By Efosa Taiwo
With Arsenal top of the table, and Tottenham just a point below them, a North London clash between both sides in the light of such pre-match profiling is a surefire cracker.
Mikel Arteta is having a stellar run into the season, the best Arsenal have had in recent years as they look to mount a robust challenge for the English Premier League title they last won in 2004.
Tottenham, on the other hand, alongside Man City are the only unbeaten side in the EPL as Antonio Conte appears to have finally found a firm grip on his side who are showing character and vile against oppositions this season.
To keep their lead on top of the table will be the priority of the Gunners and they will be ready to go down any mile against the bitter rivals to ensure that they don’t get dislodged from their supreme spot. And playing at home, a ground where Spurs haven’t won since 2010, will be yet another mental boost for them going into the tie.
Over the years, clashes between both sides have always been decided more on tactical ingenuities of the managers. Antonio Conte and Mikel Arteta have distinctive styles of play with the latter owning a penchant for possessive football and the former interested in switching up between defense and attack, catching ball-playing teams like Arsenal on the break.
The last time both sides met, Conte outsmarted Arteta tactically as they romped to a 3-0 win over the Emirates side in May.
Arsenal have, however, shown massive improvement in both team quality, character and tactical strength, and Conte must not expect to meet the same side he defeated in May when both teams clash on Saturday afternoon.
This is where Arsenal could outdo Tottenham provided they get Thomas Partey to shake off his knock and feature in the game, and Martin Odegaard continuing his fine form for Arsenal at the middle of the park.
Spurs, however, will be looking at Pierre-Emile Hojberg and Rodrigo Bentancur to do the dirty works for them in terms of disrupting the creative flow of Arsenal to their ferocious attack of Gabriel Martinelli, Gabriel Jesus with a Bukayo Saka providing more additional bites on the flanks.
Can Arsenal’s defence withstand Tottenham’s menacing trio?
William Saliba and Ben White have not had stern test from the best of attackers in the premier league with the only test they have had coming against Man United where they were punctured thrice. Facing the attacking trio of Harry Kane, Son Heung-Min and Richarlison has all elements to spark a long afternoon for the Gunners’ defence.
Arteta would, however, be looking at dousing the pressure on his defence with a tight possessive play strategy, buoyed by chances created to the attack for conversion into goals.
When derbies of this magnitude and pre-match profiling comes up, you expect tackles flying here and there with its trademark tension billed to engulf players of both teams, even down to the bench and up to the stands. Anthony Taylor being the man with the whistle will be very instrumental in how things go with coaches expected to warn their lads to keep their head calm even against provocation as one unwarranted card can upturn things on the day.