It doesn’t get any bigger than this, it doesn’t get any better than this, it doesn’t get any mightier than the North London Derby in the Premier League. What’s on offer? A giant club with massive history but a rather humble present, another giant club which was a Champions League finalist only last year but currently finds itself in the ruins of mid-table finish, a rookie manager who’s only proving his believers right by every passing day, then there’s another one, a rather special one, but who’s proving to be a “Specialist in failure”, an adjective he once used many years ago to define his fierce rival. Two teams, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur, two managers, Mikel Arteta and Jose Mourinho, but one rivalry, the North London Derby. It’s no small thing, as they say, it’s about who runs North London, it’s about the colour North London gets painted with, the lily-white or the armoury red.
This Sunday, it would be about two teams drenched in the passion of winning their biggest game of the year. Mikel Arteta is set to take his Gunners to face Jose Mourinho’s struggling Spurs at the Tottenham Hotspur stadium. While the eyes will be held still in the anticipation of what would unfold on the pitch between these two bitter rivals, we can assess it for now. Let’s look at the side which Mikel Arteta might field against Spurs.
Arsenal have recently been playing with a 3-4-3 formation with Mikel Arteta not seeing it as his preferred formation in the long run. However, with the current crop of players and the immediate success that he has achieved with it should be compelling enough for Arteta to remain entrusted in the 3-4-3.
This is the most straightforward choice for Mikel Arteta to make, Bernd Leno is out for the season after the injury he conceded against Brighton. His deputy, Emi Martinez has done a fantastic job to fulfill his massive boots and has done a terrific job in not letting Arsenal fans realise their star man’s absence. Matt Macey, who’s currently Martinez’s deputy is set to keep his position as the deputy while Martinez is expected to keep his well-earned position between the sticks.
We could have expected few changes in the defensive given the workload that these players have been asked to put in since the restart of the Premier League. However, Mikel Arteta has restrained himself from changing his winning formation yet and it looks unlikely that he would do so for such an important match. Kieran Tierney has been a revelation since returning from injury, the Scottish full-back is earning plaudits every time he steps on the field wearing the famous red and whites. Hector Bellerin, on the other hand, has continued to look rusty after coming back from a long layoff due to his ACL injury. However, his recent impressive performance against Leicester City should be enough to guarantee him a spot against Tottenham.
Shkodran Mustafi, David Luiz and Sead Kolasinac have been Mikel Arteta’s preferred back three in recent weeks and the success that they have reaped should be enough for them to keep their place.
Mikel Arteta has used a central midfield of two midfielders, who have usually been Granit Xhaka and Dani Ceballos. However, the current midfield partnership has also been inspired by the lack of availability of Lucas Torreiera, who has recently made a comeback in recent weeks and the recent forced exile of Matteo Guendouzi.
Granit Xhaka has placed himself as one of the first few names on the team sheet every week and is expected to keep his place this week too. Dani Ceballos would also be expected to keep his place, especially against a side which likes to sit back and ask the opposition to try and break them. With Mesut Ozil unavailable due to injury concerns, Ceballos is seen as the creative outlet against Tottenham Hotspur and would be playing an important role.
With Eddie Nketiah suspended due to the red card he earned against Leicester City, Alexandre Lacazeette should be expected to start against Tottenham. Pierre Emrick Aubameyang has continued his good form ever since he has joined Arsenal and the Gunners skipper is almost an inevitability in the Arsenal lineup. The right-wing however is an interesting position which is still up for grabs for various players. Arsenal record signing, Nicolas Pepe is surely the best player in the position, but the Ivorian international has missed the last few training sessions due to the birth of his child and Arteta has time and again shown that he doesn’t believe in undertrained players in matches.
Nicolas Pepe should be expected to start as the right-winger, however, if he hasn’t trained enough to Arteta’s liking then there is a big possibility of seeing Bukayo Saka starting on the right-wing again.
Arsenal: Martinez; Mustafi, Luiz, Kolasinac; Bellerin, Xhaka, Ceballos, Tierney; Saka, Lacazette, Aubameyang.
It won’t be an easy task for Mikel Arteta to go up against a manager of Jose Mourinho’s pedigree, a man who he still believes is world-class manager, in his very first North London Derby. However, being a former Arsenal player himself, he does understand the importance of the fixture and also the meaning that it holds for the fans all around the world. It would be an uprising Arsenal that meets a rather out of touch Tottenham Hotspur but you could never rule out anything when these two giants meet on the pitch up against each other. Because when they do, it’s more than just a football match and it takes more than just good football to win the match.