Tottenham vs Arsenal: North London Derby Preview and Prediction
Nobody would have thought that the 200th edition of the North London derby would be played in such circumstances. As the coronavirus pandemic has forced football to be played behind closed doors, Tottenham and Arsenal will clash for the 200th time without the roar of their passionate fans.
The lack of fans, however, will not diminish the ferocity associated with this historic rivalry.
Both North London clubs are angling for European football next season. Tottenham, the hosts of this North London derby, sit at ninth place with 49 points, one point behind the Gunners. That statistic itself should tell you about the importance of this game.
Tottenham have struggled to impress post resumption. Jose Mourinho’s side has won two, drawn two and lost one in its last five Premier League games.
They hit a nadir in their previous game, a goalless draw with relegation candidates Bournemouth, as Spurs were unable to register a single shot on target during the game.
Arsenal have turned around their fortunes since back-to-back losses to Manchester City and Brighton. Mikel Arteta has led his side to four wins and a draw in the Premier League ever since.
The Gunners drew 1-1 with Leicester City in their last league game. Arsenal took the lead through Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang but Jamie Vardy equalized for the Foxes late in the game as the hosts were reduced to 10 men after Eddie Nketiah was harshly dismissed.
Head to Head
Arsenal might hold the overall bragging rights in the North London derby but the previous six meetings have been split evenly among the sides.
Both sides have won two and drawn two in the last six meetings. Interestingly, none of them have been able to win at the other’s home.
In the previous meeting between the two sides this season, Unai Emery led Arsenal played out a 2-2 draw with Tottenham at the Emirates Stadium.
The last two matches between the sides have resulted in draws. This one, however, might see one team walk away with three points.
Eric Dier will not take part in the 200th North London derby as he has been suspended for unprofessional conduct. The Englishman had jumped to the stands to confront fans after Tottenham’s penalty-shootout loss to Norwich City in the FA Cup fifth round in March. Dier has been suspended for four months.
There are doubts over Dele Alli’s fitness as well. The English midfielder sat out the Bournemouth game due to hamstring issues.
Arsenal also have a player suspended in the form of Nketiah. The striker was shown a straight red in the 1-1 draw with Leicester.
Long-term absentees include Calum Chambers, Bernd Leno, Pablo Mari and Gabriel Martinelli.
Harry Kane vs David Luiz
England captain Harry Kane has not scored for two games running. The North London derby could not have come at a better time for the Spurs forward.
Kane does love to play against the Gunners. His 10 goals against Tottenham’s fierce rivals is the tied for most (with Bobby Smith and Emmanuel Adebayor) in North London derby history.
The Spurs talisman would be licking his lips in going up against an error prone David Luiz. The Brazilian, however, has shown marked improvement at the back ever since Arteta shifted to a back three. Luiz can match up with Kane in the aerial department and is also adept at cutting down shooting spaces.
It is imperative for the Brazilian defender to not commit an error in this game.
Toby Alderweireld vs Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
Aubameyang is in the race for a second successive Premier League Golden Boot and you can expect him to give his best in scoring in this game.
The Gabonese’s goal against Leicester made him the first player since Thierry Henry to score 20 goals in consecutive Premier League seasons. He has found the net against Tottenham before and Mourinho would be wary of the threat he poses.
Tough-tackling Toby Alderweireld could do well against the former Borussia Dortmund man. The Belgian defender’s aggression could help in shunting Auba to the wing and reduce the danger he poses. Still, Alderweireld will need to be alert of Aubameyang’s movement as he specializes in ghosting in to attacking spaces.
Ben Davies vs Bukayo Saka
Teenager Bukayo Saka has been one of the shining lights in a disappointing season for the Gunners.
The English winger has broken into the first team on the back of some strong performances. His 12 assists across all competitions is third-most from a PL player. The ones above him are Trent Alexander-Arnold (14) and Kevin de Bruyne (19).
Ben Davies is bound to have a tough time matching up with Saka’s pace down the wing. The Welsh defender will need support from his midfielders to pressurize Saka and force him to waste possession.
Heung-min Son will also have to track back a lot to help his team negate Saka on the pitch.
With two teams so closely matched, it is hard to pick a winner.
Arsenal do have edge based on current form. The Gunners have been steadily improving and were able to beat a formidable foe in the form of Wolves. Arteta’s men were also unfortunate in drawing with Leicester but one can argue that the Gunners should have finished the multiple chances they carved out in game.
Tottenham fans would be hoping that their team’s dreadful performance against Bournemouth was an aberration. Spurs are clearly more talented than what the drab draw showed.
Mourinho does have a strong record against Arsenal but he looks to be a shadow of his former self. I do not see ‘The Special One’ masterminding a win over the Gunners this time out. My prediction is that both teams will end up sharing points.
Predicted scoreline: Tottenham 1-1 Arsenal