It’s a mouthwatering contest, like a cup final but with so much more at stake. If you had to describe the North London Derby to a visiting Martian, the descriptive prologue would have to include the intensity of war, the emotion of a feel-good story, the drama of an explosion and the visual content of a lavish firework display.
It’s not just about points, it’s about who’s best in the Empire of North London. The winner holds the bragging rights until next season and Arsenal are already halfway there with a spectacular 4-2 win at the Emirates. If they should win, it will be only the 4th time that the Gunners have completed a Premier League double over their rivals.
At present, the club’s are separated by just four points but it’s their fortunes that are compelling. Spurs were, up until recently, considered title contenders with a trophy almost guaranteed this season. However, a series of poor results have ended that ambition and Tomorrow, Spurs play hosts to Arsenal, on the back of two consecutive defeats, still in rented accommodation and trophy-less for another season.
Well, that’s not quite true because Mauricio Pochettino and Son Heung-min picked up awards for Manager and player of the year. Yes, really!. Arsenal started the season optimistically but they have been plagued by injury and inconsistencies. Then, just when it seemed it couldn’t get any worse, Unai Emery drooped the loan only bombshell, in the January window.
The press could smell blood, Arsenal’s competitive corpse was given an autopsy, where it was said to have arrested due to self-inflicted wounds and this immediately ruled out any chance of a top-four finish. Of course, none of this will matter or even play a part on Saturday, everything will fade into obscurity until that final whistle is blown and the victors can celebrate.
If there was a good time to play Spurs, this is it. A fascinating fluctuation in fortunes that has seen them crash out of the EPL and FA cup’s and also included that defeat against Chelsea which ended their premier league challenge. Arsenal have overcome their struggles and are set to contest a full bloodied encounter that will demand the very best from both sets of players.
Passion will be a minimum requirement and if you were going down that route, then Guendouzi and Ramsey would be included but it will need more than that. Mkhitaryan, Ozil, Kolasinac, and Lacazette, are in good form. This is no place for Denis Suarez and I doubt he’ll even make the bench because Arsenal will need experienced NLD personnel.
The Spurs side that met and were defeated by Chelsea, looked a little light in places, especially in midfield and this is an area that Arsenal can exploit and dominate.
It will be where this game is won. Vertonghen, Alli and Dier will be missing(as per BBC) and this is perhaps why Spurs are losing their way in the premier league. The depth of the squad is shallow and with big players missing, perhaps it was inevitable that points would be dropped.
Here are some stats from BBC:
For those that enjoy coincidence, the last time Spurs lost three consecutive games in a row was back in 2012 and that was to Arsenal.
For those that depend on facts, 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).
The man to watch for me, isn’t Harry Kane, although he will have to be kept quiet by Sokratis. The danger man is Son, the 26-year-old has 16 goals and nine assists in 34 games in all competitions this season. For Arsenal, the key may be Mkhitaryan, who has shown he can boss the midfield and carve out chances.
Arsenal should enjoy the width of Wembley and it’s a shame that Bellerin misses out.
How he would have loved to go blitzing down the wing, stretching Spurs and luring the defence out of their regimented positions. Like putting cat biscuits in a cat basket, to entice your animal inside before a trip to the vets. On current form, it’s Kolasinac, who may thrive in that role and he has been a constant thorn going down the channel.
Both Managers and both sets of players will be aware of the games significance to the fans. It will require character and skill but they will have to avoid the risk of the emotion boiling over, as it so nearly did at the Emirates. Being a man short in this match because of a moment of madness will hand the game to the opponent.
Prediction: Head says 2-2, Heart says 3-1 win
Preferred line up: Leno, Kolasinac, Sokratis, Koscielny, Jenkinson, Torriera, Xhaka, Mkhitaryan, Ozil, Aubameyang and Lacazette.
Possible line up: Leno, Kolasinac, Sokratis, Mustafi, Maitland-Niles, Guendouzi, Xhaka, Mkhitaryan, Ozil, Ramsey, Lacazette.
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