The north London derby takes place today, with Tottenham hosting Arsenal at Wembley Stadium. The game will kick off at 12:30. Tottenham are third in the Premier League table, while Arsenal are fourth. Four points separate the rivals.
It goes without saying that this is an absolutely massive game. They really do despise each other, and this game is one of the biggest of the season. It’s one of the biggest derbies in English football. There are often fireworks when these meet, and we could be in for a very good game today.
Tottenham have had a shocker of a week. They’ve gone from title hopefuls to top four fighters. Last week, when Spurs travelled to Burnley, they had the chance to cut the gap at the top of the table to just two points and really stake a claim in the title race. But a 2-1 defeat, followed by a 2-0 defeat to Chelsea on Wednesday night, sees them nine points behind Liverpool. Their title challenge is over, and they now must ensure they finish third. A loss today would see them just one point ahead of Arsenal, which is incredible considering how far they were ahead a few weeks ago. If Arsenal win today, there won’t be much of a gap between Tottenham, Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea, and anybody could finish in the two remaining Champions League places.
This makes a big Tottenham performance today all the more important. They need to turn up and turn their form around. They have to go out there and give absolutely everything they have and beat their biggest rivals. If they do, they’ll once again be in a great position to finish in third. It’s a cliche, but form goes out the window in a derby. Previous results really don’t matter as players up their game and give 110 per cent. There’s no hiding place out there: you have to give everything you have.
Spurs will be more than confident of scoring today. Arsenal’s defence is shaky at best, and with Tottenham’s world-class attacking players, they can definitely cause the Gunners problems. Harry Kane returning to the team hasn’t really helped them, but he loves a goal in the derby. It’s not often he doesn’t score and he’ll back himself to finish past Bernd Leno at least once today.
Arsenal’s season has had a real boost in recent weeks. They’ve won their last three league games in a row, with Wednesday night’s 5-1 thrashing of Bournemouth giving them a real confidence boost ahead of this game. Unai Emery’s men now have Tottenham, and third place, in their sights. A win today would be absolutely huge for them, as they’d feel they could overtake Tottenham. A one point difference is nothing. Three points today would put them in a great position in terms of finishing in the top four.
There have been plenty of positives to take from Emery’s first season in charge at the Emirates, but results away from home to the top teams isn’t one of them. They’ve done well at home: beating today’s opposition, as well as Chelsea, while they drew with league leaders Liverpool. But they’ve been beaten away to Chelsea and Manchester City, while they were hammered 5-1 at Anfield in December. A draw away to Manchester United wasn’t particularly impressive either, as they were down in the dumps under Jose Mourinho. It’s time for a big performance and a big three points away from home against tough opposition.
Will they get it today? A big performance with plenty of running and effort is the least they can expect. The three points could go either way, but there will be no excuses for a lack of effort. But there won’t be a lack of effort from anybody today, as that would be unforgivable in the derby. Arsenal will likely go for a high-energy pressing game and try to get at Tottenham right from the off. That’s one of the things Emery has tried to bring to his team this season. They haven’t always pressed, but when they have, it’s been quite successful. Of course, they need to ensure they don’t leave too much space in behind. Son Heung-min is a huge threat when he’s given space to run in behind. Arsenal need to be at the top of their game defensively.
Jan Vertonghen and Harry Winks will be assessed ahead of the game. Expect both to play even if they’re not quite at 100 per cent because Spurs need everybody available today. Dele Alli is still out injured, while Eric Dier is ill.
Mauricio Pochettino will likely go for a back three. His selection of wing-backs will be interesting. Many have struggled this season and it’s Tottenham’s weak point. They need to up their game today. Harry Winks’ fitness is very important to them as they’re so light in the middle of the park. He’ll partner Moussa Sissoko if fit.
Stephan Lichtsteiner and Ainsley Maitland-Niles should both be fit to return today after missing Wednesday’s game against Bournemouth. Laurent Koscielny should also be fit. The Gunners are still without long-term absentees Hector Bellerin, Rob Holding and Danny Welbeck.
The team Emery goes with will be very interesting. He chops and changes so much, so it’s hard to predict. But I think he’ll go for a back three today, and I don’t think Mesut Ozil will start. He was brilliant during the week against Bournemouth, but I think Emery will opt for somebody better defensively that will more effectively carry out his pressing game-plan. I also think it will be a one-or-the-other with Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Lacazette was given the nod. Alex Iwobi will also likely come into the team as he offers a lot of energy in there.
It’s so difficult to predict how this one will go. It really could go either way, but Tottenham will be favourites since they’re at home. Tottenham haven’t drawn a game all season, but this could well be their first one. It’ll likely be decided on fine margins and could be a very tight game. But let’s hope it’s open and attacking and fiesty. This game is no stranger to goals and red cards, so we could be in for a really exciting one today.
The atmosphere will be amazing, as always, as there’s so much at stake. I seriously can’t wait for this one!
The team news will be out at 11:30 and that’ll be up here as well. I hope you enjoy the game if you’re watching or going. This is one that’s not to be missed!
For some extra reading this morning, check out our article on the history of the north London derby. It’s a long one, but it’s a good read.