After 2 defeats and 1 victory in 3 consecutive away games across 3 different competitions we finally return to the Emirates stadium on Sunday to take on Tottenham Hotspur in the illustrious North London Derby. Before the start of the Champions League game against Bayern Munich on Wednesday at the Allianz Arena we had ten first team players out injured and eventually we went on to lose the game 5-1. Arsenal’s injury curse has struck this season too.
Players like Aaron Ramsey, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Theo Walcott, Hector Bellerin and Laurent Koscielny were all injured in the last 10 days. With players like Danny Welbeck, Jack Wilshere, Daniel Ospina, Mikel Arteta and Tomas Rosicky already nursing injuries club manager Arsene Wenger would be going through a tough period now. On Friday at the pre match press conference before the NLD, Wenger had said that Bellerin won’t be available for the Spurs match and Koscielny has 80% chance of being fit for today’s match and will undergo a last minute fitness test.
Koscielny is the main man in our defense and without him we saw how our defense was hammered by the mighty Bayern. Hence Wenger would be praying that he becomes fit right on time for the derby. Now the player whom Koscielny should replace comes under debate. Recently Gabriel has put up impressive performances and has become a fan favorite. Hence most gooners would opt for him but the Bayern game showed his inexperience as the way he handled such a big game against a top team wasn’t so convincing. Mertesacker was more composed than him in that game and his experience would add value to the squad while facing a team like Spurs who are only five points behind us on the PL table. Hence I feel that it is Mertesacker who should start over Gabriel. Except for Koscielny’s inclusion the team which lost to Bayern was expected to be the same for the NLD as well.
However to Wenger’s delight the club’s medical team seem to have done an excellent job. Club captain Arteta and goalkeeper Ospina have reportedly undergone full training yesterday and are fit for the match. Wenger was already confident that Koscielny would make it on time for this crucial derby and now with Arteta and Ospina regaining fitness Wenger will have more options at his disposal now. However Wenger’s main problem will be to choose the right players for the right positions and to set the right formation with the right strategy in place.
Wenger might be tempted to play the 4-4-2 formation today against an attacking Spurs side to attack well on the counter. Pochettino’s men have scored 10 goals in their last four PL games so Wenger will be well aware of the attacking intent of our North London rivals. Wenger might employ two defensive midfielders in the form of Coquelin and Arteta in the centre and play Cazorla and Ozil on the left and right wings respectively with Sanchez joining Giroud as an additional striker.
But the 4-4-2 move might backfire as well because Cazorla is playing well in the central midfielder role and altering his position might break the team chemistry. Even Ozil plays best in the central attacking midfielder role. So Wenger will have to think twice before employing the 4-4-2 formation and taking the extra risk in a crucial match of this stature. If Wenger uses the usual 4-2-3-1 formation then Joel Campbell will play as the right winger and Arteta will move to the bench.
Victory in a North London derby will mean the world for either of the North London rivals. With three first team players back in the squad Wenger would be slightly in a lighter mood going into this historical fixture. Wenger must get his tactics spot on to overcome his counterpart Pochettino. Let us all now hope that Wenger’s men come on top over our fierce North London rivals today and restore some pride after a disastrous result against Bayern Munich three days back. If our players step up today and play well from the very beginning we will surely witness a very good game of football.
Predicted Formation: 4-2-3-1 (or) 4-4-2.
Predicted Line-up: Cech(gk), Debuchy, Mertesacker©, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Santi, Campbell/Arteta, Ozil, Sanchez, Giroud.
Subs: Ospina(gk), Gabriel, Gibbs, Flamini, Campbell/Arteta, Iwobi, Reine Adelaide.