Arsenal face historical rivals Tottenham at the Emirates in the North London Derby.
The game isn’t as important as it has been previously – as both sides sit mid-table, where the away side are 7 points clear of the Gunners so CL could still be somewhat realistic.
The game will always be a good one however, where it is always great for fans of either to get one over their rivals.
The last time the 2 sides met, Spurs came out 2-0 winners, but that was when Arsenal were really struggling & Spurs were close to the top of the table, so a lot has changed.
There is no shortage of attacking fire power from either side.
Bale, Kane, Lucas have been in electrifying form – partnered with Son who loves a goal v Arsenal so they will be very hard to keep out.
Willian, Aubameyang, Pepe have looked very good recent, along with the ever-present star boy Saka & Ødegaard after his goal midweek.
My biggest hopes and expectations for the game are Arsenal continue their free-flowing football and try eliminating the silly errors.
7/14 of the goals Arsenal have conceded in 2021 are down to errors, which showcases how poor the Gunners have been in this department.
Spurs haven’t conceded many recently but are known to be very vulnerable defensively – so there’s an area Arsenal can get at.
Despite Mourinho’s negative approach often, I would expect Spurs to come at us early on to try force errors.
The start is important as it often gives an idea of how the game will go.
Arsenal went wrong in this fixture by leaving themselves exposed last time out.
Arsenal must stay compact and be careful when committing players forwards.
Mourinho will likely go to a deep block over the course of the game, so an early goal for Spurs would be very hard to come back from.
The game should be a good watch as this fixture often is – always supplying the entertainment and I expect this game to be no different.
A few eyebrows are raised for the Gunners, as 3 changes are made from midweek.
Smith Rowe comes back from injury on the left-hand side for Willian, Cedric comes in for Bellerin & Lacazette for Aubameyang.
The Gabonese is left out for disciplinary issues, but is still in the match-day squad? Confusing.
Spurs have a very attacking line-up, with Bale, Kane, Son, Lucas, Ndombele.
Doherty is an intriguing selection as the Irish man starts at fullback.
Arsenal will operate as a 4222/4231, where the wide players must be creative.
Therefore, Ødegaard & Smith Rowe are playing in a game like this.
Xhaka will drop into a back 3 in possession as always- to stay compact and cover the countering threat.
Fullbacks will have the license to roam forward as usual, but I suspect they’ll be cautious defensively and double up on Regulion, Doherty in attacking phases.
The Smith Rowe Tierney combo is used for overloads, to cause Spurs more trouble defensively.
It’ll be interesting to see how the Lillywhites deals with the sustained pressure.
Spurs will operate in a similar fashion, with a 4231 – Lucas in the 10 but interchanging.
Arsenal struggled to break down Spurs last time, so going for a creative line-up makes sense.
Son + Regulion v Cedric will be interesting and an important area.
Spurs have been deadly in transition, so efficient in attack.
Arsenal however, have been really inefficient with chance creation.
Bale has been on form recently, but this will be his first proper test. It’ll be interesting to see how he does against a top fullback in Tierney.
Ndombele & Partey will be a brilliant battle, for 2 immensely talented players who didn’t battle last time out.
Xhaka, Lacazette often play very well in games like this, so it’s important that continues.
Son, Kane always play brilliantly vs the Gunners, so they’re 2 players Arsenal HAVE to keep a tab on if they want to come through with the points.
Arsenal’s line-up signals they want to dominate the game, as all the front 4 excels with ball retention.
Kane will look to drop deep as always and operate as a #10 more so, allowing Son, Bale to get in behind – also the ability to drift centrally.
Spurs’s line-up may suggest they won’t be so deep, so it’ll be interesting to see the approach play.
Arsenal always play out from the back but have made a few errors recently from it.
Spurs press high, so it’ll be intriguing to see how that turns out.
Spurs have only won once at The Emirates in 15, so it all lines up for a very well-balanced fixture.
Mourinho is a nemesis of the Gunners, only losing once in 17 years.
Arteta has lost twice to the Portuguese, so the Mourinho curse with Arsenal has continued.
Will either change today?
Arsenal have been immensely sloppy with stupid errors, so it’ll be interesting to see how the Gunners cope with Spurs’s firepower.
Spurs are also suspect defensively, so the game on paper should be high scoring.
Arsenal started off heavily in the front foot first 15 minutes, while Spurs were extra passive.
Tierney and Smith Rowe got in behind a few times, sometimes a bit too easily in behind Doherty.
Arsenal were quick in retaining possession as expected.
A few minutes later, Smith Rowe slammed the post from range.
So unlucky, as Spurs have been really lucky to be level.
Partey has been brilliant, keeping Spurs camped in their own half along with Xhaka.
