As if the return of Premier League football isn’t enough, we have not one but two feature games for your perusal! The first one sees age-old rivals Arsenal and Tottenham engage in battle at the Emirates.
There is no love lost here and given the competitive edge which silently split their European hopes last season, now coupled with a blistering start in both camps – you know this is going to be insane.
To Win (90 mins)
You’ve got to say that Arsenal is still in an amazing position now. They have won six from their first seven fixtures and playing a brand of football that can only be described as attractive. However, the North London derby is their second biggest challenge and, after failing at their first, questions will inevitably be associated with another less than perfect result.
The apparent mid-season break has probably come at the worst possible time for Arsenal as well, they had a positive momentum about them before they had to split up for the internationals – I wonder how that plays out in terms of their team chemistry.
Last time these two met, Spurs were the victors, thrashing their bitter rivals three goals to nothing. It pretty much sealed up their top four hopes and relegated Arsenal to yet another season finishing behind Spurs. That was a different Arsenal though, one which lacked confidence and a belief of self, one which was divided by the insecurity around their manager and the impatience of their fanbase.
I have seen – and admittedly been drawn to – the intrigue around where Arsenal is this season. Yes, the start has been incredible…but are they really challenging for the title? History would suggest so, they haven’t finished outside of the top when they won their first five league games! Are they really competing with the likes of Manchester City though? I mean, if not them who is? Liverpool isn’t surely still in the conversation.
You can get around even money for the home win this weekend, you’ve got to say that it is incredible value. Arsenal is playing out of their league at the moment, they will play at home, you know: “Fortress Emirates” (yes, another rather embarrassing title I have come across in recent weeks) and surely, they are deserved favourites. The atmosphere will only give them an edge and not take away from their mentality as always. The feeling around the Emirates is upbeat and positive anyway.
And yet then again, it’s the hope that kills, as they say.
Antonio Conte’s men haven’t enjoyed the same sort of media attention as their rivals – but unlike their rivals they are unbeaten. They are yet to lose a game this season and it is only a solitary point which splits the teams from North London.
Enough has already been made of the impact Conte has had at Spurs, his side works incredibly hard. They fight and are happy to turn games into a scrappy affair. They have discipline beyond all telling on defence and can explode into an attacking array with players who possess devastating attacking ability. Oh, and they have a manager who is happy to celebrate every moment along the way.
if this game was being played at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, I think Spurs win it. The way they have played at home this season has been brilliant – but therein lies my issue. They have not replicated those sorts of complete performances on the road. They struggled against Nottingham Forest and stumbled to a draw with West Ham and Chelsea. They aren’t really the sort of performances which shout confidence.
Unfortunately, I just can’t see past those sort of flat and pedestrian performances Spurs have registered and think if Arsenal turns it on, surely, they win. Yes, Spurs have world-class players of their own – think Harry Kane and the like – but if Arsenal ask Spurs to play at an accelerated tempo and with a direct approach, closing those intricate midfield spaces, I just don’t see how Conte’s men win.
Prediction: Arsenal Half-time/Full-time Double (2/1)
If I’m an Arsenal fan, and I can assure you I am the furthest thing from that, I would be confident going into this weekend. Their style and energy combine so well to make life difficult for teams usually…let alone a side who need to rely on central spaces to find players’ feet.
If Arsenal can get into the game early on, I think they could win the game in the first half already. I know Spurs have shown an ability to fight their way back into fixtures and come away with something but to do it again at the Emirates might be a bridge too far.
Back the red side on the half-time and full-time double – 2/1 is a pretty price so get yourself involved.