It is back. The North London Derby, Tottenham v Arsenal. The heated rivalary is once again upon us and it’s a day being met with equal parts anticipation and worry.
Coming off of the 5-1 win against Everton, there was a sense of modest optimism about Arsenal fans we hadn’t had in a while. The new additions of Mkhitaryan and Aubameyang performed as hoped and the team looked fluid and – well more like Arsenal.
That win provided a sense of maybe turning things around. This is Arsenal after all and if anyone can start a run towards the end of May and finish strong it’s us.
But this is a different Tottenham.
In fairness it’s not always been roses recently and last year for the first time in 20+ years they finished above us and currently sit 4 points above us. They are well coached and they have players that can hurt teams.
They aren’t without their problems and as much as the media want to make them darlings – they aren’t. For a team blessed with so much attacking talent, they lack creativity. They are built to beat teams by overpowering them with well-choreographed movement.
And while that works to an extent it hurts them if it doesn’t bare fruit over the course of a full 90 – they never have a plan to fall back on.
Of course this is Arsenal and we have our own problems to worry about. Against Tottenham, the midfield which has been a sore spot for us throughout the season could be as leaky as a broken dyke allowing the home side to attack our back line with ease.
Whomever the midfield pairing are, need to find discipline to clog the middle and not let Tottenham pass through us. It’s a tactic Liverpool used to effect last week.
Additionally, our defenders need to be to have some sense about them. I have been perplexed as I see individual error after error lead to breakdowns and goals. Whether its not understanding how to track a runner or letting an attacker on the inside of the defender, we simply have not been good enough defending, especially on the road.
All that being said we’ve also shown that when we want to – we can actually do all of this quite well. Chelsea (all season) and Tottenham at home were great examples. We were focused and committed few errors and in those matches were the better side throughout the 90 minutes. So we know it can be done.
Obviously a lot of how we do also depends on how Arsene Wenger sets us up. With Mkhitaryan in the side as well as Aubameyang its essential for this match Arsene gets it right on all fronts.
Having both Özil and Mkhi in the lineup presents a problem for Tottenham’s defenders. If as usual teams double up on Özil, it leaves Mkhi space to receive the ball and drive at the Tottenham back line. This forces other decisions as the Armenian is an excellent dribbler and will force decisions by Tottenham to either press him or take away the pass. Either way the two creative players driving the attack forward with Aubameyang in front creates a certain dilemma for Tottenham.
Against Spurs in November we beat their high press with long diagonal balls to beat the press. We found Özil drifting into space up high and he was able to break the Tottenham line of confrontation and create chances in attack.
We’ll have to look to do that again as Tottenham will likely play us narrow through the middle to take away the passing game.
For us it all simply comes down to how we defend away on the road. This season those words are like daggers in the heart. We simply can’t seem to do it with any consistency. 3 wins from 13 away matches is the stuff of teams fighting off relegation. It speaks to how bad the league this season is that we can possess such a record and still be off the top 4 by a meager 5 points.
A win is significant. A draw not bad. A loss, well it would kill us.
Arsenal need as committed an effort as they have given all season. The team spirit we saw last weekend during and after the match has to be matched and exceeded by 100xs what it was. Coming out flat or unfocused will hurt us as Tottenham have the players to do so.
If we are to make a charge for top 4 it has to begin against Tottenham. We have to treat it like a cup final. Maybe it’s a good thing then that it’s at Wembley eh?
Players to Watch:
Arsenal. Pierre Emerick Aubameyang. He socred on his debut. Has scored 4 times against Spurs. What a better way to become a hero than to establish yourself in the Premier League by slaying your new club’s Derby rival?
Tottenham. Christian Ericksen. The sooner Real Madrid come in for him the better.
Injuries and Suspensions:
Arsenal: Cazorla (plataris) Cech, (hamstring – late fitness test)
Tottenham: No one
Goals Scored (season average)
Goals Conceded (season average)
What the Manager Says (courtesy BBC.co.uk)
“It is always a game that is charged emotionally. This season, if you look at the table, it is a very important game.
“For us, it is an opportunity to come back closer to the Champions League places, which is a priority.
“We lost our last two away games, at Bournemouth where we were 1-0 up, at Swansea where we were 1-0 up. You look at the mistakes we made and I am quite optimistic we will not make them again.”
Referee: Anthony Taylor (17M 64Y 0R)
Assistants: Gary Beswick, Adam Nunn
Fourth official: Neil Swarbrick
UK: BT Sport 12.30 GMT
US: NBC Sports Network 7:30 AM GMT
Match Facts (courtesy BBC.co.uk)
- Arsenal beat Spurs for the first time in seven Premier League meetings in the reverse fixture last November.
- This is the first game between the sides at Wembley since April 1993, when a goal by Tony Adams gave Arsenal a 1-0 FA Cup semi-final victory.
- Tottenham have dropped 37 points from winning positions in Premier League games against Arsenal – the worst record of any club against a single opponent.
- They have met 194 times in all competitions, with Arsenal leading by 81 wins to Tottenham’s 62.
- Arsene Wenger’s side are winless in 15 Premier League away games against the current top five clubs since a 2-0 victory at Manchester City in January 2015 (D6, L9).
- Arsenal have only averaged a point per away game in the Premier League this season, with three wins, four draws and six defeats. They have the division’s ninth best away record.
- Arsenal could suffer three straight away defeats in the Premier League for the first time since a run of four losses ended last April.
- However, Arsenal are unbeaten in their last nine matches at Wembley Stadium, winning them all including two penalty shootouts.
- The Gunners have gone eight league games without a clean sheet since mid-December.
- Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has scored four goals in four appearances against Tottenham: one in the Champions League and three goals in the Europa League.
- Henrikh Mkhitaryan has set up three Premier League goals in 120 minutes of action for Arsenal, as many as Alexis Sanchez managed in 1507 minutes for the Gunners this season.
Tottenham 2 – 2 Arsenal