There are lots of cracking match-ups in the Premier League this weekend, but the first may well be the best. Saturday’s early kick-off is Tottenham vs Arsenal, the latest episode in the exciting drama that is the North London Derby.
Mauricio Pochettino will be looking for another Wembley win to keep up the pressure on the Top 4. Tottenham sit just 1 point behind Chelsea, and 2 behind Liverpool. What they really don’t need is another draw. Spurs haven’t lost since December, but they’ve only won 3 of their last 5 in the Premier League.
Arsenal will feel confident ahead of the North London Derby. With Alexis Sánchez gone, the dark cloud has finally lifted. If the 5-1 thrashing of Everton is anything to go by, Gunners fans should be very excited about new signings Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan. Their away form is a concern, however.
Back in November, Arsenal beat Tottenham 2-0 at the Emirates. Sánchez was the hero that day; who will it be this time?
The exciting news for Tottenham is that Toby Alderweireld is back. The Belgian defender played 90 minutes against Newport County in the FA Cup, but is he ready for a North London Derby? Perhaps not. Pochettino may stick with Jan Vertonghen and Davinson Sánchez instead.
For Arsenal, centre-backs Shkodran Mustafi and Laurent Koscielny have now played 4 games in a row together. They’re not exactly watertight yet, but at least there’s consistency at the back. The Gunners have only kept 1 cleansheet since mid-December.
Tottenham vs Arsenal will be won or lost in the centre of the park. Mousa Dembélé and Eric Dier have formed perhaps the most powerful midfield duo in the Premier League. There’s even Victor Wanyama in reserve. Last week, they outmuscled Manchester United’s Paul Pogba and Nemanja Matić at Wembley.
The problem comes when they face a midfield three. Against Liverpool, they found it much harder to dominate against Emre Can, Jordan Henderson and James Milner. Will Wenger risk the indiscipline of just Aaron Ramsey and Granit Xhaka in the centre? Or will he bolster the midfield with Jack Wilshere or Mohamed Elneny away from home?
Spurs’ strikeforce isn’t firing on all cylinders right now, but they’ll bring their A game for Tottenham vs Arsenal. Harry Kane, in particular, loves a North London Derby. He has scored 6 in his last 7 games against The Gunners.
Aubameyang, meanwhile, has the chance to become an instant Arsenal hero. He scored on his debut and with service from the likes of Mkhitaryan and Mesut Özil, you wouldn’t rule out another goal or two at Wembley.