The restarted season has finally given fans one of the highlights of the football fixture list. Spurs v Arsenal, the North London Derby, is a game that is usually held in front of two sets of noisy, passionate fans but it’s the first time in 107 years since the Gunners moved home in 1913, that there’s no home advantage and no crowd.
Quite how that effects the proceedings are unclear, but you can bet that Jose Mourinho’s and Mikel Arteta’s sides won’t be treating it any differently. Despite Mourinho saying that it has little relevance on his season, behind closed doors he will be keen to win it.
He has a history with Arsenal and previous manager Arsene Wenger. Arteta is only too aware of those spats but from a purely selfish point of view, he will want to make sure that his side comes away with all three points after being robbed of two at Leicester.
Yes, I’m still fuming about that result and it’s made worse by the fact that Eddie Nketiah’s red was not rescinded for an awkward and clumsy tackle in the driving rain, whilst Janie Vardy gets another outing for Leicester.
Spurs and Arsenal meet under similar circumstances with two new managers and sides that need to be reinvented in the summer but at present, it’s pride and points that are at stake.
Spurs looked destined for a glittering period under Pochettino but after appearing in the Champions League final 2019, it all went incredibly wrong. It was a fall that no one could have seen coming but the rate of their implosion was truly astonishing, with rumours of fallouts and clashes behind closed doors.
Arsenal have suffered their own decline but under Arteta, there appears to be light at the end of the tunnel. He has given a new lease of life to players who’s Arsenal careers were all but over and influenced the younger players that have emerged from the academy.
Mustafi and Xhaka are almost unrecognisable, but it’s clear that his Midas touch doesn’t stretch to Mesut Özil. Yet these days, his exclusion from the squad requires no explanation because it’s so common.
The Gunners go into the Spurs v Arsenal game undefeated since losses to Man City and Brighton. Spurs’ form seems to be erratic with a mixed bag of results and performance under the ‘Special One’ as the players struggle to meet his expectations.
For Arsenal, the nucleus of Arteta’s team for this season is slowly emerging, with his back-three formation of Mustafi, Luiz, Kolasinac, or Holding. He has his first choice wing-backs in Hector Bellerin and Kieran Tierney and an interesting partnership developing with Dani Ceballos and Granit Xhaka.
Upfront, he has options with Reiss Nelson, Bukayo Saka, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Nicholas Pepe, and Alexandre Lacazette, but no Eddie Nketiah this time around. The one position that was of major concern was that of the goalkeeper after the injury to Bernd Leno, but Emiliano Martínez is an extremely capable deputy for the missing German.
I don’t expect too many changes, Arteta is building momentum and the only switch that I can see is up top, with Saka flipping to the left flank, Pepe coming in on the right and Aubameyang in the striker’s role. If there are any adjustments to the back three then, it would be Holding at the expense of Kolasinac or Tierney on the left side of the three which could put Saka on the left flank of midfield.
That would allow Aubameyang to go left, Lacazette to be the striker and Pepe or Nelson on the right. If it were me, I’d drop Lacazette for this one and include Pepe as the only change from the Leicester game because Arsenal looked pretty comfortable and solid for large parts of the game.
Spurs’ omissions:- Eric Dier (Ban) and Dele Alli (hamstring) – won’t be featuring. As for Arsenal, it’s the usual names of Leno (knee), Mari (ankle), Martinelli (knee), Chambers (knee), Ozil (ego), and Guendouzi (attitude) which allows Arteta some artistic license on the bench.
The Spurs v Arsenal fixture is going to be a well-contested match and Arsenal will have to try not to finish this game with 10 men or they will be in trouble. They need discipline with quick counters but possession is key and the battle could well be won in midfield.
If that’s the case, Bellerin and Tierney will be key and Ceballos and Xhaka will have to stand firm. Instead of watching Jamie Vardy, it’s Harry Kane who provides the main threat against Arsenal.
Predicted team for the Spurs v Arsenal game:- Martinez; Mustafi, Luiz, Kolasinac, Bellerin; Ceballos, Xhaka, Tierney, Pepe, Saka; Aubameyang.
Predicted score:- 1-3 Arsenal
Key men for Arsenal:- Ceballos, Pepe, Aubameyang
Key men for Spurs:- Kane, Son.