The Emirates Stadium will rock later this afternoon as Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur renew their North London rivalry in the juiciest fixture of the English Premier League (EPL) this weekend.
Last weekend turned out a reality check for the Gunners who flagged off their campaign in the new league season with a 100 percent result in their first two opening games.
Unai Emery and charges capitulated at the Anfield, losing 3-1 to European League Champions, Liverpool, on matchday 3.
Regardless, Tottenham will enter today’s north London derby with their recent superiority in the rivalry under threat, considering their current form. However, overall form may not necessarily be a guide when local rivals go head to head – and over the last four seasons, there is nothing to separate Spurs and Arsenal. They have two wins apiece in the eight league meetings over that time, with the other four games drawn, including three in succession from November 2015 to November 2016.
Arsenal lead 11 goals to 10 across those eight games, but they have met twice in the League Cup in the same time period with – predictably – one win apiece, and with Spurs scoring three goals to the Gunners’ two.
Tottenham reached last season’s Champions League final, while Arsenal contested the Europa League showpiece, with both teams losing – to Liverpool and Chelsea, respectively. However, in the domestic scene, Spurs have only won three of their last 12 league games and starting this season with one win from three.
That has contributed to a meagre 47 per cent win rate in competitive games in 2019 – 15 out of 32, with three draws and 14 defeats.
Arsenal, by contrast, have won 19 out of 32 – almost 60 per cent – and also have 57 goals to their name compared with Spurs’ 49 in the same number of games. The Gunners have drawn two and lost 11.
Today’s derby promises the usual excitement as both sides, known for attacking football, are expected to parade fierce strike forces that will feature some of the best strikers in the English Premier League and, indeed, Europe and the entire world.
Most prominent among the goal merchants are the duo of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Harry Kane who are expected lead the assaults for the Gunners and Spurs, respectively, in today’s epic North London derby at the Emirates. The two strikers are undoubtedly the most likely match winners.
Aubameyang scored twice for Arsenal in this fixture last season, while Kane is the Gunners’ nemesis, having netted nine times in nine starts against his north London rivals.
Arsenal’s head coach, Emery, and Tottenham’s manager, Mauricio Pochettino, like to mix up their formations and tactics on a match-by-match basis. But, whatever they are planning for this fixture, getting the best out of Aubameyang and Kane will be at the forefront of the thinking.
Aubameyang is at his most dangerous when Arsenal regains possession and spring quick counter-attacks.
Kane is not noted for his acceleration but, like Aubameyang, he is deadly in transitions.
Kane’s influence in Spurs’ last two matches has been minimal. He touched the ball only once inside the 18-yard box in the 2-2 draw at Manchester City.
However, recent history tells us Kane is likely to be a major player in Poch’s game plan against Arsenal.
Both strikers revel in the extra space that appears when their side secure possession. They are always alive and ready to punish their opponents.
Meanwhile, Emery looks to unleash his £180 million strike force in Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette and Nicolas Pepe on the visitors today.
The trio have only spent 35 minutes on the pitch together in the opening three games of the season as Lacazette has battled an ankle problem and Pepe has adjusted to life in England.
But Emery believes all three could start and hinted he might do so against Tottenham at the Emirates Stadium today.
“I think they can start together and they can play also during the match as all three, it depends how we decide our gameplan,” Emery said.
Last season’s north London derby at the Emirates was a fine spectacle as the Gunners won a highly charged contest 4-2. And Emery wants more of the same.
He said: “The intensity was very important, but they are also going to try to play with their identity, and we need to impose our game-plan against them, knowing it’s going to be difficult.