Arsenal and Tottenham will meet at the Emirates Stadium to entertain us in another Sunday evening blockbuster as these bitter rivals contest the 202nd edition of the North London derby.
Image Copyright – Steve Haag Sports
Gunners’ boss Mikel Arteta is simply the definition of a modern-day football coach. With plenty of emphasis placed on analysis of opponents and countless hours on the training ground invested into perfecting drills that will execute his game plan to the tee. He will now seek to overturn the seven-point gap distancing his beloved Arsenal from securing UEFA Europa League qualification and avoiding ‘St. Totteringham’s Day.’
On the visitor’s bench, will be the wily, sharp-witted, veteran of the game, that is set in his old school methods. Jose Mourinho will be targeting a third straight victory over the Lilywhites’ arch-enemies which will certainly bring much joy to their faithful supporters who are always out for bragging rights against the old enemy.
Football fans are missing out on another cracker of note, these clashes are usually filled to the rafters as scores of fans make the stands rumble from poignant voices which sing the songs of their respective clubs for two hours.
English Premier League | Sunday 14 March | Emirates Stadium | 18:30
To Win Match
Arsenal have not been enjoying the best of seasons by their obvious, self-imposed, demanding standards that comes at a club with the pedigree of Arsenal, however, football is not just about results, statistics, and constantly looking at the log standings after each round of games.
Understanding that Arteta stepped into one of the most challenging roles in world football when he replaced Unai Emery in December 2019 after the Gunners searched for a worthy heir to replace one of the “Godfathers” of the English Premier League, Arsene Wenger.
There is a process of shipping players out and signing players with the correct attitudes who are perfectly suited to Arteta’s football ideologies. There is still much to accomplish before reaching the ambitious heights the Spanish mentor has set out for his club – winning the UEFA Champions League.
Slowing this entire project down is the lack of funds by almost every single club across Europe, who are experiencing difficulty in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic. With the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid even unable to dip into the transfer market and sign the cream of the crop as they usually do.
Arteta cannot sign his targets until the club sells the players he deems as surplus to generate the funds required. This is where his conundrum falls out of his control, and into the hands of executive members that need to properly assist the manager for him to truly show the world his unabridged capabilities.
By now, you might think that I am a diehard Arsenal supporter writing from the heart, but I am not. I have always admired the stylish flair they brought to our screens in their heyday, so I will have to bring in a few hard facts to add weight to my strong beliefs.
Arsenal have played seven matches against the “Big-Six,” conceding just eight goals. Considering three of them came against Liverpool, who avenged their Community Shield defeat in round three of the campaign with 100% of their squad fit, including the newly acquired Diogo Jota scoring on his Premier League debut.
The Gunners have already played both Manchester clubs. Raheem Sterling scoring the deciding goals as City completed a double over Arsenal with a pair of 1-0 victories. While Arteta’s charges got the better of United, picking up four points from the Red Devils who could not score against Arsenal.
The advantage Tottenham carry into this matchup is that Spurs host Dinamo Zagreb in London, while Arsenal make a three- and half-hour trip to Greece to lock horns with Olympiacos in the business end of the UEFA Europa League.
Mourinho has definitely done his homework with his right-hand man, Joao Sacramento, and video analysts that obviously came to the realisation that most of the goals conceded by Arsenal are due to sloppy mistakes that are pounced upon when they lose possession unnecessarily or when they overplay the ball out from the back.
Granit Xhaka’s costly mistake against Burnley serves as another example. The plan will surely be to press Arsenal high up the pitch in the hope that something will fall kindly in their favour. Son Heung-Min and Lucas Moura have the stamina to attempt pinning back the likes of Kieran Tierney and Hector Bellerin, while also carrying an attacking threat in front of goal.
If there is no Arsenal mistakes to benefit from then Mourinho’s troops will look to their captain Harry Kane and their Welsh wizard Gareth Bale to turn the game on its head with a moment of individual brilliance, or possibly replicate the fantastic link-up plays that saw the pair assist each other when they both netted two goals apiece against Crystal Palace last Sunday.
If all four attacking players are to feature from the onset, expect a double-pivot of Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Moussa Sissoko to provide solidity in the engine room, while Dele Alli will be knocking on the manager’s door for a starting berth with the 24-year-old midfielder displaying signs that the “Old Dele” is back in recent cameo appearances.
Steven Bergwijn and Eric Lamela are also options, both wide players always show determination when the team does not have possession which is exactly what is needed in a game like this. Personally, I would play Tanguy Ndombele ahead of the double pivot with the frightening trio of Son, Kane and Bale up top.
Mourinho has had memorable battles against both of Arteta’s biggest influences, Arsene Wenger and Pep Guardiola. Knowing the Portuguese manager’s character as a professional, he would definitely take delight in adding to Arsenal’s woes and buy himself some time with Spurs’ fans by taking off the pressure in the hunt for European football.
Interestingly, David Luiz and Mourinho worked together at Chelsea, but never won a trophy together. The general consensus had been that Mourinho had lost his spark, but it remains to be seen if he can bring silverware to Tottenham and prove us all wrong.
Leno; Bellerin, David Luiz, Pablo Mari, Tierney; Xhaka, Partey; Saka, Odegaard, Aubameyang; Lacazette
Lloris; Tanganga, Sanchez, Alderweireld, Reguilon; Hojbjerg, Ndombele; Sissoko, Bale, Son; Kane
Verdict: Draw 24/10
A tightly contested match with a few open chances is expected in a game that will be separated by the finest of margins. I cannot see these sides ousting each other, there is too much at stake. In my opinion, it will be decided in the final 20-30 minutes when the shackles are taken off and a more fluid end-to-end face off allows the attacking players more license to claim all the glory. Under 2.5 Goals is the best bet at 9/10. As for the result, I would not be surprised if we end 90 minutes of intriguing football in a 0-0 or 1-1 stalemate.
Written by Bryan Naicker