Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal
Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, Sunday, 12th July, kick off 4:30pm
With four games of an elongated season to play, Tottenham in ninth host local neighbours Arsenal, one place and one point better off, in the 56th North London derby of the Premier league era. The team In red has had the better of the rivalry with 20 victories, against 12 defeats and both need the points to improve their chances of competing on the European stage next term.
Since return from lockdown Jose Mourinho's side have a record of W3, D1, L1 but they are struggling at both ends of the field. The return of leading scorer Harry Kane (13 league goals, 10 career goals against Arsenal) should have been a major boost but in recent games he has had very few touches in the opposing penalty areas. They have struggled to replace Christian Eriksen's creativity since his departure to Inter Milan and Son Heung-min's impact has been limited of late. Giovani Lo Celso and Erik Lamela have moments of inspiration but the side who made the Champion's league final a year ago seems long gone, though the personnel remain. Dele Alli's contributions have fallen off so much that he has become a bit part player.
At the other end of the field they have been less secure, though the return of out of favour Toby Alderweireld to the line up has tightened things up. Since replacing Mauricio Pochettino in November, Mourinho has struggled to breathe new life into a side who had entertained crowds up,and down the country over the previous few years. His pragmatic style of play will be better appreciated by the fans only if results follow. A winning team is less likely to be criticised for lack of style.
The Mikel Arteta reign is currently going through a positive stage, but he too has had his critics. On return to action they followed a big loss at Manchester City by going to Brighton, where they took the lead but ended up losing to a late Neil Maupay strike. As a result of this game Matteo Guendouzi not only picked up a suspension but joined the club's highest paid player Mesut Ozil as being suspected of having a questionable attitude. Since that day they have won three and drawn one of their last four, which included away wins at Southampton, Sheffield United (FA Cup) and Wolves.
They unfortunately could not overcome the dismissal of Eddie Nketiah against Leicester, when leading 1-0, but the infusion of youngsters has had a positive effect. Bukayo Saka, Joe Willock, Nketiah (suspended), Gabriel Martinelli (injured) and Kieran Tierney have come into the side and are displaying signs of a bright future. Upfront captain Pierre-Emerik Aubameyang now playing through the middle, continues to knock in the goals (19 in league) and Real Madrid loanee Dani Ceballos has showed improved form. Alexandre Lacazette (eight goals) has dropped down the pecking order but could return this week. The loss of keeper Bernd Leno has seen back up Emiliano Martinez pick up playing time and he has not been found wanting. Arsenal have recently switched to a back three; David Luiz, Shodran Mustafi and Sead Kolasinac; which has been reaping rewards. The style has changed recently, with a more high tempo approach, resulting in lower ball possession percentages than opponents.
The classic Mourinho approach when faced with teams in form has recently been to sit back and hope to take advantage of any errors through swift counter attacking. The lack of home crowd may well work in Tottenham's favour as there will be no outside pressure on them not to play in a conservative manner. Champions league places are realistically not on the cards for either but local bragging rights and qualification for the Europa league are in the balance. Arsenal have a poor record against top half opponents with just three wins from 16 this season. The sides drew 2-2 at the Emirates in September, with the home side recovering from a 2-0 deficit, making it the sixth draw in the last 11 encounters. A similar outcome may well be on the cards.
Suggested bet : Draw (29/10 at bet365)
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