net more often than any other fixture in the competition (34)
- Arsenal have scored a league-high 21 goals in the second half of Premier League games this season.
1. Arsenal Draw No Bet @ 1.83
2. Over 10.5 Corners @ 1.83
3. Over 2.5 Match Goals @ 1.53
1. Dele Alli to score anytime @ 3.75
Player To Watch
The former Germany international has had a mixed bag season so far. Unai Emery has played Ozil only in the Premier League this season, although last weekend’s exclusion for tactical reasons and fans will be hoping that decision would spur their star man on for the big derby. Ozil personally needs to prove a point against Spurs and show Emery that he is worthy of a permanent place in the starting lineup.
The midfielder has performed admirably in some games, but consistency is the elusive factor coming back to haunt the star. The Tottenham game is a perfect opportunity for Ozil to showcase his class and status in the Gunners’ setup.
Arsenal 2-1 Tottenham
Could this be a repeat result of the same fixture from last season? It certainly could be the case. Taking last season’s disastrous season into consideration, Arsenal blocked all the negativity surrounding them to beat Tottenham at the Emirates. Now, considering the current season, the plot at Arsenal has changed under Emery, and the Liverpool game is a cue for the players to perform.
Arsenal are a well-drilled unit under Emery, who is actively aiming for a top-four finish this season. That certainly could motivate his players, and additionally, the lure of a 19th unbeaten game against their arch-rivals could be a big factor. Not to say Tottenham are any less superior, the tie could go in any direction, although considering the home advantage the Gunners have, they just might nick the three points here.