Wembley Stadium, London
February 10, Saturday; 12:30 BST, 18:00 IST
Live on Star Sports Select HD 1, Star Sports Select 1 and Hotstar (in India)
The main picture
For Arsenal, going two seasons without UEFA Champions League football is unimaginable and unacceptable. For Tottenham Hotspur, entering football’s greatest club competition for the third consecutive season will establish them as a true Premier League heavyweight. Arsenal, of course, have the UEFA Europa League route to the Champions League, which their north London rival don’t, but will they abandon fighting for a top-four spot in the league at this stage? No chance.
From that viewpoint, Arsenal, who currently have 45 points from 26 matches and are already five points adrift of the team in fourth, simply need to win on Saturday. The imperative for Tottenham is pretty much the same, too. Therefore, for once, these two teams will be less bothered about the north London bragging rights than securing a Champions League place.
Mauricio Pochettino’s team have navigated two-thirds of the way through an unforgiving run of league fixtures with four points from a possible six. But this run of fixtures is such that they can ill afford a loss to Arsenal, or the good work of beating Manchester United and denying Liverpool a win at Anfield will not count for much. Spurs’ league form has picked up since their 4-1 loss to Manchester City in mid-December, since when they are unbeaten in eight matches and have picked up 18 of the points available.
The Harry Kane-Dele Alli-Christian Eriksen trident was central to their team’s 2-0 win over Jose Mourinho’s Man United, though Mousa Dembele and Kieran Trippier played integral parts too in that vital win. Liverpool’s ever-suspect defence helped Tottenham leave Anfield with a point, Loris Karius and Virgil van Dijk committing cardinal errors that the North Londoners pounced on.
Alli and Eriksen played only 12 and 28 minutes of the FA Cup fourth-round replay against Newport County, while Harry Kane was an unused substitute. This means Pochettino will have his key players rested and fresh for the last of three important league fixtures at the start of February.
Like against Liverpool—Spurs had nearly 66 per cent possession against Jurgen Klopp’s side—Tottenham are likely to dominate the ball and Arsenal are the team who will play on the counter-attack with the pace of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and probably Alex Iwobi or Alexandre Lacazette as part of a front three. Tottenham’s backline will be in for a stringent examination come Saturday and its performance will determine the result the home team achieve.
Also on Saturday, we will know if Arsenal, with the addition of Aubameyang and Mkhitaryan, are a different team or if the 5-1 demolition of Everton was a false dawn. Arsene Wenger’s team were dynamic going forward, but they were up against an Everton defence which has conceded the second-most number of goals (45) in the 2017-18 Premier League season. And the Gunners, at home, are always a potent attacking force, evidenced by their tally of 36 goals (of the 51 overall) coming at the Emirates Stadium.
Arsenal’s away form has been dismal this season, winning just three of the 13 fixtures on the road. They have dropped 26 points from a possible 39. The Wembley Stadium is, however, a venue where they have tended to fare well in recent seasons, having won the FA Cup in three of the last four seasons.
Tottenham v Arsenal head to head
Arsenal lead the Premier League head-to-head record against Spurs by 19 to 11, with 21 of the fixtures (51) ending in a draw.
The overall head to head is also in Arsenal’s favour, with the Gunners having won 81 of the 194 north London derbies to date; Spurs have won 62 and 51 matches have ended in a stalemate.
The last time either of these teams did a league double was in 2013-14, when Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal beat Tottenham home and away, once with Andre Villas-Boas at the helm and the other with Tim Sherwood at the helm.
Tottenham v Arsenal starting XI
Predicted Spurs starting lineup vs Arsenal (4-2-3-1):
Hugo Lloris (C & GK); Kieran Trippier, Davinson Sanchez, Jan Vertonghen, Ben Davies; Victor Wanyama, Mousa Dembele; Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen, Son Heung-Min; Harry Kane
Predicted Arsenal starting XI vs Tottenham (4-3-3): Petr Cech/David Ospina (GK); Hector Bellerin, Laurent Koscielny, Nacho Monreal, Sead Kolasinac; Aaron Ramsey, Granit Xhaka, Jack Wilshere; Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Mesut Ozil
Cricfooty’s Tottenham v Arsenal prediction
Spurs are the confident, in-form side, whose style of play makes them dangerous against any opposition. They were surprisingly flat in the reverse fixture at the Emirates Stadium but are in a good place currently and are the favourite for this one. The former Borussia Dortmund duo of Aubameyang and Mkhitaryan provide plenty of ammunition to Arsenal’s attack, as we saw last Saturday. But away from home and against a Tottenham side who retain possession well, the question is, will the Arsenal defence, which has conceded the third-most number of goals (35) of the current top 10, withstand the Spurs pressure for 90 minutes?