The usual five talking points ahead of today’s game at home to Tottenham
A Three Pronged Attack?
Unai Emery has yet to start Aubameyang, Lacazette and Nicholas Pepe in the same team. Last weekend, apparently because Lacazette was still suffering from an ankle knock, the Arsenal head coach left him on the bench at Liverpool. There was predictable outcry about the selection after the Gunners were defeated, and there was certainly an argument that the starting eleven did allow the opposition full backs a little too much liberty. However, it should be remembered that before Liverpool scored, Arsenal had two excellent chances where they really should have scored. Anyhow, if Laca does start the derby, as seems likely, someone in midfield will have to give way.
So Who’s in the Middle?
Emery fielded Xhaka, Guendouzi, Joe Willock plus in front of them Dani Ceballos at Anfield. If the formation changes to accommodate three attacking players, someone will have to make way. That’s unlikely to be Xhaka, and Ceballos is needed to knit the team together, especially given they are at home and unlikely to sit back. So Willock or Guendouzi on the bench. My money’s on Willock to miss out. And this of course, assumes a certain Uruguayan won’t be selected, which could mean both youngsters are on the sidelines.
Time for Torreira to start?
He’s been held back for reasons of match fitness until now, but coming on against Liverpool, he weighed in with a goal. You don’t need too much of a memory to recall his impact in the two North London derbies last season, scoring in the 4-2 win at home and getting sent off in the return fixture at Wembley. He gets what derby passion is about, and that’s why I would put him in front of both Guendouzi and Joe Willock for this game. Here’s hoping…
The return of ‘The Tank’
I was reminded in the build-up to this game that effectively, Arsenal have a complete back four unavailable due to injury – Bellerin, Holding, Mavrapanos and Tierney. Granted, the young Greek probably won’t be seeing too much action outside of domestic cup games, but the other three are all likely first team starters. With Tierney still weeks away from his Gunners debut, and after the transfer of Nacho Monreal to Real Sociedad, Arsenal are going to have to muddle through with Sead Kolasinac at left back. Now ‘the tank’ may be good at fending off knife wielding moped attackers, but he’s not so great when it comes to opposition wide men. You want more? Inside of him is David Luiz. Bloody hell…
History is one our side…
In the previous 26 home Premier League games v Tottenham, Arsenal have enjoyed 15 wins, 10 draws and been defeated just the once. Sounds good eh? However, in the last 10 Premier League North London derbies (both home and away), Arsenal have won just twice (five draws and three Spurs wins). One thing that generally goes out of the window is recent form. These games have no logic and are difficult to call, even if Arsenal are firm favourites with the bookies to win today.
For different reasons, both sides will be desperate for a win. A draw will not be a disgrace, but points-wise, not too much use as Liverpool and Manchester City are already looking ominous, whilst the opportunity to put distance between themselves and Chelsea and Man United is a real carrot for both North London clubs. There are some other factors going on for Spurs. If there is any chance of Christian Erikssen being sold in the 24 hours after the game, will Pochettino risk him? Let’s hope not, as Spurs are a lesser team without him. Sadly Harry Kane has a great scoring record in these games, and the defending against Liverpool offers little encouragement that he will draw a blank in this game. So we’ll see goals, and quite probably four or five. I’ll take a 3-2 home win now, although depending on how that might pan out, I’m not convinced my heart will. Enjoy the game… if that is at all possible.
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