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The North London Derby. Tottenham vs Arsenal. Two of the “big six” going head-to-head…but hold on. Spurs sit 7th while Arsenal languish in 13th. Both clubs are mirroring each other’s results but in the reverse direction.



Nuno Espirito Santo’s side won their first three games 1-0 each, before suffering consecutive 3-0 defeats. On the other side, Mikel Arteta were the butt of the jokes as they opened their campaigns with three losses and no goals scored. They have turned it around since then, barely, with a pair of 1-0 wins against two clubs in the relegation zone.



This fixture has always evoked passionate emotions and charged up crowds given its history, with this time set to have the stakes even higher.



It is fair to say that preparations for the new season have been hardly great for each club which has been reflected in their results. Spurs were rocked by the whole transfer saga surrounding Harry Kane, who was consistently linked with a move away. That did not materialize and some feel Kane retaliated by reporting to training later than mandated.


Whatever has been the case, it has certainly hampered his form as he is yet to get off the mark in the Premier League. Heung-Min Son has stepped up to the mantle but their defence has been ripped apart, conceding six goals in the last two games. Emerson Royal is still taking time to settle in while Sergio Reguilon looks average at best in his defensive duties.

Japhet Tanganga’s red card against Crystal Palace further compounded matters and there has been no fixed partner to Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg in the midfield.



Meanwhile, the transfer activity of the Gunners has left fans divided to say the least. Six players were brought in, all aged 23 or less. After that dismal beginning, calls for Arteta’s sacking grew louder and shots were also taken at the board for their youth-based approach.



That forced Technical Director Edu to reveal the thinking behind the transfer policy in a tell-all interview over the international break. Granted, they had also been struck with absences of senior players as Arteta repeatedly pointed out. Their backline was breached almost too easily, as their defenders struggled to contain attackers.



The arrival of Takehiro Tomiyasu has stabilized the right side while Martin Odegaard has slotted seamlessly into the side. Their recent upturn in form, though a good sign, cannot make them too comfortable as they were against Norwich and Burnley respectively.



It will be too much of an oversight to blame only the players for not living up to their form and potential. Santo started the season with 4-3-3 with Son playing through the middle.

That worked just about during the winning phase but Crystal Palace brutally exploited Spurs. Wilfred Zaha was too much to handle for the fullbacks while Odsonne Edouard’s star turn was made easier given the gaping holes in their backline.



Kane had a historic game, as he failed to register a shot in the Eagles’ penalty box, much less get a shot on target. That forced Santo to change the formation to 4-1-2-1-2 to provide additional steel in the midfield against Chelsea but his other plans backfired. The match-up of Son against Thiago Silva faltered badly while Kane cut a forlorn figure playing from the left flank.



He was hardly effective throughout the game and they never looked like taking the game to Chelsea. Marcos Alonso toasted Emerson on the right while defensive ineptitude cost them the other two goals in a lacklustre second half.

Coming to Arsenal, as already mentioned, their right side of defence was a problem. Cedric Soares and Callum Chambers were given the runaround in the first three games while the centre was not much better either. Pablo Mari was outmuscled by Romelu Lukaku while Granit Xhaka’s red card did not help matters against Manchester City.



Arteta’s specialty is the 4-2-3-1 and Emile Smith Rowe becoming a key player, Odegaard has been pushed back to accompany the other defensive midfielder. It is worth noting that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is back to playing as the central striker which can provide more goals in the long run.



A surprising omission has been Alexandre Lacazette, whose contract talks have been dragging on for a while. The Gunners have some good young talent to develop over the season, but the backline remains a worry. Norwich and Burnley are hardly major threats to your goal but other teams will be.



Though both managers have the backing of the owners for now, a string of poor results can quickly change their thinking. Daniel Levy is notoriously trigger happy, which is not that great news for Santo. Spurs threw away a two-goal lead against Wolves in the Carabao Cup before just about squeezing through on penalties.



Suffice to say, a loss there would have increased the pressure significantly. The cost surrounding the sacking of a new manager will be steep but Levy is no stranger to taking hard financial decisions.

With Edu providing a show of support to Arteta and stressing that he is not too worried about the final position come the end of the season, the pressure seems to be off for Arsenal. Not sure the fans would agree however, as Arteta’s continued appointment remains to be a thorny issue of contention.



There are not a lot of candidates in the market either who would like to take on the managerial role at the Emirates given how far they have fallen in terms of European standards.

In this backdrop of plots and subplots, the derby will be adding one of its most pivotal chapters to its storied history yet.

Ratul Ghosh
His name means Red and a fan of devilish food, which equals to his favourite team being Manchester United. Can be found sleeping or in front of the TV otherwise. Hates waking up early but loves staying up late for football.

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