The first North London derby of the season
Arsenal and Tottenham will clash for the first time this season when the Gunners play host to their bitter rivals on Sunday afternoon. Following an international break that saw Spurs sit atop the Premier League, and Mikel Arteta’s side rooted to the bottom, fortunes have changed drastically.
Arsenal have picked up six points from a possible six, as well as a resounding 3-0 win in the Carabao Cup third round. On the other hand, Nuno Espirito Santo’s side have slumped to back-to-back 3-0 defeats to Crystal Palace and Chelsea respectively.
Full-time in north London. pic.twitter.com/dUMWnKjS60
— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) September 19, 2021
As a result, a win for the red half of North London could see them draw level on points with Spurs, while a win for the Lilywhites would see them pull six points clear of their rivals in the early running for European football.
With that in mind, the Gunners desperately need a win, and will be roared on by 60,000 fans at the Emirates equally desperate to see their side succeed. But how will Arteta approach the encounter?
The back-5 seems settled enough, with Aaron Ramsdale set to keep his place behind Takehiro Tomiyasu, Ben White, Gabriel and Kieran Tierney, provided all are fit. Further forward, however, there are more questions to be asked.
With that in mind, 101 takes a look at 3 ways that Arsenal could take the field against Spurs.
1. Sticking with what works
For their most recent results, Arsenal have begun with a 4-3-3 system that utilises Thomas Partey at the base of midfield, with Martin Odegaard and Emile Smith Rowe either side of him in more advanced roles.
This allows Arteta to avoid the headache of only picking three of Nicolas Pepe, Smith Rowe, Bukayo Saka and Odegaard, meaning that he can field all four, as proved the case against Burnley.
Team news from #BURARS…
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) September 18, 2021
Of course, this leaves no place for Granit Xhaka, who has been suspended for the trio of victories. However, it could be an option Mikel Arteta opts for if the Swiss midfielder is not ready to be thrust straight back into the heat of a North London Derby.
2. A return to the 4-2-3-1?
Should Xhaka be fit, however, it seems likely that he will play, much to the bemusement of many an Arsenal fan. The 28 year old is an important leader on the pitch for Arteta, and has an impressive range of passing and spacial awareness, even if other traits leave much to be desired.
To accommodate him in a position that will not leave the Swiss woefully exposed, a return to 4-2-3-1 would be required, with Partey partnering Xhaka in a double pivot.
Arteta on starting Partey:
“He hasn’t played a lot of minutes since he has been injured.
We believe the rhythm of the matches is nothing like any training session and so he needed to play and it was very beneficial.”
— Charles Watts (@charles_watts) September 22, 2021
Ahead of him, one of Pepe, Odegaard, Smith Rowe and Saka would have to be sacrificed, though it would return increased defensive solidity for the Gunners.
With Spurs likely to field an attacking 4-3-3 with Tanguy Ndombele and Giovani Lo Celso both fit for Sunday, could the additional defensive protection help Arsenal come away with the right result?
3. The introduction of Alex Lacazette
One player who may cross the thoughts of Mikel Arteta following Arsenal’s dismantling of Wimbledon is Alexandre Lacazette. The frontman has been limited to just 30 minutes of Premier League action so far this campaign, but has scored in each round of the Carabao Cup.
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) September 23, 2021
While he did little else to set the game alight on Wednesday, the Frenchman offers better hold up play than Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and seemingly has a better understanding with the likes of Saka and Smith Rowe, though he lacks the predatory instincts associated with Auba.
Having gotten 90 minutes under his belt against Wimbledon, could Lacazette be in with a shout to lead the line on Sunday?
How would you line up if you were Mikel Arteta?
This article was edited by Conor Laird.
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