After our heavy defeat to Bayern in Munich, some people might have forgotten that we enter the North London Derby leveled on points with the leaders Manchester City and on the back of five league victories in a row. Tottenham Hotspur likewise haven’t lost since the opening day and will try to make a breakthrough to Top 4.
The scene is set for a big clash between to the two north London outfits at a time when goals are flowing for Arsenal (in the Premier League at least) and Spurs’ defence are one of the meanest in the league.
North London Derby is arguably the biggest derby in England. Some might say that it hasn’t been a rivalry but more of a feud during Arsene Wenger’s tenure as the Frenchman has never ended below ‘the Spuds’ during his reign. In fact, it’s impossible to name which Wenger’s slap was the more painful for our local rivals; the fact we have leapfrogged them with FA Cups wins (before the Wenger era, the Spuds had led 6:9, now it’s 12:9 to us!), that he signed their captain on a free transfer and turned him into an Arsenal legend or that he won the title with The Invincibles at White Hart Lane. It’s no wonder that it looks like we have been bigger motivation to them than they have been for us.
We have an injury crisis in hands with Hector Bellerin, Aaron Ramsey, Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jack Wilshere, Tomas Rosicky, Danny Welbeck, Gunnersaurus and the guy who sells hot-dogs all being out for the game. Laurent Koscielny should…sorry, MUST be ready for the game as our defending without Bosscielny looked terrible in Munich. We are seriously deprived of pace in the attack which offers a lot of space for the opponents ball-playing defenders to go forward without fear like David Alaba did on Wednesday night. Fortunately, the Spuds are not Bayern.
Tottenham have had a pretty good campaign so far with a single defeat to their name. Their only loss took place at Old Trafford on the opening day of the season. Kyle Walker handed three points to Manchester United by scoring an own goal.
Their main strength is defensive discipline. They have been behind only us and Manchester United in terms of fewest goals conceded. Hugo Lloris is one of the best goalkeepers in the league and Toby Alderweireld seems to be a bargain buy for Spuds at a reported fee of £11.4 million pounds (via Guardian) as the Belgian has been nothing short of brilliant since his arrival from Atletico Madrid (via Squawka). His compatriot Jan Verthongen lacks pace though and that’s why Theo Walcott’s absence is a real shame as he would have made runs behind the Belgian’s back like Anderlecht’s striker Ezekiel did on Thursday night.
Mauricio Pochettino has quite a few decent midfielders too. Ryan Mason and Eric Dier are doing the dirty job with the reinvigorated Moussa Dembele looking sharp again. The former Fulham midfielder has scored three goals in the last four games and will be a threat, especially if our defenders leave him enough space to release a long shot. Delle Alli is also one to watch as the youngster has the potential to score as well.
While Erik Lamela has finally found his feet, it’s Christian Eriksen who is the most dangerous midfielder. The Danish playmaker has scored two goals and created three more so we have to cut him off completely (via Squawka).
Of course, their biggest asset is Harry Kane. He is a real menace with his movement, shooting technique, heading and finishing. It’s no problem for him to drop deeper in order to receive the ball. Spuds won the last league clash between the sides and it was Kane who scored both goals for them. He now is on 21 goals in 2015, more than any Premier League player (see infographic below). I also shouldn’t forget to mention Heung-min Son. The South-Korean international has shown his quality already and will represent a real asset going forward.
Santi Cazorla has put in two excellent performances against our rivals as he was instrumental in our 5:2 victory in 2012-13 and scored the opener in our famous 2:0 victory in the 2014 FA Cup win. The little Spaniard had a night to forget in Munich with both poor finishing and defending but he should be able to turn it around. He will probably be subjected to high pressure from Tottenham so that’s where his passing skills and quick feet will play a huge role.
Alexis Sánchez is the main reason why they won the last league clash between the sides as the Chilean missed out due to injury. If he had played, I have no doubt we would have won. His pressure on the Spuds backline and ability to lead a counter-attack will be of vital importance. He didn’t start in this fixture last season either due to fatigue but came on to to provide the assist for Oxlade-Chamberlain’s equalizer.
Olivier Giroud has scored two goals against the Spuds and each time we won. In fact, we have won every league game this season in which we scored at least one goal. He has been in a superb form lately and is our overall top scorer with eight goals to his name (via Squawka).
Mesut Özil has been unplayable this season and has already created nine goals for his team-mates (see infographic below). The King of Assists will be our main asset again and hopefully he’ll put Spuds’ defence to the sword.
Mathieu Flamini deserves to be mentioned. The Frenchman has already scored two goals against our local rivals this season – in our 2:1 victory at White Hart Lane in the Capital One Cup. It is unlikely however that we’ll see him in the starting line-up. He had a day to forget in this fixture last season as Nacer Chadli exploited his mistake to hand Tottenham the opener.
Petr Čech has been magnificent lately and if he does not concede today he will equal the record David James’ clean sheet record (via IB Times).
Infographic: North London Derby [Infographic] by the team at Free Super Tips
We are bare to the bones due to injuries and it seems we’ll start with the following eleven:
Petr Čech is a non-disputable choice for the goalkeeper position.
Mathieu Debuchy has shown some signs of improvement in the second half against Bayern Munich but still remains a liability. It’s a shame that the French international has been going through a rough period as he certainly possesses plenty of quality. The main problem is, we have conceded at least once each time he has started this season and he was the worst player in both of our Capital One Cup matches.
Laurent Koscielny’s importance for our defence can’t be described with words but with numbers. A clean sheet against the best European club with Kos in our back-line, five goals conceded without him. The Frenchman will have a difficult task of handling Kane though.
Gabriel or Per Mertesacker? Mertesacker didn’t look up to it in Munich and it wasn’t the first time this season. Whilst Gabriel is a pacey defender, he is also a raw material that is yet to become a world-class defender in the mould of Laurent Koscielny.
Nacho Monreal is a non-disputable choice for the left side of our defence.
Likewise Francis Coquelin is irreplaceable. His task in preventing Dembele and Eriksen from making attempts from the outside of the box will be difficult but necessary.
Santi Cazorla should do what he usually does and create chances for our attackers while also aiding Coquelin to shield our backline.
Joel Campbell has scored a goal in each one of his Premier League starts. The problem is, he has started just once. The Costa Rican forward did well against Swansea but now he has to bounce back from a poor performance against Bayern. His aggression and work-rate will be needed in defence so that Debuchy doesn’t get destroyed along their left flank.
Mesut Özil is the best No. 10 in the league at the moment as he creates chances and goals for fun. The Ninja Footballer is the last Arsenal player to score against Spuds in the league – a winner at the Emirates would be a cherry on top of his performances so far!
Alexis Sánchez has looked a bit jaded but his quality is something that every opponent should fear.
Olivier Giroud has been red hot lately. The Frenchman scored a delightful volley against Bayern and proved he can score against big clubs. If he can do it against clubs like Bayern, why shouldn’t he score at least once against a small club like Tottenham?
In a match between two out of the three best defences in the league Arsenal have the advantage of the home pitch and individual quality. The visitors have already played twice this week (two home victories against Aston Villa and Anderlecht respectively) so their much-praised fitness will go through a serious test.
I’d go with a 2:1 victory for us with goals from Alexis and Giroud while Kane is likely to provide a goal for the visitors.
NORTH LONDON IS RED! COYG!