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Tottenham vs Arsenal Preview: North London derby

Former Golden Boot winners Harry Kane and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will lead the line for their respective clubs


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.

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.

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English Premier League
Sunday 6 December
Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
18:30

To Win
Tottenham 19/20
Draw 26/10
Arsenal 29/10

Tottenham

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 skilfully 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’ left-flank.

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.

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Arsenal

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 goods.

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 advantage.

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 worked with.”

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.

Probable line-ups:

Tottenham: 4-2-3-1
Lloris; Aurier, Rodon, Dier, Reguilon; Sissoko, Hojbjerg; Bergwijn, Ndombele, Son; Kane.

Arsenal: 4-2-3-1
Leno; Bellerin, David Luiz, Gabriel, Tierney; Elneny, Xhaka; Willian, Saka, Aubameyang; Lacazette.

Prediction: 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 Bryan Naicker