The 201st edition of the North London derby takes centre stage in the Premier League on Sunday afternoon as Arsenal make the short trip to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Image Copyright – Steve Haag Sports
Highly-decorated Portuguese tutor, Jose Mourinho, has instilled a siege mentality into this Tottenham team, spearheaded by Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son that are sitting on top of the league after 10 games.
The Lilywhites are playing equally well in the attacking sense as well as defensively and now the debate among Premier League fanatics is, “can Spurs mount a serious challenge for the league in a marathon race including UEFA Europa League commitments?”
Meanwhile, Gunners’ boss Mikel Arteta is under severe pressure for the first time in his fledgling managerial career, and desperately needs to pull his troops through his toughest spell at the helm of his beloved club.
Fans certainly won’t forget the infamous shoving match between Mourinho (Chelsea manager at the time) and legendary French maestro, Arsene Wenger, which adds another tasty layer to this bitter rivalry.
Mourinho has faced Arsenal 21 times in his career losing just twice (both to Wenger), and would take delight in adding salt to the wound of Spurs’ arch-enemies whilst holding on to the coveted top spot.
Arteta will aim to turn Arsenal’s fortunes around and earn the bragging rights over Mourinho that will endear the Spaniard even more to the Gunners faithful.
The previous meeting between these sides saw Spurs come from a goal down to snatch the win with 10 minutes to go, thanks to a Toby Alderweireld header from a set-piece in typical, trademark Mourinho styled smash and grab victory.
Arteta faces an uphill task, however, the best managers find a way to win when its most needed and this is the former midfielder’s chance to prove that he is among the cream of the crop regarding the new generation of bright managers that fuse a mixture of the tried and tested methods together with the latest ideas in football.
We’re set for an intriguing tactical battle between a stalwart of the game and the promising apprentice in one of the world’s oldest derbies.
English Premier League
Sunday 6 December – 18:30
Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
To Win Match
Tottenham 19/20 | Draw 26/10 | Arsenal 29/10
Tottenham have faced three of the traditional
big-six opponents and have been superb on each occasion. Kane and Son
humiliated Manchester United at Old Trafford (6-1) and kept a clean sheet
against Manchester City (2-0), while scoring in both halves of the match.
Last weekend, Spurs faced Chelsea, sharing
the spoils in a goalless draw after solid defensive shifts in the engine room
from the likes of Moussa Sissoko, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Tanguy Ndombele earning
a hard-fought point.
The personnel in midfield allows Mourinho
to properly display his vision of how the beautiful game should be played. Ndombele
has shown signs of why he was signed from Lyon. The Frenchman has the ability
to skillfully dribble past an opponent and release the deadly threat of Kane and
Son into attack.
Hojbjerg covers every plaid of grass,
always closing gaps in midfield, winning interceptions and keeps the play
flowing smoothly, with calmly executed, simple straight-forward passes. A very
underrated role that was played best by Sergio Busquets (Barcelona) or Michael
Carrick (Manchester United) that never got the recognition compared to their
teammates in more glamorous roles.
Gareth Bale will be more effective as an
impact substitute until he gains enough fitness and match sharpness. Steven
Bergwijn, Lucas Moura or Erik Lamela would be the sensible option to help Sergio
Reguilon in two vs two situations on Spurs’
Reguilon has been a bargain signing that
has made a definite improvement to the team. The young Spaniard is gifted with
tremendous pace and acceleration that will put any defence under stress when
directly running at them.
The centre-back pairing in front of Hugo
Lloris is expected to remain unchanged with Eric Dier and Joe Rodon at the
heart of defence. Matt Doherty is an option after recovering from COVID-19, replacing
Serge Aurier at right-back being the likeliest change if any to the in-form
hosts starting XI.
Arsenal’s main source of goals from captain
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang drying up is the main talking point. The ice-cold
finisher with blistering pace is enduring a slow start to the season with just
two goals and a single assist from 10 league games, being way off his regular
standards of brilliance and directly affecting the team’s recent failures in
claiming maximum points.
The previous season was taxing on every
player, very evident by recent press conference rants by Jurgen Klopp and Ole
Gunnar Solksjkaer about fixture congestion from “Project Restart” to the
present. Aubameyang is 31-years-old and is surely allowed a little while longer
to get back to his best considering how heavily he was relied on to deliver the
The class of a great player is shown in the
biggest games. Aubameyang scored against Tottenham, Manchester United &
Chelsea in the league and against Manchester City en route to FA Cup glory last
season. If ever there was a perfect opportunity to break the duck and win at
their crosstown rivals, now is the time for the captain to show his metal.
Nicolas Pepe will miss out due to
suspension, and in my opinion, the best signing of the previous window, Thomas
Partey, is still recovering from a thigh injury. These are huge blows but
Arteta worked miracles when he initially took over with players many of us had
already written off.
Alexandre Lacazette needs to start
centrally as the focal point in attack with Aubameyang cutting in from the
flank with more open space to exploit, also presenting the opportunity to commit
defenders to one-on-one situations where the Gabonese speedster always has the
Taking the injuries into account, Granit
Xhaka, Mohamed Elneny and Bukayo Saka would be my preferred trio to counter
Spurs’ combative midfield.
“He is not only a great coach but also a
great friend of mine. I learned a bit from each of my managers, but I
identified myself more with Mourinho for sure. He trusted in my potential,
liked my football, gave me full confidence to play. He is the best coach I have
Willian made these glowing remarks when
asked about his future earlier this year. The Brazilian will have to put aside
his admiration for the “Chosen One” for 90 minutes and help the Gunners get
back on track when called upon.
Verdict: Arsenal (29/10)
Both sides are expected to have a measured approach, choosing the opportune times to attack with former Golden Boot winners Kane and Aubameyang leading their attacking lines respectively. The match will explode into a full-on, end to end game in the last 20 minutes with Arsenal edging this encounter and claiming the bragging rights. This is a very bold call, but I fancy the Gunners to get one over Mourinho and Tottenham in the North London Derby.
Written by Jesse Nagel for Hollywoodbets.