Arsenal and Tottenham will contest the season’s first North London Derby with contrasting recent form, with nothing short of a win acceptable for both sides.
The North London Derby has a special place in English football, as the fixture returns to a packed stadium for the first time since 2019. Both teams will be eager to take away the bragging rights from this game, and previous form or the performances in the build-up to the game will have little or no significance in this derby.
Arsenal play hosts to their neighbours in white, as Mikel Arteta seeks momentum from his team and make it three consecutive wins in the Premier League. The Gunners are in a good run of form, and without the rigours of European football, their fitness levels have been at optimum levels.
After a dreadful start to their season that saw Arsenal lose their opening three games, they have restored some pride by winning consecutive matches against Norwich City and Burnley. They also progressed to the EFL Cup fourth round after a convincing win over AFC Wimbledon in midweek. If they manage to beat Spurs with a two-goal advantage, the Gunners might find themselves above their rivals in the table.
Mikel Arteta knows the importance of this game after questions have been asked regarding his long-term future at the club. Wins against Burnley and Norwich might have bought him time at the hot seat, but a win over Tottenham might cement his position with the club’s board. However, a defeat might pile the pressure on the Spaniard.
Visitors Tottenham have more questions to answer, and the North London Derby might have come at a wrong time. Nuno Espirito Santo’s side enjoyed a great yet unspectacular start to their Premier League season, sitting on top of the standings after the first three games.
It showed the contrasting fortunes of both clubs as Spurs sat on top of the table, with Arsenal languishing at the very bottom of it. However, Tottenham have since lost two games on the trot, both 3-0 defeats to London sides Crystal Palace and Chelsea, making this North London Derby a must-win encounter for the Lilywhites.
Nuno has also struggled in other competitions such as the Conference League and EFL Cup. After a draw with French side Rennes last week, Spurs limped through a penalty shootout victory over Wolves in their cup tie. If they show this level of form against an in-form looking Arsenal side, there might be trouble brewing for Nuno.
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🆕 NLD training pics…
📸 Who do you want to see from Friday's session? 🤔 pic.twitter.com/3eignE4S25
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) September 24, 2021
Mikel Arteta has a clean bill of health after a difficult start to the season with COVID-19 and other injury-related problems. Only Mohamed Elneny has recently been out injured, and the Egyptian returned to training earlier this week. The Arsenal manager will have his whole pool of players to choose from for this game.
Arteta faces a stylistic dilemma of bringing back Granit Xhaka into his starting lineup after the Swiss midfielder served his three-game domestic ban. The Gunners have looked solid playing a midfield three with Thomas Partey as the holding midfielder, allowing Emile Smith Rowe and Martin Odegaard to attack.
There is a big probability Arteta will reinstate Xhaka back into the lineup alongside Partey in a midfield pivot. In that case, Odegaard will take up a familiar no.10 position behind the striker.
Goalkeeping is another area Arteta has been heavily questioned on, as to whether he will reinstate Bernd Leno into the team or let Aaron Ramsdale continue his good run so far. The English keeper produced a solid display against Burnley and has given no reason for the Arsenal manager to consider a change.
Meanwhile, Takehiro Tomiyasu has cemented his place as Arsenal’s first-choice right-back, while Kieran Tierney is expected to come back, well-rested, to take up the left-back slot. Ben White and Gabriel Magalhaes are likely to rescue their central defensive partnership.
The other selection headache comes in selecting starters for the front three, particularly the wide areas. Smith Rowe, Bukayo Saka and Nicolas Pepe are all contenders. The Ivorian was rested during midweek, suggesting his involvement, and he is likely to take the right-hand side.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will take his place to lead the line ahead of Alexandre Lacazette, who, despite scoring in midweek, might only be considered for a bench role.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Ramsdale; Tomiyasu, White, Gabriel, Tierney; Partey, Xhaka; Pepe, Odegaard, Saka; Aubameyang
Injuries in the squad for Nuno Espirito Santo have eased up a bit during this week, and the biggest news would be the return of Lucas Moura. Tottenham have missed his creativity and pace during his brief absence against Chelsea and Wolves. Steven Bergwijn and Ryan Sessegnon, however, remain out.
Nuno, much like Mikel Arteta, has a central midfield dilemma, with Tanguy Ndombele in contention to play in the centre. The Frenchman has sparked a bit of creativity in a rigid Spurs midfield, who have failed to create anything of substance for the attacking players such as Harry Kane or Son Heung-min.
🔜 NLD. pic.twitter.com/bBnHus1BE5
— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) September 24, 2021
Even if Ndombele starts, Nuno is unlikely to change the team’s shape, retaining a midfield three with Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Giovani Lo Celso in those positions. Despite Moura’s return to training, there are chances the Brazilian might start from the bench. Nuno could push Delle Alli on the front foot and make him part of the front three alongside Kane and Son.
Going back into defence, the Tottenham boss might look to retain the central defensive partnership of Eric Dier and Cristian Romero. The manager might make a late decision on the right-back situation, with Japhet Tanganga available again after suspension. Nuno might go with Emerson Royal if he chooses an attacking style.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Lloris; Royal, Romero, Dier, Regulion; Ndombele, Hojbjerg, Lo Celso; Son, Kane, Alli
- Arsenal are unbeaten in 25 of 27 home games against Tottenham in all competitions.
- Arsenal have kept a clean sheet in their last three games in all competitions.
- If they fail to score on Sunday, Arsenal will equal their record for fewest goals after six games of a league campaign. They had two goals at the same stage of the 1910/11 season.
- Tottenham have been beaten in their last three Premier League games against fellow London clubs – they have not lost four in a row since a six-match sequence between March 2003 and January 2004.
- Harry Kane is the leading scorer in north London derbies, with 11 goals in 14 league and cup appearances, while his total of 11 Premier League goals against Arsenal is bettered only by Wayne Rooney’s 12.
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After sustaining an unfortunate ankle injury during pre-season, Partey missed the first three games, which his side unfortunately lost. However, the Ghanaian has since returned and revitalised the Gunners midfield, contributing to their Premier League wins.
Partey’s importance is gaining visibility and Arsenal fans will hope to see an injury-free version of the midfielder. There can be no doubt about his importance in Arteta’s plans, and the Ghanaian needs to prove his big-game reputation when Arsenal host Tottenham at the Emirates.
Arsenal 2-1 Tottenham Hotspur
In contrasting form, both teams head into the season’s first North London Derby, but that aspect would mean little as history is proof of this fixture’s cagey nature. Spurs have shown attacking impotence in recent games, and it may prove costly against Arsenal, who are slowly getting back into their usual rhythm.
Arsenal have the firepower to hurt this Tottenham defence that is just getting the grips on the team and has looked blunt in recent Premier League games. Expect the Gunners to score a few against Tottenham and collect all three points in this edition of the North London Derby.