The North London Derby. One of many football highlights of the season but particularly close to the hearts of all die-hard Arsenal fans. Arsenal hosted the first derby of the season back in September (which ended in a one-all draw) and now it’s Tottenham Hotspur’s turn to host at White Hart Lane.
With Spurs sitting just two points behind Arsenal the Gunners can’t afford to lose. It’s a chance to get back into the coveted fourth place in the Premier League (dependent on Southampton’s outcome). If we win, it’s three points gained (goes without saying) but if we lose it won’t be just a case of hurt pride. Potentially Arsenal could drop back down to sixth place and certainly left sitting not so pretty under Spurs. This is potentially going to be a historic match – if plans for the new stadium go ahead this could be the last North London derby between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur played at White Hart Lane stadium as we know it today. The mantra for the derby is “win if you can, just don’t lose.” It would definitely be nicer to win though, for more reasons than one.
Here are the players to watch out for who could, and most probably will be, the most dangerous in this epic match between the two deadly rivals.
Christian Eriksen – Midfield
Christian Eriksen, is a 22-year old Danish international who previously played for Ajax at both junior and senior level before joining Spurs in August 2013. The attacking midfielder caused plenty of trouble for Arsenal’s midfield back in September. In the Premier League this season Eriksen has scored nine goals and recorded one assist. Eriksen’s strengths lay in playing long shots, taking direct free kicks and set pieces, all of which are notable as being very strong. In addition his other key strengths are in passing, with an 84% successful pass rate, and key passes abilities. Eriksen likes lay-offs, is keen to cut inside and doesn’t dive into tackles. He has no significant weaknesses to speak of. According to goal.com when Eriksen was playing for the Ajax youth team Dennis Bergkamp urged Arsene Wenger to sign the Dane for Arsenal, but his tip-off fell on deaf ears. Wenger may well be regretting his decision not to take heed of Bergkamp when Harry Kane’s talisman takes to the pitch.
Harry Kane – Forward
Harry Kane is another player who escaped the clutches of Arsenal – this time at academy level. The 21-year-old striker made his first senior appearance for Spurs in the 2009/10 season before sent out on loan to Leyton Orient, Millwall, Norwich and Leicester City. He returned to Spurs, where he made his first team breakthrough towards the end of the 2013/14 season. This season he is Spurs’ best goalscorer having scored ten goals and recorded two assists. Having exceptional header attempts as well as strong abilities in dribbling, finishing, long shots as well as defensive capabilities Kane will be one to watch out for, particularly in the company of Eriksen. Kane likes to tackle and is also an indirect set-piece threat. His only apparent weakness is in aerial duels having won only 25% this season. At 1.88m (6’2″) you wouldn’t think that would be a problem. Luckily for us, Arsenal’s Per Mertesacker who stands at 1.98m (6’6″) has won 67% of his aerial duels this season. When push comes to shove in the 6-yard box let us hope the balance lands on aerial duels which are clearly in our favour.
Jan Vertonghen – Defence
Jan Vertonghen, a 27-year old Belgian international joined Spurs from Ajax in July 2012. Playing in a centre back position Vertonghen is currently Spurs top performing defender having made 37 interceptions, 136 clearances and blocked 14 shots. Defensively he’s only made three errors this season, although one lead directly to a goal being scored. Ball interception, dribbling and tackling (the latter two of which are notable in his style of play) are all key strengths. In addition to those he also boasts an 87% pass accuracy rate. Like Harry Kane, Vertonghen is also an indirect set-piece threat. Concentrating mainly on his excellent defence skills means that Vertonghen has not got on the score sheet for goals or assists – referee Chris Foy disallowed a goal he scored against Sunderland in January which which was classed as offside. May the goalscoring/assist statistic still ring true at the full-time whistle against Arsenal at White Hart Lane
Alexis Sanchez wants to play in North London Derby, says Arsene Wenger
On Thursday, Arsene Wenger completely ruled out Alexis Sanchez, his top goalscorer with 12 Premier League goals, for Saturday’s North London Derby against Tottenham Hotspur (Watch live on NBCSN and online via Live Extra, 7 am ET).
On Friday, Wenger seemed to open the door just a bit and float the possibility that his star summer signing could in fact be available when Arsenal visit White Hart Lane, and it’s all down to the Chilean forward’s bullishness and insistence he is fit enough to play.
Speaking in his weekly press conference, Wenger said:
“It is not easy to tell him he is not playing. He wants to play. He is very keen. He feels he can even defy the medical people because he is so keen to play.
“He will train today and we will look at what happens. I need medical advice on that and I need to see what he can do in training. Sanchez for me is out [of the Spurs game], although he wants to have a go, but he is too short.”
How big would Sanchez’s inclusion in the gameday squad be for Arsenal. According to PST’s Joe Prince-Wright, who wrote the following on Thursday, it would be “pretty huge”:
The sight of Sanchez lining up against Spurs at White Hart Lane would have struck fear into the hearts of most Tottenham fans but now he’s out of the picture, Arsenal’s chances of beating their fierce rivals has undoubtedly taken a hit.