Things got worse for Spurs as Son appears to have pulled a hamstring. Very unfortunate as Lamela will come on.
After 30 minutes of control, the Gunners go behind.
Regulion gets in behind, plays it inside to Moura who finds Lamela, who exquisitely finds the corner with a rabona finish.
Very frustrating for Arsenal as they should be winning, but a moment of magic it is. Particularly predictable as well.
Cedric slammed the post, but Ødegaard finally got Arsenal the equaliser they richly deserve at the least.
A great cross from Tierney as always finds Ødegaard who diverts home off Alderweireld.
A bit of luck to cancel out one of the best bits of skill you’ll ever see. Sensational.
Half time. Arsenal should be 3-4 up but will be relieved to equalise.
The Gunners have had 10 shots to Spurs 1 and have been excellent.
Smith Rowe & Tierney have been brilliant, but Doherty has been abysmal.
I would expect Spurs to address that issue at the break, as they are incredibly vulnerable.
Pepe comes on for Saka at the break, which is a great decision, as Saka hasn’t quite been as good prior.
Second half has been far cagier. Spurs are pressing more and are improved from the 1st half.
Arsenal have still had more of the play, with Lacazette having an attempt which Lloris saved comfortably.
A brilliant pass from Pepe finds Lacazette, who mishits the ball the ball but gets wiped out.
So silly from Sanchez, clear penalty. Lacazette steps up and coolly sends Lloris the wrong way.
Deserved lead for the Gunners!
With a quarter of an hour to play, Tierney gets elbowed in the face and Lamela is dismissed.
With 10 minutes left, Spurs get a free kick. Kane tucks it home but is offside.
Arsenal seemed intent on making things extra tough, as they kept giving away free kicks.
Kane who had been anonymous, slammed a free kick off the post. Gabriel did excellently to clear it from a certain goal.
What a signing he is.
Relief as the whistle blows. Arsenal tried to Arsenal but to their delight they held out.
Man of the match:
This award could go to basically anybody bar a few.
Ødegaard has been scapegoated a bit too much for my liking and has really kicked on after his goal midweek.
He got the decisive goal today and connected play well.
His ball retention and pressing was really good and allowed for constant pressure and dominance.
Tierney was brilliant today. He got in behind many times, won most tackles, pressed well, and retained the ball well.
His crossing was top notch as always. What a player he is.
Smith Rowe’s movement was unbearable for Tottenham to handle.
Bale didn’t track back, so Doherty was left with an impossible task of keeping the left side quiet.
Smith Rowe was unlucky not to get on the score sheet, got in behind many times and was great defensively.
A truly brilliant talent.
Gabriel & Luiz were colossal – particularly Gabriel.
Gabriel made all decisive block to keep the score 2-1.
They both kept Kane quiet and played well – against one of the best attacks around.
Xhaka & Partey were both outstanding as well.
Partey fatigue showed late on but he was top quality and fully bossed the midfield.
Xhaka was phenomenal as well, another top Derby performance.
He got the better of Højberg and was good with his passing & tenacity as the pivot continues to work effectively.
My MOTM goes to Tierney.
The Scotsman got the important assist and attacked so well.
He’s always a consistent performer but I feel like just edges it. Him, Ødegaard, Gabriel, Partey, Xhaka the main candidates.
Leno – 5.5
Cedric – 7
Luiz – 7
Gabriel – 8
Tierney – 9 (MOTM)
Xhaka – 8.5
Partey – 8
Smith Rowe – 9
Ødegaard – 8.5
Saka – 6.5
Lacazette – 7
Elneny – N/A
Pepe – 7.5
Willian – 6.5
Another new inclusion – assessing Arteta.
Arteta – 9.
The Spaniard set Arsenal out perfectly, going for a creative setup which many doubted.
He has Arsenal comfortable defensively and was no different today.
The game plan was spot on and character from the side to come back was great to see – vastly improved.
Arsenal have conceded the joint least goals in the league 2nd half, a great stat – all to the merit of Arteta.
Within game management, he brought off a fatigued Saka for on form Pepe very quickly – great decision.
The only reason he hasn’t got a 10 is the game management late on (not really his fault) + keeping Partey, Lacazette on when they were tired until late.
Overall, he was brilliant and got everything spot on as he often does. Great stuff.
What next for Arsenal?
Arsenal have their 2nd leg tie v Olympiacos before facing in form West Ham.
I’d expect a professional job to be done on Thursday at 6pm (BT Sports), where Arsenal have a 3-1 advantage.
Prediction – Arsenal 2-0 Olympiacos.
Thanks for reading as usual.
I wanted to expand & improve with these articles so added a few new segments – Talking points & manager ratings.
Support is always appreciated but feedback on these new segments would be great, to see whether to include in future articles!
featured image credit sky sports