Heading into the first international break of the 2021-22 season, Arsenal sat bottom of the Premier League table after three matches. Fast forward a few weeks and things are tentatively improving across the board. Mikel Arteta’s side has won two league matches in a row, four out of their last five if you include the Carabao Cup, haven’t allowed a goal in their last three outings, and now sit 13th.
Spurs meanwhile have had the opposite path in the league this season. A trio of opening 1-0 wins over Manchester City, Wolves, & Watford had Tottenham at the top of the league table. Since then they’ve given up six goals and scored zero in their last two matches. They still find themselves 7th in the table but are now just three points ahead of the Gunners.
Of course, form & table positions don’t typically hold as much weight for a North London Derby, but Arsenal and their fans will be well aware that a two-goal victory in the Emirates Sunday will move the Gunners ahead on goal difference. To add to the growing momentum, Mikel Arteta will have the full squad available for selection for the first time this season. So how much will he adjust last week’s winning side?
- Bernd Leno
- Nuno Tavares
- Rob Holding
- Calum Chambers
- Granit Xhaka
- Ainsley Maitland-Niles
- Emile Smith Rowe
- Gabriel Martinelli
- Alexandre Lacazette
- Left Out: Arthur Okonkwo, Sead Kolasinac, Pablo Mari, Cedric Soares, Mohamed Elneny, Eddie Nketiah, & Folarin Balogun.
- Out: None.
- Since the break, we’ve had two looks at the new first-choice Arsenal defense - Ramsdale, Tierney, Gabriel, White, & Tomiyasu - who have yet to give up a goal and just four shots on target. Sunday will be the group’s first big test, but much of Arsenal’s fortune this season and as we expect Arteta’s focus is centered around these five players. Barring injury or a huge error on Sunday, this group should be a familiar sight for Premier League matches.
- Two big questions for the Arsenal midfield this weekend. First, will it be Thomas Partey at the base with two attacking players ahead of him in Odegaard and Smith Rowe? Or if it’s back to the standard center midfield pair, with Sambi get the nod after a great start to his Arsenal career, or will the more experienced Granit Xhaka jump right back into the starting XI? Given Tottenham’s level of attacking threat compared to Norwich and Burnley in recent weeks, Arteta would be wise to revert to the 4-2-3-1 from the start.
- While Smith Rowe helped move the attack forward on Wednesday in the Carabao Cup, I think the shape of the attack will remain the same and utilize Smith Rowe in the second half. At the same time, to put more pressure on Tottenham’s backline I’ve flipped Pepe to the left and Saka to the right — where both appear more comfortable at times.
- Up top, Arteta spoke highly of Lacazette after the Cup match. If this match were on the road, perhaps Arsenal might opt for Alex up top where he would drift back at times to hold the ball up and allow Saka and Pepe to push beyond him. However, with Arsenal’s improved defense and Spurs recently giving up six goals, Aubameyang likely gets the start to keep the defensive CBs more concerned with his speed.
- Arteta will have a very good bench at his disposal this weekend, especially compared to earlier this season and several periods last year. Lacazette, Martinelli, and Smith Rowe can all come on and help Arsenal chase a late goal, while the likes of Xhaka, Tavares, and Maitland-Niles allow the manager to shift the formation based on how Spurs begin play in the opening half.
How to watch
Sunday (9/26) at 11:30 am ET / 8:30 am PT on NBCSN.
Arsenal - 2
Tottenham - 1
A loss on Sunday will bring a quick halt to the momentum Arsenal has built since the international break. A victory at the Emirates will be massive - a place in the top half of the table for the first time this season, three straight league wins, a win over their main rivals, and the chance to take a big step forward in the season’s progression in front of fans. Kick-off on Sunday can’t get here quick enough.