Good day one and all.
The battle lines are drawn as Arsenal host Tottenham at the Emirates for the first of three North London Derbies this season, and apart from bragging rights the stakes are much higher as a win will not only be crucial in the quest for top-four but will also help not to cede further ground on the early Premier League log leaders.
Following three back-to-back PL draws the Gunners got back to winning ways against a spirited Bournemouth side, and although not vintage we did create the lion’s share of scoring chances. So play as we did then with better composure in front of goal and we will have joy.
Easier said than done though as this is a much tougher assignment. Spurs got their tails up with a run of six wins in all competitions in which they conceded just 5 goals and scored 13.
No-one really expect them to be troubling the trophy engravers anytime soon, but there was quite a celebration when they ended Chelsea’s unbeaten run last Sunday in a match their attackers danced around the Blues side with incredibly light feet. So we’ll need to show a much more committed performance than ‘Sarri-ball’ to nip in the bud any ideas our visitors may have that today will be another quick-step.
The last time we played one of the big ones second-placed Liverpool gave us quite a stern test, but we fought our way back from a goal down to earn a creditable draw. So whatever happens, today will provide a measure of just what the red half of North London can do in the league this campaign.
Then there is the matter of one Michael Dean. While he was the man in the middle in this fixture last season, a match we won with relative ease, it is worth mentioning he did admit to giving a phantom penalty to West Brom against us a few weeks later. So with a Spurs side who deliberately use tactics to con refs into them penalties the Gunners will need to remain organised and keep their wits about them if Mike is going to look like he wants to steal the show.
Gunner-in-chief Unai Emery’s first NLD and I’m sure he know it will be emotionally charged, so it will be a surprise to see him sacrificing an attacking player to keep with the three at the back he used in our last PL outing against attack minded opponents. While the system suits both Hector Bellerín and Sead Kolasinac’s attacking abilities, the three central defenders will need to be at their best vs a team that offers more of an attacking threat. If a return to a back four is favoured, the coach will have a tough decision whom to leave out of three, while still facing the same challenges Spurs pose. Sort of headache one imagine Pochettino himself to have to keep our attackers at bay.
We can expect these teams to have a good go at against each others to give us a very closely fought, equally entertaining and tense match up… and we can bet the Emirates faithful will not disappoint by providing the appropriate atmosphere.