Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur will contest the first north London derby of the 2016/17 campaign at the Emirates Stadium this weekend (12pm Sunday, BT Sport 1).
Arsenal remain level on points with Premier League leaders Manchester City after their convincing 4-1 victory over Sunderland last time out. It was another excellent performance from Arsene Wenger’s charges, who delivered the perfect response to a disappointing 0-0 draw with Middlesbrough the week before.
The Gunners got their season off to a shaky start with a 4-3 loss to Liverpool and goalless draw with champions Leicester City, but since then they have taken a highly impressive 22 points from the 24 on offer. While Arsenal fans are therefore optimistic heading into this clash with their neighbours, it is worth bearing in mind that they have a rotten record in November. It will be interesting to see if that changes this year, or whether this is yet another false dawn at the Emirates.
Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham outfit have struggled a little of late, with a 1-1 draw at home to Leicester last time out their third successive league game without a win. Spurs remain in touch at the summit of the standings – only three points currently separate them from Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool – but an increase in performance levels will be needed if they are to remain in such close contention in the coming weeks.
Scoring goals has proven to be a major problem in the absence of Harry Kane, with no strikes managed in open play in their last two top flight encounters. Pochettino will be pleased that his charges have retained their defensive resolve as no team has conceded on fewer occasions than Tottenham.
Arsenal will be unable to call upon the services of Lucas Perez (ankle), Per Mertesacker (knee), Danny Welbeck (knee) and Chuba Akpom (back). Aaron Ramsey, Santi Cazorla, Nacho Monreal and Theo Walcott have all returned to the fold in the last few days.
Sanchez will probably continue up front despite Giroud’s two-goal haul against Sunderland, with Mesut Ozil (pictured) in the No.10 role and Walcott, Alex Iwobi and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain competing for the two spots on the flanks. In midfield, Granit Xhaka remains suspended, so one of Francis Coquelin and Mohamed Elneny is likely to partner the returning Cazorla.
Tottenham welcome back striker Kane, although the England international may only be fit enough for a place on the substitutes’ bench, which means Janssen could lead the line once again. Erik Lamela has also recovered from illness and is available once more. Toby Alderweireld will probably miss out with a knee problem and Mousa Dembele injured his ankle in the 1-0 defeat by Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League on Wednesday. Christian Eriksen has had a poor start to the campaign and could be the man, rather than Son Heung-min, to make way for Lamela. Eriksen has been rather ineffectual in recent appearances.
This preview concludes that Arsenal can get the better of their north London rivals in front of their own supporters. The Gunners have managed to combine some tremendous play going forward with a new-found solidity at the back in recent weeks. That should be enough for them to secure all three points against a team who have been a little out of form since they inflicted a 2-0 defeat upon Manchester City in September.