It’s North London derby day with Arsenal making the short trip up Seven Sisters to play Tottenham Hotspur; both sides will hope to boost their chances of a top-six finish in the Premier League standings.
When these teams met in the reverse fixture back in September, the Gunners came from two goals down to draw 2-2. Then Unai Emery and Mauricio Pochettino were in opposing dugouts, now both clubs are in a transition period under Mikel Arteta and José Mourinho respectively.
Good day one and all.
For all intents and purpose, the midweek result against Leicester City took us out of the running for Champions League football. But also, to be fair to Mikel it wasn’t really that result, nor the one at Brighton, our problems go a lot further back than that. He came in mid-season, with the team directionless, to do a repair job and emboss a playing style ahead of the new season.
From the table below (updated to just before this game week) it can be seen that under Mikel we are doing as well as expected and disappointment at our current league position shouldn’t pause the feel-good factor that has returned to the Emirates Stadium.
Be that as it may, the season is not lost yet. We can still salvage it by qualifying for next season’s Europa League.
After losing the initial two games following the restart, the Gunners show signs that they have found their rhythm since, winning three league games on the bounce without conceding, before the 1-1 draw against the Foxes having played with 10 men. Across all competitions we are currently on an unbeaten run of 5 games and will be keen to extend the current upturn in form.
Conversely, Spurs come into this game on the back of a 0-0 draw at relegation-threatened Bournemouth, without registering a single a shot on target.
They do have recent home wins against West Ham United and Everton, but also those are their only two victories in 11 matches stretching back to mid-February. It is this that has led to José Mourinho facing criticism for his approach to games.
That said, Mikel wouldn’t make the mistake to underestimate our bitter rivals. They got three clean sheets in their last four games, and if Mourinho can just find a way to get the most out of his attacking talent they can still recover their season.
Notable absentees for Spurs will be Eric Dier, who has been hit with a four-match ban for confronting a spectator. Also Dele Alli is reported to be ruled-out, having already missed the last two games.
For Arsenal there’s no new injuries from our last game, however, Eddie Nkeitah is suspended for three matches following a red card midweek.
Otherwise, Mikel is likely to go with a very similar starting XI from our previous game, with Nicolas Pépé having to wait a bit longer as Bukayo Saka impressed once again.
Look, these two teams may have revised their aims regarding their expectations for this season but this is still the North London derby, so the usual flames that come with such a storied-rivalry shouldn’t be dampened.
Given the comments by the Gunners’ social media team following Spurs’ defeat at Sheffield United, this has the makings of being an intense, entertaining and very combative affair.