Gunner Thoughts

Arsenal preview: Derby day at last

Another north London Derby on the way! Arsenal, Spurs – Mikel, Jose. A brief preview and my predicted lineup.

THE north London derby is here. It’s one of those two set fixtures you scan the schedule for when it comes out in preparation for the season ahead. When do we play THEM home, and when do we play away. It goes without saying that the day comes with feeling of nerves in the pit of your stomach from morning ’til kickoff and, if the result goes all wrong, long after.

I rivalry match filled with moments of greatness. Winning the league away in ’71 and ’04, games filled with goals like the 2004 4-5 Arsenal win, multiple 5-2 wins, games with grit and intensity palpable in the air, and a list of individual moments that could spark conversation deep into the night between any long-time Gooners.

Today’s match serves up some extra-special narratives to keep track of:

  • A chance for north London to be red
  • A first game at Tottenham’s new stadium
  • Mikel’s first derby as Arsenal manager
  • Jose’s first derby as Tottenham manager
  • A north London derby without fans

You would be hard pressed to find an Arsenal fan that doesn’t live the feeling of it being too long since Arsenal have celebrated St. Totteringham’s day and today is an opportunity for Arsenal to take a definitive step toward the holiday happening this year. With Arsenal in 8th on 50 points and Tottenham in 10th with 49, a win today puts some real separation between the two sides while giving Mikel his first derby win over Spurs.

In the other direction, Jose Mourinho makes his debut in the north London derby as manager of Spurs and there is something about being able to hate both Jose and Tottenham together that makes an even greater amount of hate for the pair.

It’s a game these no doubt means more than the rest. It was something Arteta commented on during the week:

“They are all different, it depends a lot whether you win or lose, that’s what makes it special. Obviously we have had some really nice ones playing them at the Emirates and beating them so I have some really good memories on that. It’s such a special occasion. Rivalry in football, when you take it in a positive way, and that brings energy, that brings passion, that brings a city together. It’s such a beautiful thing. We are privileged to have big teams in the city and it’s a shame we don’t have the fans to enjoy it with us.”

But in order to see that passion, energy, and rivalry end positively, Arsenal will have to navigate their way through a Jose Mourinho side that no doubt will be set up to soak up Arsenal are trying to do on the pitch and counteract it effectively. It’s an aspect that other managers have to respect about a Jose side. “I have huge respect for Jose, for what he’s trying to do there, and we know to go there and get a win we’re going to have to do everything really, really well. I’m expecting a really tough game” said Arteta.

Spurs have had their troubles recently, winning only 2 of their last 11 matches, but that won’t stop them from being confident at the prospect of playing their city rivals. When asked what he makes of Jose’s Tottenham he said:

“They have had some ups and downs but overall you can clearly see what he wants to bring to the club. He manages the energy, the momentum and establishes a really strong culture in every football club. As well, he makes sure that he wins and he’s won in every single club that he’s been at. Obviously the situation and the timing when he arrived is different than starting a new project right from the summer, but I’m sure he will be successful because he always finds the right way to do it. It will take him a bit of time but I’m sure he will do it.”

With a bit of extra rest in their legs, Arteta’s side will be chomping at the bit to get this game going and fans will be right behind their sides – even if they can’t be at the stadium. A lot on the line today and, as always, pride is greatly involved. A win to christen the new stadium would bring immense satisfaction for Gunners, despite a season of struggles, not to mention a result that keeps them in the race for 6th place.

Team News

Nothing new within the team news aside from Arsenal’s appeal to reduce Eddie Nketiah’s suspension being denied.

Calum Chambers
Left knee. Ruptured anterior cruciate ligament of his left knee during Chelsea (h) on December 29. Rehabilitation post-surgical repair continuing and currently progressing well with running and gym work. Will not be available for the current schedule of remaining 2019/20 matches.

Bernd Leno
Right knee. Sustained moderate ligament sprain during Brighton & Hove (a) on June 20. Progressing very well in recovery. Aiming to return to full training before the end of the season.

Pablo Mari
Left ankle. Sustained significant sprain to ankle ligaments during Manchester City (a) on June 17. Has had a successful procedure to the injury and is now in the early stages of his recovery. Aiming to return to full training in September.

Gabriel Martinelli
Left knee. Sustained injury during training on June 21. Successful arthroscopic procedure undertaken to repair a lesion in the cartilage of the left knee. Will not be available for the current schedule of remaining 2019/20 matches.

Eddie Nketiah
Suspended for three matches following red card against Leicester City (h) on Tuesday. Available again for Aston Villa (a) on Tuesday, July 21.

Mesut Ozil
Being assessed ahead of Tottenham Hotspur (a) following back soreness.

Thoughts on Arsenal and Predicted Lineup

While remembering the Leicester match will bring a tinge of regret and frustration, there were plenty of positives in the match for Arsenal to hold onto – especially in the first half. Arsenal were able to bring fluid attacking and movement to their 3-4-3 formation while stay accountable of Jamie Vardy and frustrating him.

With 7 shots and 6 on goal in the first half, Arsenal were in dominant control, simply failing to convert a second and put the game away. This did result in opening the door for an upsetting second half, but the confidence that they are capable of producing great football will hopefully still be there. It was one of the few games this season that has left viewers thinking this level of play is the level they associate their Arsenal with and it’s how they will hope the Gunners play today.

A lot of the success came from great attacking play from Kieran Tierney and Hector Bellerin down the wings where Arsenal look to funnel their attack and from center-man Dani Ceballos who has been fantastic these last 3 games. When he looks to get his head up and try to pick someone out confidently with a vertical pass, Arsenal look exceptionally better.

When it comes to lineup selection, I expect we will see a similar looking to what who took the field versus Leicester:

Martinez, Mustafi, Luiz, Kolasinac, Bellerin, Ceballos, Xhaka, Tierney, Saka, Lacazette, Aubameyang

There are some potential variations that we could see including Tierney sliding into the left center back role Kolasinac occupies so that Saka can play the left wingback role and Pepe could be on the right wing or we could see the front three of Pepe on the right, Aubameyang down the middle, and Saka on the left.

Lots to look forward to, lots to be nervous about, but what else would you expect? It’s Arsenal. It’s Spurs. It’s a north London derby. Enjoy!

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