Many a meeting between Tottenham and Arsenal in the recent past has been dubbed the biggest North London derby in years, but Saturday’s early kick-off surely trumps them as they both vie for the title.
The home side had the chance to go top on Wednesday evening, but never really got their rhythm going as their six-match winning run in the league came to an end with defeat at West Ham United. They were rather caught out by the tactics of their opponents, while the tenacity in midfield provided by Dele Alli – who came off the bench – and Mousa Dembele was sorely missed. As a result, they were unable to fashion many clear scoring opportunities.
Harry Kane was a little isolated in attack as Tottenham toiled, but he should get a little more freedom here as he looks to score against Arsenal for the fourth successive game. Victory here will really hand his side the initiative as it will give them a six-point lead over Arsenal, so as ever he will be the man looked upon to put the chances away in what looks set to be a closely fought encounter where both sides will be determined to avoid making any crucial mistakes.
The pressure on Arsenal coming into this one cannot be understated. After an anaemic and tepid performance at Manchester United which had already resulted in many questions being asked, they slumped to another damaging loss in their last outing against struggling Swansea City. It was a game where they undoubtedly suffered from their fair share of bad luck as the frame of the goal was rattled on three separate occasions, but poor defending eventually cost them as they let a one-goal lead slip.
Manager Arsene Wenger is now running out of ways in which to defend his team, and that is one of many reasons why they simply must come away from this one with all three points, or at least having avoided defeat. As a whole, the Gunners’ form during 2016 has been average to say the least and they are threatening to throw away their best chance of winning the title for several years. Indeed, even their place in the top four cannot be taken for granted due to the run they are on. Losing this would simply add more fuel to the fire.
Dembele makes a welcome return for Tottenham, who are likely to restore Alli to their line-up along with full-backs Danny Rose and Kyle Walker.
David Ospina will be in goal for Arsenal as Petr Cech has been sidelined for up to four weeks. Laurent Koscielny will also miss out, so Per Mertesacker will come into the defence.
Played for both – William Gallas: After five years with Chelsea which ended in two title successes, the central defender joined Arsenal in 2006 and went on to score 12 goals in 101 Premier League games over a four-year spell. After being released he joined Tottenham and was largely a squad player, scoring his only league goal against Chelsea in October 2012.