Premier League Sunday 14th March 2021; 4.30pm (Sky Sports)
A double-figure points tally away from the lucrative UEFA Champions League places, and seven points behind fierce rivals Tottenham Hotspur, one could be forgiven for assuming an air of despondency is swirling around the Emirates Stadium ahead of the latest episode of the North London Derby.
However, buoyed by the enthusiasm of youth and hot on the heels of a superb away performance in Piraeus in midweek, the Gunners come into this fixture in far better spirits than for the reverse game back in December when in some quarters questions were being asked about the future of Mikel Arteta.
Somewhat ironically the visitors also arrive in good shape after a series of impressive results since their narrow defeat at West Ham late last month. From defensive dourness, Jose Mourinho has changed tact with five successive wins seeing a total of 15 goals recorded the latest of which means Spurs will almost certainly progress into the next round of the Europa League at the expense of Dinamo Zagreb. However, what is all the more remarkable after a plethora of negative headlines, both Dele Alli and Gareth Bale are fully back in the mind-set of the self-proclaimed ‘Special One’.
On the basis of current league positions, Spurs have the most to lose with a negative result, but we all know that neither side is likely to yield a yard in the battle for bragging rights, and this is reflected in the pre-game odds with bookmakers finding it almost impossible to split the two sides.
Team News & Key Battles
Arsenal find themselves virtually at full-strength with Emile Smith Rowe back in the fold after crucial game time against Olympiakos, so Mikel Arteta will need to work out how best to shuffle his pack. Meanwhile, Tottenham continue to sweat on the match fitness of their captain Harry Kane who suffered a knock to the knee on Thursday evening.
There are key battles to be fought all over the pitch, including on the flanks with Arsenal no doubt wary of the threat posed by Sergio Reguilon, and a midfield tussle expected to feature Thomas Partey and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg.
That said; this game will almost certainly be decided in the attacking third with the strike forces of Arsenal (Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Bukayo Saka and Nicolas Pepe) and Tottenham (Harry Kane, Son Heung-Min and Gareth Bale) much more potent and reliable than the respective defences faced.
Bernd Leno and Hugo Lloris have made various goalkeeping errors in recent weeks, and while that’s perhaps understandable given the often shaky nature of the central defence ahead, the spotlight will continue to shine fiercely on the goalkeepers.
Over the course of the past six seasons this fixture had ended up as a score draw on four occasions (1-1 x3 and 2-2 x1) so this looks to be the safest option for punters.
Draw: 12-5 (General)
Correct Score: 2-2 (14-1; Bet365 & BetVictor)
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