The North London Derby is a battle both sets of fans have been waiting for since it was postponed from its original date back in February. Antonio Conte criticised the decision following Arsenal’s request due to COVID-19 and fitness issues. The Tottenham boss claimed they were in good shape to face their rivals.
Fortunately, the fixture was rescheduled to a time when both teams are closely contesting a place in next season’s UEFA Champions League, with Tottenham sitting four points behind Arsenal in the table. Conte will be in an optimistic mood after his team performed well against Liverpool last weekend despite the game ending in an eventful draw.
With three games left in their season, Tottenham are hoping to close the gap on Arsenal, and this is a must-win game. Losing the North London Derby or even managing a draw will be a big blow for Spurs’ Champions League ambitions. Playing in the Europa League might be an unacceptable prospect for the Italian manager.
Arsenal could be considered the team under less pressure coming into this pivotal North London Derby. A win for the Gunners will guarantee the fourth spot, which could act as a motivation for Arteta ahead of this clash. However, Arsenal could also take it a bit slow ahead of the remaining two games of the season.
A draw would allow the Gunners to retain their four-point cushion over Spurs, while a defeat will bring the pressure back on Arsenal to win their remaining two games against Newcastle United and Everton. The Gunners could be considered as the favourites, although this North London Derby will be the battle of wits, pitting the star managers against one another.
Arsenal also have the momentum of winning four consecutive games coming into this derby. The Gunners have beaten Chelsea, Manchester United, West Ham United and Leeds United before the North London Derby, but Arteta might look to change his usual approach to get a positive result here.
Team News & Tactics
Antonio Conte confirmed he may not make changes to his team ahead of the Arsenal clash. The Italian tactician suggested he could name the same side that played against Liverpool, with the same players who were absent remaining sidelined. That means Sergio Reguilon, Matt Doherty, Japhet Tanganga and Oliver Skipp are all out of contention.
With Doherty, Tanganga and Skipp out for the season, Conte confirmed the same is possible with Reguilon, with just about ten days left in the campaign. The Tottenham boss is likely to retain the same system and the players that fit in it. So Spurs will line up with the usual back-three and as many forwards.
Ben Davies, Eric Dier and Cristian Romero will be the centre-backs, with Ryan Sessegnon and Emerson Royal operating as the wing-backs on either flank. Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Rodrigo Bentancur are the likely pairing in central midfield, with Conte keen to keep control of that area to press ahead with his game plan.
Harry Kane will lead the line, while Dejan Kulusevski and Son Heung-min will provide support from the wide areas on either side of the England captain. Keeping the same eleven will allow Tottenham to be a threat in counter-attacking situations, while the wing-backs will be pivotal in providing the necessary width on the pitch.
Probable Lineup (3-4-3): Lloris; Romero, Dier, Davies; Emerson, Bentancur, Hojbjerg, Sessegnon; Kulusevski, Kane, Son
Mikel Arteta is sweating over the fitness of key duo Ben White and Bukayo Saka. The English centre-back has missed Arsenal’s last two games against West Ham United and Leeds United, while Saka may have suffered a late knock in the last match. There are also suggestions, that the English winger may have been injured during this week’s training.
While the Gunners have managed well without Ben White in the last two games, Arteta will hope to have his star centre-back in the lineup for the North London Derby. The Arsenal manager could be planning a tactical tweak to match Tottenham’s formation. There is chance that White and Saka could be fit and that Arteta is playing mind games ahead of the derby.
It is also worth noting that Arsenal have not released any training pictures or videos at the time of writing. Considering both are fit, Arteta could use the same setup that was in place against Chelsea. So, a back three with Saka or Cedric Soares slotting in the left-wing-back role could be an option.
Takehiro Tomiyasu could start as the right-back, and his position will depend upon Ben White’s fitness. If the English international is absent, the Japanese defender could reprise the third centre-half/right-back hybrid role, with Saka playing a wing-back role. Arteta could yet line up with a back four, which changes shape to a back-three whenever needed.
Arteta could make a late decision on Nuno Tavares, as he provides an attacking threat down the left flank. If the approach is defensive, then Cedric could play as the left-back. Mohamed Elneny and Granit Xhaka will retain their roles in central midfield, while Martin Odegaard will play further forward in the no. 10 role.
Eddie Nketiah will lead the line for Arsenal against Tottenham, with Gabriel Martinelli likely to be preferred on the left side of the Arsenal attack. With Saka expected to play, Arsenal could match Tottenham tactically, which promises an entertaining North London Derby.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Ramdsale; Tomiyasu, Holding, Gabriel, Tavares; Elneny, Xhaka; Saka, Odegaard, Martinelli; Nketiah
- Tottenham have not won three consecutive home matches against Arsenal since 1961.
- Spurs have scored 16 goals from their last 24 shots on target in home Premier League games.
- Arsenal have not won three consecutive league games against Spurs since 1989.
- Arsenal have failed to keep a clean sheet against Tottenham in their last eight Premier League meetings.
- Arsenal have conceded a goal from 50 per cent of the shots on target they have faced in their last nine Premier League games.
Player To Watch
Odegaard has proven his worth as an attacking midfielder, but much of his off the ball play does not get the recognition it deserves. The Norwegian international often leads the press and ensures his teammates are positionally assured when defending.
Tottenham are expected to put up a staunch system that barely allows players like Odegaard to operate with freedom, which could be a big test of character for the Norwegian. The Arsenal playmaker will be the key to unlocking the opposition defence and bringing his teammates into the game, particularly Bukayo Saka and Eddie Nketiah in the attack.