A North London derby that has meaning
The greatest of all things about being a supporter of a football club is the intense rivalry a Derby fuels. And for the first time in a very long time, the North London Derby actually has some meaning. Arsenal head to the temporary home of their most-hated neighbours, Tottenham in hopes of keeping their top four hopes alive whilst piling on the noisy neighbours.
It is a tie littered with legendary names, legendary goals and legendary games. Winning the league at White Hart Lane – twice and more memorable moments litter the history of this fixture. However, for the last two years, the lot from Middlesex have sat above in the table taking in the rarefied air only once meant for Arsenal.
With Arsenal readjusting itself and beginning life under new manager, Unai Emery, the Gunners look to get back to their rightful place as the Kings of North London. To do that, however, means once again beating them at their home – well the place they call home – they are the Middlesex Wanderers after all.
Arsenal head to Wembley to take on Tottenham and if they can come out with a win, can come away only 1-point off of Tottenham in third. That was a something not many would have fancied just a short few weeks ago.
When last we met?
When we last met and it meant anything, Arsenal rolled out 4-2 winners in a thoroughly enjoyable affair with the Gunners coming out in inspired fashion.
Emery opted to use 3 at the back to start the match. As is typical to Emery’s set up the wingbacks in this set up provided a lot of the attacking width with their corresponding forwards, usually tucking in to pull a defender inside. This had the effect of leaving space for one of either Bellerin or Kolasinac tun in behind and take advantage of the gaps behind the Tottenham defence.
This was especially fruitful down the Tottenham right flank, where Arsenal got lots of joy against Serge Aurier.
Tottenham started the match with a 4-4-2/4-3-1-2 using a diamond in the midfield in hopes of cutting off any passing channels in the midfield. With Dier behind Eriksen and Sissoko on the sides of the diamond and Alili at the top of it – all supporting Kane and Son up top.
Their main impetus for their attack was the midfield looking to play balls onto the runs of one of their forwards. With Kane dropping in a little deep, Tottenham would try and open gaps in the Arsenal back line for the other forward to run in behind.
Arsenal played a strong game, especially in the second half when Emery had brought on Ramsey and Lacazette. The Frenchman worked in tandem with Aubameyang, playing up on the defensive line occupying the Tottenham defenders and Ramsey supporting behind.
The tactical set up was especially effective in the second half as Arsenal took the match over and resulted in not only the win but probably the best single half performance of the season so far.
Emery selection headaches
It may not seem like but Emery has some decisions to make. He’s rotated this week, in the last two matches between a 4-2-3-1 and 3-4-3 and had significant luck in creating chances. He’s also relied on the likes of Mesut Özil to play a large part in those matches.
Tottenham’s team are susceptible to the press and that would seem to signify that Emery might leave Özil on the bench, who while improving in Emery’s system, still isn’t the strongest on when it comes from defending from the front.
That’s why I suspect we’ll see Ramsey once again supporting one or both of Aubameyang and/or Alexandre Lacazette.
The biggest question though is right wing-back. In the last tie, it was Bellerin’s attacking threat that was quite useful in going forward and his ability to get back into shape defensively that helped Arsenal corral Tottenham’s attack.
For this match, we don’t have Bellerin and that Maitlaind-Niles hasn’t been seen from in a few weeks. The last two matches against Soton and the Cherries saw both Lichtsteiner and Jenkinson feature. If I were a betting man I’d say if the choices are between the Swiss and the lucky Arsenal fanboy, I’m going with the Arsenal fan boy.
Jenkinson has accepted the challenge of Emery and continues to just try and play a sound game. He is markedly quicker than Lichtsteiner and offers more defensive solidity than the swiss does right now. Where he may lack is smarts and poorer technical qualities.
Every derby is unique and as the sayings go, never depend on the current records or form of the sides to determine who will win on the day. None of it really matters.
Or does it?
Tottenham are coming into this match on the back of two losses. The title chase they were never in is over. The wear and tear of the season looks to be finally catching up to a side that has bought in no reinforcements and bolster its thing squad.
Injuries are mounting and players are started to look jaded (Eriksen).
Again, none of that is going matter as it’s a derby and we are the measuring stick that Middlesex measure themselves against.
But Arsenal can get joy against this side and they’ve shone that.
Tottenham are having an issue playing right now not because of all the other points mentioned but they are having them at a team functional level.
Kane has become a natural space invader, taking away from Eriksen (or other natural 10) and the positions they are able to take up. This causes an unbalance in their play during the build-up and gives them a very asymmetrical shape that can be easily thwarted by packing the central areas of the pitch.
Additionally, with the lack of depth especialyin fullbacks, play is forced less through their less able players. The resulting effect is crosses being lumped into the box at every possible opportunity. With Kane’s withdrawn position, the have to thus aim for one of either Son or Moura which isn’t exactly ideal.
It really is all to play for. Arsenal can close the gap to third to one point if they can win at Wembley tomorrow. It won’t be an easy task as every derby is a challenge, but Arsenal look to be regaining some semblance of form while Tottenham seem to be suffering from the lack of squad depth.
If there was any time to get the three points and the derby double, it would be this time.
Players to watch
Arsenal. Alexandre Lacazette
Tottenham. Harry Kane
Form (last five)
Arsenal record vs Tottenham
197M 82W 51D 64L (all competitions)
53M 20W 21D 12L (Premier league)
Goals scored per game average
Arsenal: 1.92 (away)
Tottenham: 1.96 (home)
Goals conceded per game average
Arsenal: 2.00 (away)
Tottenham: 1.04 (home)
What the head coach says (courtesy Arsenal.com)
It is a big motivation, but we were speaking and we need to take the opportunity like today, these three points. After we can have and get an opportunity like Saturday. It’s one team that, at the moment, are better than us in the table. I think it is very difficult there, to win, but it is a good test, a great test and a positive test.
Referee: Anthony Taylor (24M 76Y 0R)
Assistants: Gary Beswick, Adam Nunn
Fourth official: Jonathan Moss
UK BT Sport 12:30 GMT
US: NBC Sports Network 7:30 AM EST
Match facts (courtesy BBC.co.uk)
- Spurs are vying to register three consecutive top-flight home wins against Arsenal for the first time since 1961.
- Arsenal’s only away league victory in this fixture in the past 10 attempts came in March 2014, courtesy of Tomas Rosicky’s early goal (D3, L6).
- They have met 197 times in all competitions, with Arsenal leading by 82 wins to Tottenham’s 64.
- The Gunners have won five of their past six league games, as many as they managed in their previous 13.
- They earned a first league away victory in seven attempts at the expense of Huddersfield in their most recent game on the road.
- Arsenal are winless in 21 Premier League away fixtures against other established top six teams since beating Manchester City 2-0 in January 2015 (D7, L14).
- They are the only club not to have kept a Premier League away clean sheet in 2018-19.
- Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has scored an unrivalled six league goals in London derbies this season.
- Henrikh Mkhitaryan has scored four goals and provided three assists in his last four league appearances.
- Spurs are in danger of losing three consecutive Premier League games for the first time since November 2012 – when the third defeat came against Arsenal.
Tottenham 2 – 2 Arsenal