EPL 2016/17: Arsenal vs Spurs - Deducing the derby
On derby day, there's only one thing that matters: Who wants it more.
The question remains as to whether Mauricio Pochettino can get his Spurs side up for the derby.
On form, Arsenal look much the better side, coming from 2 behind to win in the Champions league, and looking like a top outfit in the league, shifting through the gears all too easily.
Spurs, on the other hand, are winless in 6 across all competitions and struggling to score a goal. Ever since they showed City up, and played the best 90 minutes of football, seen from any side this season, Spurs have gone cold.
Injury News and tactical bearing
The step up to the Champions league is having it's effect on a rather small Spurs squad. But there is good news, the messiah could be back. Harry Kane may just be back for the derby and if there's one thing we know, it's that he loves putting away Arsenal.
However, more importantly, the question is whether Moussa Dembele will slot back into the middle of the park. Victor Wanyama and Eric Dier are brilliant at breaking up play, but Dembele adds the extra zip with his range of passing and creativity that makes Spurs tick. If both him and Kane start, Mustafi and Koscielny could face their biggest test yet.
Tactically, Wenger doesn't change much and why would he? Ozil is firing, Sanchez is running riot, and he's a got a top French striker who seems to have returned and found his mark almost immediately on the bench. Walcott is finally delivering the end product, and Santi Cazorla gives direction to the entire operation.
Pochettino, on the other hand, will look to his players to step up and deliver. Toby Alderweireld and Erik Lamela will definitely be missed in regards to Pochettino's heavy pressing game. Victor Wanyama sitting an entire game in midfield and just nullifying anything Cazorla does might be an effective game plan. Without Cazorla, Arsenal look aimless at times. Likewise, if Dembele starts, one can be sure that Francis Coquelin will not give him a moment's peace.
Alex Iwobi and Theo Walcott will have very important roles in tracking the runs of Kyle Walker and Danny Rose. But one would expect them to possess the pace to keep up with the fullbacks, as opposed to Christian Eriksen down Arsenal's right whose lack of defensive contribution could be a potential threat for Arsenal to exploit.
Wenger has remarked that Santi is not a sure starter and has a fitness test to determine whether he will play a part on Sunday, which could mean new signing Xhaka is drafted into the unit, thereby ensuring Spurs have a lower chance of scoring, but also reducing Arsenal's attacking potency.
Arsenal’s centre-half pairing has looked as tight as a drum, with no signs of opening up anytime soon. Spurs, on the other hand, could possibly utilise the makeshift partnership of Dier-Vertonghen that could be potentially shaky if exploited by the pacey running in behind of Alexis Sanchez.
Spurs, with Alderweireld, didn't let in a goal from open play for 8 games, he missed one, and Ahmed Musa pounced to score against them. One can only imagine what Sanchez and co. might do to a Spurs defence that could break without it's most pivotal cog.
The “Number 10 head to head”
Dele Alli and Mesut Ozil could quite easily decide it. Alli has looked well off it while the German magician’s football has been on point over the last couple of weeks. But with Kane back in, and potentially Dembele as well, it could give Alli the perfect platform to restart his season with a good performance and put to rest all doubts of his second season syndrome.
The return of Giroud will interest Ozil as well, and will certainly be an outlet from set plays. Mesut Ozil will also have to do a fair bit of defensive duty, to ensure Wanyama isn’t allowed to maraud forward and beat him with strength.
Dele Alli’s role is likely to be more relaxed and free as Francis Coquelin is more likely to sit and allow the more creative players to take the charge to the heart of the Spurs defence.
Looking forward and at possible records
Spurs could go level on points with Arsenal if there wasn't enough incentive already. Spurs are unbeaten in the league, but the streak has never been under more threat than it is now.
There's an interesting record up for grabs as well, Pochettino could become the first manager to be undefeated in his first 5 North London derby games, and it could be the first time Wenger goes winless in 5 London derbies in the Premier League.
On the whole, Arsenal look the better outift, the team with more swagger and desire at the moment, but all it will take is one feisty challenge for all that to go out the window and for us neutrals to see a hotly contested full-blooded derby, which will keep us on the edge of our seats.
The bookmakers have Arsenal down for a win, by a huge margin. But with this Spurs side, and their crafty manager, one can never really be sure.