Twenty twenty twenty four hours to go
I wanna be sedated
Nothing to do, no where to go o,
I wanna be sedated
– The Ramones
With less than 24 hours to go, we sit on the eve of another North London Derby. As you look across the twitter wasteland the feelings are a mix of excitement and general “meh. Such is the state of Arsenal.
There is a simple fact and a hard truth we must all face – when we look at the last two years, Tottenham have played better and look more a threat to winning a title than we have. . . and that’s about it. Talk of power shifts are normal and have been the norm since time immemorial. The reality is a lot more simple – let Tottenham finish above Arsenal 20 years on the trot, win 13 league titles, win 13 FA Cups & be a regular visitor to the Champion’s League, year after year, then we talk of power shifts. Right now it’s just talk.
Now that this is out of the way let’s get down to brass tacks and talk about this match.
I can’t remember the last time a North London Derby happened immediately after an international break. So it’s hard to get a read on how this could play out. Sure, Spurds have been good but their last two league matches were the late loss to United and a wholely uninspired 1-0 win over Crystal Palace (whom if were slightly better at shooting would’ve likely walked out with the win.)
Arsenal, are two weeks removed from a 3-1 loss to the team most likely to win the league this year, Man City. It was a loss. A damning loss but Arsenal weren’t out of that match. Had Wenger started Lacazette maybe, just maybe we’d have gotten more than we did. But we didn’t and that’s that.
Tottenham will be buoyed by the return of Harry “One of our Own” Kane, Diving Deli Alli, and Harry “40” Winks. They all sat out the international break nursing injuries and as expected are returning just in time for this edition of the North London Derby.
We see the return of Danny Welbeck and possible Shkodran Mustafi. Both will be assessed on Friday to see if they are a go. Olivier Giroud is set to miss picking up a small knock while on International duty. Everyone else seems good to go.
This leads us to biggest question mark of the match – who is Wenger going to select to start. Our best attacking trio when they are on is Sanchez, Lacazette, and Özil. But let’s be honest, Lacazette is the only one that is playing with any purpose. Both Sanchez and Özil who when they can be arsed, are some of the best in the world, have been playing just the opposite. This is a match that needs them both to find their inner motivation and show up. Without them, well it will be a long day.
I do wonder though if Welbeck is fit if Wenger starts him? Every time Danny has been out his first match back, Wenger has plopped him right back in. If he follows that trend then who does he take out? Hopefully Wenger learned his lesson against City and doesn’t keep Lacazette on the bench. His movement and striking ability make an absolute must to start the match.
Defensively its likely to be the three we’ve had of late, Mertesacker with Koscielny and Monreal on either side.
How the Match Will Play Out
Spurs are a good team but they aren’t they creative. To borrow the phrasing of my good friend Clive (@clivepafc) – they are musclebound and choregraphed and lack subltely. In simple terms they are a smash and grab team.
There are two ways Arsenal could play them. They could employ a high press looking to force Tottenham to play deep and winning the ball then trying to play behind the CM and attacking their back three with overloads.
Or. . . Arsenal can concede the ball and try and hit them on the counter. I am less a fan of this as I have yet to see Arsenal effectively go on the counter in a while. Rather than play with our speed, we wait for play to develop in front which usually allows the opposition to regroup and get behind the ball.
The danger is Spurs pressing in the MF. This is my biggest worry as Xhaka isn’t the best with the ball at his feet underpressure. If Spurs successfully press him, that leaves them creating their own overloads and attacking a back 3 with Mertesacker at the center of that.
Trend to Watch
It’s simple, Wenger needs to start Lacazette, but he’s shown that he will sit the Frenchman. Arsenal need every attacking player we can in this match. In the match against City he came in and instantly had impact and scored. He needs to play not start on the bench.
Players to Watch
Arsenal. Mesut Özil. He’s played in the international break. He hasn’t been stellar for Arsenal by any stretch of the imagination. But if Arsenal are to have any success he needs to find a way to free himself from the Spurds press and be a conduit for our attack.
Tottenham. Christian Ericksen. Maybe we should be buoyed by the fact that his increasing profile makes him a target for Europe’s elite. I believe that more than Harry Kane, he is more important to how Tottenham go than the Brit.
Injuries and Suspensions
Arsenal: Giroud (knee), Cazorla (ankle), Holding (thigh)
Tottenham: Alderweireld (hamstring), Lamela (hip), Wanyama (knee)
Referee: Mike Dean (8M, 28Y, 1R)
Assistants: Ian Hussin, Eddie Smart
Fourth official: Kevin Friend
UK: SkySports – 12.30 GMT
US: NBC Sports Network – 7:30AM EST
What the Manager Says (Courtesy Arsenal.com)
“Just before the break we had a disappointing result but quite a positive performance [at Man City] and it’s important for us, going into such a big game on Saturday, to take the positives out of that game and transfer that enthusiasm and resilience into the derby. It is vital for us to start well again, there is no international break now – we play every three days and we know from now until Christmas is a very important period for us.”
Match Facts (Courtesy BBC.com)
- Arsenal haven’t won any of their last six Premier League games against Tottenham (D4, L2) – their longest winless run against their rivals in league competition.
- Spurs have won just two of their previous 32 league games away to Arsenal (D13, L17), triumphing 3-1 at Highbury in 1993 and 3-2 at the Emirates in 2010
- Tottenham have dropped 37 points from winning positions in Premier League games against Arsenal, the most by any side in a particular fixture.
- The Gunners have claimed 10 successive Premier League wins at the Emirates. It is their longest winning run at the stadium.
- Arsenal have won their opening five home games in a Premier League season for the first time since 2009-10. They last won their first six at home in 2007-08.
- Arsene Wenger’s side are unbeaten in 16 home games in league and cup since a 5-1 loss against Bayern Munich in March (W14, D2).
- They could suffer back-to-back league defeats for the first time since August.
- Arsenal have lost 10 league games in 2017, equalling their highest total in a calendar year under Wenger. The last time they suffered more defeats was in 1995, when they lost 14 times.
- Spurs have claimed just one away league win against last season’s top six under Mauricio Pochettino, (D6, L9), claiming nine points out of a possible 48.