The Premier League returns this weekend with two big derby matches. The first takes place at lunch time in North London as Arsenal and Tottenham face each other in a top of the table clash. The pair are usually competing with one another for Champions League qualification. This season, the match takes on a different context, as both have started the season well and are two of the leading teams at the top of the division. It is premature to speak about either as title contenders, but a win for either on Saturday would send out a major signal of intent.
Arsenal are the early pace setters and Mikel Arteta will realise how important this weekend is in the short term. They are top of the division, but their results in big matches have been questioned. They lost to Manchester United earlier this season, despite being the better team for portions of the match. This raised questions about their mentality, that have been common place for the last few years. This is an opportunity to show that they can perform in a big match and get the desired result.
Tottenham have been going under the radar this season. Antonio Conte will be pleased with their points return, although he will believe the performances can improve. They would move above their North London rivals with a win this weekend. Unlike Arsenal, Spurs have yet to taste defeat in the Premier League this season. They have dropped points against Chelsea and West Ham. Both matches were away from home, which suggests they do struggle away against the better teams. They will need to play better than they did in those matches if they are to get the bragging rights this weekend.
Arsenal are unbeaten in the last 11 North London derbies played at the Emirates Stadium in the Premier League.
A win for Tottenham would mark a Premier League first. It would be the first time that a win in this fixture led to one team replacing the other at the top of the Premier League table.
There are a few reasons why Gabriel Jesus will be closely watched this weekend. The first is that he is undoubtedly the key man in Arsenal’s attack. He has transformed the way that the team attack, as he provides a huge goal threat, while he also offers another creative option. Jesus often brings others into the game. Arsenal have lacked a reliable centre forward option in recent years. Jesus is the most complete forward they have had for a while and the team have immediately benefitted from his presence. In seven matches, he has four goals and three assists, which shows the quality he has in the final third. He is averaging a goal contribution every game. Another thing to watch on Saturday is his discipline. Jesus is currently one booking away from a suspension and the aggression of the game means it could be difficult for him to stay out of the referee’s notebook. A yellow card would lead to him missing the match against Liverpool. The Gunners would like to avoid that outcome if possible.
Unlike Arsenal, Tottenham have had a world class striker for many years. Harry Kane has started the season in fantastic form and he looks ready to have another excellent campaign. Like many top players, he thrives in big matches and he has a very good record against Arsenal. This is another chance for him to punish his rivals and the potential reward of moving to the top of the league will add extra motivation. Like Jesus, he has seven goal contributions with six goals and a single assist. To already be on six goals is impressive. In any other season, he would be receiving more praise, but the goal-scoring form of Erling Haaland has seen the attentions focus on the Norwegian. A match-winning performance this weekend could see Kane move into the spotlight. He is certainly capable of delivering one.
Emile Smith Rowe has been ruled out until after the World Cup. Oleksandr Zinchenko, Thomas Partey, Kieran Tierney and Cedric Soares are all doubts for the weekend.
Dejan Kulusevski is a doubt for Tottenham after returning from international duty with a knock. Hugo Lloris, Lucas Moura and Ben Davies are also battling to be passed fit.
This is one of the most difficult North London derbies to predict, as both teams come into the fixture with positive momentum. It is huge, as a defeat for either would risk damaging that, due to the rivalry. That leads me to believe that a draw is a likely result. Both managers would likely accept that if it were offered to them now.
Arsenal 1-1 Tottenham