The North London Derby is almost upon us and as Gooners, it’s safe to say there isn’t anything else that is consuming us nearly as much as the weekend begins.
Our rivals are sitting pretty at the top of the league and have a healthy eight point gap between us. A win and our Premier League targets look a lot more achievable. A loss?
We can’t contemplate the fallout from such a travesty.
Then we get to who is managing that lot. Jose Mourinho has gone to great lengths to keep Arsenal in his targeting reticule since coming to the Premier League in 2005. His comments and actions directed toward us gives us clear indication that he isn’t exactly fond of us and it is fair to say the feeling is 100% mutual.
We are the underdogs for this game, make no mistake. We have never won a game at their new ground and we are well overdue a victory, never mind over them. We haven’t won a Premier League since impressively overcoming Manchester United and some passive performances have seen us lose to Wolves, Leicester and Aston Villa, and escape a match with recently promoted Leeds with a point.
We are not in great health, form wise. But the good thing about derby games is that forms counts for very little. It will be about who wants it most and judging by Hector Bellerin’s recent comments about the pressure Arteta is under and how the entire squad must do more to prove that Arteta’s methods are right, not to mention how they want to do their manager proud?
It is fighting talk, and there is no better stage than against Tottenham.
But in order to win, we need to win the key battles on the pitch.
Where will they be? And Who will win?
Heung-Min-Son and Harry Kane Vs Gabriel
Both of tottenham’s attackers go through the centre. While Son floats and can cut in, more often than not he feeds from the supply that Kane gives him. That will happen when Kane drops deeper and plays the ‘ten’ role. Gabriel has the pace to stop Son and he has the nous to cut out the balls that Kane will provide, but he will need help. That will come from whomever we play in defensive midfield. If Partey does make it? He will be more than enough for Kane. If Xhaka is tasked with it, he will have to be at his best and ensure he is there to stop Kane.
Nelson Vs Reguilon
The Spaniard has taken to spurs and the Premier League quickly. His roving runs have been effective but can he do the same on the back foot? If we give spurs the impetus, then Reguilon will have a field day, so Nelson and co need to keep him on the back foot. Nelson has been on fire recently and could pin the Spanish defender back.
Laca and Auba Vs Alderweireld and Hojbjerg
The Belgian centre-half is seasoned in the PL and will nullify most of the aerial threat we carry, but Auba can beat him for pace. The key will be if Laca plays. If the Frenchman convinced Arteta that he can play in the hole after his display against Rapid Vienna, then he has a chance of drumming up that wonderful chemistry he has with our number 14. Hojbjerg is another astute purchase from Jose and he has been key in their resilience recently. He will be tasked with keeping Laca quiet but so much depends on which team is bossing possession.
We have enough, man for man. It is simply about motivation now.