This is the biggest North London derby for decades, with both sides being in the title race. The winner this weekend will become North London’s main contender, and the pressure is all on Arsenal, who have been dropping a lot of points since the turn of the year. Spurs have relatively little pressure on them, as they weren’t expected to challenge for the league title this year, and will be happy to finish in the top four. However, this could be their best chance to win the league and a victory over their rivals could see Pochettino go from targeting Champions League football to targeting the title.
Spurs lost against West Ham in the week, to momentarily put their title bid on hold, but they are only three points off the top, and will be confident in their ability to overtake Leicester before the season ends. Their superior goal difference also favours them in the title race, as their +27 is much better than any other side in the top four. Historically teams who have finished with +30 always finish in the top four and it is difficult to see Tottenham not doing both this season.
A week makes a huge difference in football, and this is the case at Arsenal. They were very confident seven days ago, off the back of a very impressive win over league leaders Leicester. Many expected them to go on a run of wins and win the Premier League. However, successive defeats to Manchester United and Swansea City have left Arsenal six points off the leaders, and a loss this weekend will put them six points behind their North London rivals. They can’t afford to lose this match and if they do, their title hopes will be all but over.
The sides have already met twice this season, once being in the Capital One Cup. On that occasion, Arsenal knocked their rivals out, thanks to a brace from Mathieu Flamini. In the league meeting in November, Tottenham took the lead at the Emirates, with Harry Kane scoring the goal. Then in the last quarter of the game, Kieran Gibbs found the back of the net to secure a point for the Gunners.
Moussa Dembele could return to action in the North London derby as he is close to recovering from a groin problem. Kevin Wimmer is likely to continue in the starting eleven as Jan Vertonghen is still a month away from a return.
Petr Cech and Laurent Koscielny will both be missing for Arsenal, which puts them in a defensive crisis this weekend. Jack Wilshere, Santi Cazorla, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Tomas Rosicky will also be missing for Arsenal.
Spurs have won six of their last eight league matches and look to be the in form side in the title race.
Meanwhile, Arsenal have only won two of their last eight league matches and are in severe danger of dropping out of the title race.
The Dane has been in the background at Spurs at times this season with Dele Alli, Toby Alderweireld and Harry Kane taking the plaudits. However, the midfielder is coming back to form, and looks ready to return to his best football during the run in. This is a huge boost for Spurs, as on his day, Eriksen is one of the most creative players in the Premier League. Even though many have been disappointed with Eriksen’s performances this season, he has still contributed five goals and eight assists. Moreover, he is only 24 and will grow with the Tottenham side as the club attempt to become regulars in the top four. Eriksen is such a dangerous player in the final third, as he can play defence-splitting through balls and he can threaten from distance with his incredible long shot, as he has displayed time and time again for Tottenham. He has been played out wide on occasions this season, which has prevented him from influencing the game as much, but his quality, especially from dead balls will be an asset this weekend. Arsenal have looked weak defensively and Eriksen could be the player to exploit that on Saturday.
Arsenal have been very poor at the back in recent weeks, which has been surprising as they have been much better defensively this season. However if they continue to ship soft goals like they have in the last two league matches, they will have no chance of clinching their first league title since 2004. Per Mertesacker will be a player under pressure this weekend, as he has to deal with Harry Kane, and he will be without his partner Laurent Koscielny, who is injured at the moment. The German will be organising the defence, and needs to use his experience as the side will also be missing the very influential Petr Cech. If Mertesacker has a poor match, then only result is on the cards, and that is a home victory. The defender has been much maligned since joining the club, due to his lack of pace and defensive errors, but he has been much improved over the last 18 months. He is normally a reliable defender, and Arsenal need a top performance this weekend to keep their title race alive.
It is going to be the most anticipated North London derby in years, and I expect it will deliver in terms of entertainment and spectacle. Despite Arsenal’s poor form, I think they will put in a performance this weekend, but I expect the pace and vigour of the Spurs attack to get them the points. Arsenal will be vulnerable at the back and won’t enjoy playing against Eriksen, Alli, Kane and Erik Lamela.
Tottenham 3-1 Arsenal