Arsenal vs Tottenham: Where the north London derby will be won and lost

Where the top of the table clash will be decided

Derby day. 1st vs 3rd in the Premier League. While the game that took place between the sides at the back end of the 2021/22 season had massive repercussions for Champions League football, a spot that Antonio Conte’s Tottenham eventually snuck into, this is a big game for different reasons.

Early in the season, with both sides of north London within a point of each other and the summit of the Premier League table, hopes are high, only outweighed by the fear of losing. With so much on the line, it promises to be a titanic clash. But where will it be won and lost? 101 took a look at the key battles ahead of Saturday’s action.

How the two sides will set up tactically

So far this season, Arsenal have set up as a possession dominant side, with Mikel Arteta deploying a Manchester City-esque 2-3-5 system in possession and averaging a 55% share of the ball.

Tottenham and Antonio Conte see less of the ball (47%), but are comfortable doing so and in the bigger games tend to sit deep and spring counter-attacks, exploiting the space left in behind their opponent’s fullbacks and midfielders.

Deployed in a 3-4-2-1 system with energetic wingbacks, the work of the front three is crucial, with Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son’s seemingly telepathic connection a cornerstone to their success since Conte’s arrival.

Despite the stylistic differences, both sides have near identical goal records, having conceded 7 apiece this season, with Arsenal scoring 17 and Tottenham 18.

Individual battles

Gabriel Martinelli vs Emerson Royal

An all-Brazilian affair and a contest that is sure to ensue against two players much improved from last season, Emerson Royal will have to be at his defensive best to keep arguably Arsenal’s most dynamic player at bay at The Emirates Stadium this Saturday.

Martinelli is averaging over three shots and over three dribbles per match, and has already managed three goals, half of last season’s tally. With Cristian Romero restored to the defence after returning from injury, Emerson will have added cover to help, but will need to keep a close eye on the winger.

Heung-Min Son vs William Saliba

It was Heung-Min Son vs an Arsenal defender that decided last season’s tie at the Tottenham Hotspur stadium. That night, Rob Holding could not deal with the South Korean, and saw red midway through the first half after only being able to stop him illegally.

With William Saliba now in the heart of Arsenal’s defence, fans will rightfully think that they have upgraded for this tie, but the Frenchman has not yet been truly tested in the top flight and was part of the defence caught out three times by Manchester United at Old Trafford.

Meanwhile, Son has had a slow start to the season but netted a hat-trick in their most recent outing against Leicester City. If Tottenham are going to have success against their north London counterparts, his runs in behind the Arsenal backline are going to be vital.

Thomas Partey vs Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg

Operating as the deepest lying midfielder in Arsenal’s side, Thomas Partey is the heartbeat of all things good in Mikel Arteta’s tactical setup. Tasked with breaking up the play and preventing the Ghanaian from finding any rhythm will likely be Danish pitbull Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, who has enjoyed a fine start to the season.

Given lisence to roam, Hojbjerg has already returned two goals and one assist, one fewer goal contribution than he managed in all of last season, including a fine strike against Chelsea. His job at the Emirates on Saturday is far more likely to be containment than contribution in an attacking sense, but will prove equally important should he get it right.

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Ben Browning

Ben Browning

Football writer and analyst. Long-time writer of all things Arsenal and avid watcher of European football. Happy to discuss all things football over on Twitter.

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